The Chicago Bears’ 2022 NFL Draft experience will be without the usual fanfare that comes along with a first-round pick. The trade for Justin Fields last April means Chicago’s first selection this year will be in the second round, but with the way the 2021 season has gone, it’s likely to be a valuable top-50 selection.
The College Football Playoff kicks off on Friday and will feature four teams overflowing with NFL talent. The first game features the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide against the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats in what has a chance to be a statement game for Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder. The second semi-final matchup features the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines against the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is the headliner; he has a very good chance to be the first-overall pick this year.
Fortunately for Bears fans, all four teams have players who are high-end prospects that will fall out of the first round and potentially in striking distance for Chicago. Here’s a look at seven of them.
John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
The Bears will be real players in the wide receiver market this offseason, both in free agency and the NFL draft. Even if they decide to break the bank on a big-time free agent like Chris Godwin or Michael Gallup, a prospect like Metchie III would make sense early in Round 2. He’s a well-built, 6-foot, 195-pound prospect who can play both outside and inside on the next level. He’s been outshined by teammate Jameson Williams this year but don’t let that distract you from how talented Metchie III is. He’s a fringe first-round prospect who’d be great value for Chicago in Round 2.
Henry To’o To’o, LB, Alabama
Linebacker will be another high-ranking need for the Bears this offseason. Roquan Smith is one of the best in the game but the defense has been hindered by the declining play of Danny Trevathan in recent seasons. While Alec Ogletree has been OK in spurts this year, an upgrade is absolutely needed. To’o To’o is a rangy and athletic defender who would combine with Smith to give the Bears a dynamic duo on the second level.
Jordan Battle, SAF, Alabama
Eddie Jackson’s play has been on the decline over the last couple of seasons, and while DeAndre Houston-Carson has had a very nice season this year, it remains to be seen whether Chicago will re-sign him in the offseason. Battle is a fringe top-50 prospect in the second tier of safeties behind potential first-rounders like Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame), Jaquan Brisker (Penn State), and Daxton Hill (Michigan). The Draft Network’s team of scouts describe Battle as “an athletic safety that plays the game at a high level and seems to always make the correct football play.” That sounds exactly like what the Bears need.
Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia
Chicago’s need at cornerback could take a backseat over the next couple of weeks if rookie Thomas Graham Jr. continues to stack quality performances together, but if the Bears want to prioritize the position with their second-round pick, a prospect like Kendrick would be a good get. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has five interceptions over the last three seasons, which is pretty remarkable considering he was a wide receiver up until 2019. He’s still learning the position, and that makes him an exciting upside player.
Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati
I touched on the Bears’ need to address linebacker this offseason and Beavers, like To’o To’o, would be an intriguing option for Chicago in either the second or third round. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, he’s a bigger and stronger player than his Alabama counterpart and would provide the Bears with a thumper in the middle of their defense.
Lewis Cine, SAF, Georgia
Another safety who’d fit the Bears’ needs, Cine is a solid defender against the run who can prevent plays occurring in front of him from becoming field-flippers. Cine is trending more as a third-round prospect who’d likely begin his career as a quality backup while he works his way into a potential starting job.
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
One of my favorite prospects in both games, Pierce is a big-bodied downfield weapon who’d perfectly complement Darnell Mooney in the Bears’ passing game. He has very good length and straight-line speed and is a quality contested-catch guy. He’d provide the Bears with a discounted version of the production that’s been missing from Allen Robinson in 2021. He enters the CFP having recorded 867 receiving yards and eight touchdowns and will be heavily targeted by Ridder if the Bearcats are to have any chance at an upset against Alabama.