Bears Draft Review: Pace Finds Quality Players, Potential Stars in Later Rounds

By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)

The NFL Draft came and went in the blink of an eye but good news for fans: training camp is that much closer.

Before training camp, teams will hold offseason training activities and mini-camps, but in large part, the off-season concluded with the finish of the draft. It was certainly interesting, with surprises in every round. Some teams helped themselves out immensely while other teams hurt their futures without even knowing it because of bad scouting.

A big issue with the draft is that no one knows anything other than shaky evaluations on these players. In an ideal world, none of these players end up being busts and all live up to their expectations. Sadly, that isn’t the world of the NFL and for whatever rhyme or reason, some players just fizzle out.

In looking at the Bears draft results, we see a team that wanted to solve their running back depth as well as take the best players available to maximize their five selections.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the potential young playmakers joining the reigning NFC North winner.

I Pick You

The first two rounds of the draft started off with a bang when quarterback Kyler Murray was selected first overall to the Cardinals. The next surprise came at the fourth pick when the Raiders selected defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who was not expected to be drafted in the top ten.

Next, a shocker came when the Giants selected quarterback Daniel Jones who many thought wouldn’t be selected until the third round. Some really good players got pushed down like defensive end Josh Allen to the Jaguars at pick seven, he was expected to not last past the top five. Plenty of drama accompanied the rest of the first two rounds of the draft, the complete order and analysis can be found here.

Coming into the weekend, the Bears owned the 87th (third round), 126th (fourth), 162nd (fifth), 222nd (seventh), and the 238th (seventh) picks.

At pick 65, the third round started and Bears fans could start to get excited about the possibilities. Would general manager Ryan Pace select offense or defense, trade down for more picks, or even trade up if there was a player they liked? As it turned out, Pace traded the 87th and 162nd picks and a fourth-round pick in 2020 to the Patriots for the 73rd and 206th pick.

Pace clearly wanted to make a move and targeted a guy that the team needed in taking running back David Montgomery. All of the remaining picks for the Bears went as scheduled without any further trades. Here is a look at the Bears draft class and what their potential impact could be.

(73) David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State — Jordan Howard’s exit meant the team needed to get another running back and Monotgomery fills the need perfectly. Not only is he a great runner with balance, vision and elusiveness in the hole, he also can contribute as a pass catcher and with his size he can stay on the field all three downs.

Many scouts had him as one of their top running backs that could go as high as the second round.

If there is a downside to this pick, it is that the Bears gave up a fourth-round pick next year which will again limit the amount of picks they have in 2020, and also a reason why Montgomery fell was because he lacks breakaway speed. Transitioning to the pro game tends to be easier for running backs, so we should get a taste right away with how good he can be.

(126) Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia — Ridley was a surprise player who was still left on the board when the Bears selected in the fourth round. He is the younger brother of last year’s first-round pick, Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

Calvin is faster than Riley, but both showed advanced route running technique when they came out of college. The Bears loved Calvin and tried to trade up to get him last season. This year, they get a player they are excited about whom brings some different dynamics to the wide receiver group.

At 6’2,” Ridley is a big receiver that uses his body positioning, route running, jumping ability and catch radius rather than speed to win one-on-one battles. The Bears now have a couple of big receivers and a few smaller, speedster types.

Overall, the Bears could have addressed other positions in the draft but they felt Ridley was the best player left by a mile. Selecting both Montgomery and Ridley could give the offense a huge boost for the upcoming season.

(205) Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State — A tough, scrappy cornerback in a similar mold as Bryce Callahan, Shelley will be competing to play the nickel corner. Shelley was a good player at Kansas State in the pass-happy Big 12. The corner had a total of eight interceptions to go along with 31 pass deflections in college. His tape showed him constantly around the football.

Free agent signee and fellow corner Buster Skrine will be the starter for the next few seasons but Shelley provides even more depth behind Sherrick McManis at the nickel corner spot. Shelley’s greatest impact this season will be on special teams barring a lot of injuries, but the depth he provides could become crucial later in the season.

(222) Kerrith Whyte, RB, Florida Atlantic University — In the seventh round of the draft, teams will select a priority free agent–meaning a player who will likely be a free agent that a team has put a priority to bring into the building–or football players that are raw but have huge upside.

For the Bears, Whyte is an interesting prospect. The backup to a heavily-scouted player (particularly by the Bears) in running back Devin Singletary, Whyte and was used all over the place at FAU as a runner and returner and brings instant speed.

The Bears have a lot more depth at their return man position with the addition of Whyte and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. It will be easy for coach Nagy to use Whyte’s speed as a decoy or as a playmaker if the young rookie can pick up the scheme quickly.

(238) Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State — This pick is a pure project pick and for good reason. Denmark is very raw to the position after switching from receiver to corner a season ago.

The corner possess all the physical tools a defensive back coach drools over. Standing 6’4” at 220 pounds with nearly 34” arms, a 4.46 40 yard dash and a 43” vertical (insanity!), Denmark is the complete physical package.

Technique and natural instincts will be something Denmark will have to develop but if he can, the Bears could have a special corner on their roster. Denmark will also be used on special teams and will work closely with secondary coach Deshea Townsend to improve the rest of his game. He’s likely a practice squad player but may be a potential diamond in the rough.

Overall, the draft was a positive weekend for Pace and Nagy even with the limited amount of picks. Their first two selections should be guys who will contribute right away on offense.

The Bears added lots of depth to their running back and cornerback positions and increased the amount of contributors to special teams. These moves may not be as sexy as other picks but the Bears added functional depth. If their coaches can speed up the development of these players then some of that functional depth can perhaps turn into star talent.

In future drafts, the Bears will likely have to try and add picks and come into a draft with more than five selections. Imagine the work the Bears could have done had they had 10 picks like the Patriots.

Regardless, the Bears did a great job of filling needs on the roster and getting great value in the players they selected. This formula is the right way to win and succeed in the all important NFL Draft.

Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR
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