Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show; This is part 2 of our Bears off-season breakdown, featuring a look ahead to the draft, check out part 1 on clearing cap space for free agency here.
Do not be mislead by the title, the Chicago Bears have had two drafts in a row where they traded away their first round selection to move up in the draft.
Here is to hoping the Bears can find a way to get more picks this time around and find more top talent instead of leveraging their high draft placement to take another risk a la, Leonard Floyd and Mitch Trubisky. Though both picks have arguably worked, for reasons I’ll get into below, applying depth may be an even greater pursuit for the team as they select from the best of the college ranks.
But let’s say the Bears keep the No. 8 pick, where will they go with it? This draft has been described by many to not be as good and as deep as previous drafts. This draft has some strengths but not quite the ones the Bears need. There are limited edge rushers, tackles and wide receivers with top-10 grades. This seems like a good year for the Bears to trade down and get more picks but it is still early in the draft process.
There are some exciting players that could possibly fall to the Bears in Saquon Barkley, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Bradley Chubb, but in order for one of those players to fall the quarterbacks — including Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield (the Bears would maybe have to root for someone to take a big risk on Lamar Jackson in the top 10 as well) — will have to go early and often.
Notre Dame offensive guard Quenton Nelson is an interesting name due to his ties with the Bears O-line coach Harry Hiestand, a former coach of his, and his universal consideration as a no-doubt pro with Pro Bowl potential. Adding Nelson would fill a need the Bears have on the offensive line as discussed in my last piece.
The problem with drafting Nelson is that the Bears desperately need guys that create touchdowns or stop touchdowns and its unlikely Nelson will create touchdowns as a guard, even a Pro Bowl one, at least not directly.
Drafting eighth overall in a draft is a spot to get a blue chip top talent play-maker and a guard as good as they can be are not play-makers. Barkley would be an ideal pickup because he is a runner/receiver type and would look good in what the Chiefs offense ran last year, much like Kareem Hunt, but it is highly unlikely that Barkley will fall to the Bears after his impressive combine, he’s being looked at as a possible No. 1 overall pick for Cleveland now, but what an intriguing decision that would be for Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
It does seem that there will be a talented defensive back available at eight — Alabama’s Fitzpatrick and Denzel Ward of Ohio State leading the pack — and if the Bears drafted one and signed Kyle Fuller then perhaps they can find a pass rusher in a later round. Potentially the Bears defense could take another step forward as they are clearly the strength of the team right now and they can do so with more affordable and young talent.
Wide receivers are routinely not considered top of the draft type talent, and the Bears may still be smarting from selecting Kevin White at No. 7 three years ago, but there is a lot of good depth at the position coming into this draft and many experts expect a bunch of receivers to go in the middle rounds.
The draft is also considered to be strong in the interior offensive line positions so if Nelson doesn’t fall in the Bears’ laps then later in the draft that area can be addressed, the same could be said for running back will be added to the mix because of all the talent at the position. Many draft scouts say there are first and second day talent at running back that can be picked up in the middle rounds, which could be meaningful if the Bears are indeed actively shopping lead running back Jordan Howard, which was reported thoroughly over the weekend as flirtations took place with Miami.
In sending Howard off, perhaps Chicago could get a running back that fits Nagy’s scheme while picking up a highly productive receiver. Whatever the Bears decide to do, the main thing is it doesn’t matter the draft, there are players to find to address the needs of the team just as there will be busts. The Bears have to consider adding more draft capital and acquire picks to allow themselves more chances at finding players.
The potential mistake in trading up to get Trubisky last year — since he more than likely would have been available at the Bears No. 3 pick — has the Bears without a third round selection for this draft. Giving away high draft picks to go get your guy is courageous and inspiring in a way but it puts extreme amounts of pressure on a front office to get it right, not only because of the value of the assets given up but also because your team will have less players in future draft classes.
Pace has been okay in his drafts. In his first draft, 2015, there were only two selections that inspired anything coming out of it in Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos, Two other players are off the team, Jeremy Langford and Tayo Fabuluje, and two players seem to be busts in Kevin White and Hroniss Grasu.
In 2016 we saw another class that looks to be a mixed bag. The good looks include Cody Whitehair, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Howard but even these good picks inspire some counter feelings. Deon Bush, Deiondre’ Hall, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Daniel Braverman have offered little to nothing. Unknowns exist in Jonathan Bullard and Nick Kwiatkoski mostly due to missed games via injury. This upcoming season is the all-important third season for the 2016 class and many question marks remain.
Then there’s the 2017 draft class with obvious highlights in Trubisky, Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson, who on both sides of the ball flashed the type of play-making that fans were hoping could improve this team. Unknowns from 2017 include Adam Shaheen and Jordan Morgan. Beyond Howard and maybe Goldman there isn’t anything from the Pace drafts that could really be considered a slam dunk, the results are primarily flashes and misses.
If Pace and Matt Nagy want to turn the Bears around this season to at least having the arrow pointing in the right direction, they are going to have to make some good selections in this draft and develop many of these young flashers into consistent slam dunk starters.
In all reality the Bears are going to continue to struggle as a team by being in a strong NFC North division and a wide open NFC, but there is talent on the team and there is reason to think that more good players will be added before the start of training camp.
If the talent is put in the right positions to succeed and the team can stay relatively healthy, then the start of the rebuild will be successful and perhaps by year three in Trubisky’s development the Bears will be ready to contend for the playoffs. But even if Trubisky is the guy Pace and Nagy have to put players around the young QB on offense and give him a defense that is consistent on a team that has depth overall.
The Cleveland Browns have been struggling with finding top talent and getting functional depth almost entirely since their return to the league in 2000, so nothing is a given for the Bears. Quick turnarounds can happen in the NFL but so could two decade stays in the doldrums and the Bears looking back are much closer to the latter than the former.
The only way to truly turn things around for Pace and the Bears is to learn from previous mistakes and be calculated in their aggressiveness in both free agency and the draft, they can’t win without one or the other.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanbski; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio