By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Against all odds, the NFL hit what has to be seen as the first legitimate home run of the spring as they put on a terrific show with its draft over the weekend.
Leading into the event, many wondered what production issues and potential problems would occur in having the first ever virtual draft due to the first global pandemic since 1918, before broadcasting the NFL Draft was a “thing,” to say the least.
Overall, the event was exactly what a lot of people needed right now — an involving distraction from the tough times that everyone is going through.
The NFL Draft certainly brings a lot of hope to NFL fans across the world. After the draft now comes the hard part in trying to grade draft classes that have never put on an NFL uniform. Grading a draft is really only realistic after a player has had three years in the league. But since we don’t have time machines and its boring otherwise, fear not because there are still plenty of interesting things to take away from any draft that are better than some simple grade.
In this draft review, the focus will be on what we know about the prospects and how they impact the team either right now for the 2020 season or more so down the road. Remember that odds are most guys won’t make it so basically if a team finds a pair of NFL legitimate starters and an impactful contributing player out of seven picks then you’ve had a terrific draft. Now lets take a look at the Chicago Bears and what to look for coming out of the draft.
- No. 43 overall | Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
- No. 50 overall | Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
- No. 155 overall |Trevis Gipson, DE, Tulsa
- No. 163 overall | Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern
- No. 173 overall | Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane
- No. 226 overall | Arlington Hambright, G, Colorado
- No. 227 overall | Lachavious Simmons, OG, Tennessee State
Looking at the draft the one thing that jumps out is the value of all the selections the Bears made with probably the one reach was Kmet at No. 43. Though many at least saw the ND TE as the best option at his position, if the Bears had stayed true to best player available then they would have gone with a different player. Clearly the Bears see something in Kmet and he does fill an immediate need as a likely future starter while the Bears begin the pairing down of its overloaded tight end depth chart.
For as much as Kmet was a reach, drafting Johnson at No. 50 was that much of a steal. Considered by most as a first round pick, the Utah standout should come in and immediately become a starter opposite Kyle Fuller at corner back. Johnson was also an exciting play-maker in college, which maybe makes him an upgrade over Prince Amukamara in turnover potential.
On top of the benefit it received from the drafting of Johnson, the defense also picked up two intriguing prospects later in the draft, trading up to get the edge rusher Gipson and cornerback Vildor eight picks apart in the fifth round.
Prior to the draft the Bears defense looked much improved with the free agents that were brought in, aside from cornerback. Adding a playmaking corner in Johnson plus throwing a cherry on top with an intriguing pass rusher could be the missing ingredients to pushing the defense back to elite status this year. Gipson will likely take time to develop but he has a chance to become an immediate contributor apart of the pass rush rotation. Teams can never have enough quality pass rushing and he does have a natural feel in that department, it will be about getting the fundamentals down.
Vildor looks to be more of special teamer and will compete at the nickel back spot to try and become the primary backup to Buster Skrine. A slightly down 2019 had Vildor’s draft ceiling pushed down to day three instead of day two, making him another potential steal. In what seemed to be a draft geared towards mostly offense, general manager Ryan Pace did a great job in selectively bolstering the strongest part of his team.
Now back to Kmet and the offense — the hometown (area) kid made good should be a contributor from jump, the Bears likely being able to use him in whatever way best suites Kmet. Tight end is one of the hardest positions to scout and develop in the NFL because they must know all the blocking and receiving.
In a way the tight end is another quarterback on the field since they have to know what the other 10 guys are doing. One thing Kmet should be able to do right now, assuming his scouting report is right that blocking and finer parts to the position require work, is run some routes and catch the ball with his giant frame. Having other tight ends on the roster like Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris should take pressure off Kmet to be an everything tight end and instead allow the coaches to use what comes most natural to him.
Besides just lining up on the line of scrimmage, Kmet can lineup outside as a wideout or used in bunch formations. This variety in his skill set must mean he can contribute now. Adding a speedy receiver was another big need for the Bears so it was exciting to see them trade to get Mooney at No. 173. Mooney, a Tulane product, comes in as more of a project than the previous picks, first and foremost needing to add bulk to his small 174-pound frame.
Another potential issue with Mooney that needs correcting is his hands, he had way too many drops in college. Improving his consistency at catching the football will be key to Mooney having success in the NFL.
But even with these potential issues Mooney possess lots of speed, which defenses will have to account for and something head coach Matt Nagy can use in all types of ways. If Mooney becomes a good player then he can add to the type of profile the offense needs at wide receiver.
Finally the addition of two solid seventh round offensive line prospects in Hambright and Simmons. These are both big bodied men that will likely find their way too the practice squad for this season.
Simmons might be the more intriguing prospect since he possess the skill set to maybe become a tackle down the road. It could be seen as surprising that the Bears didn’t draft any offensive line talent earlier in the draft but these two seem to have good upside for seventh round players. Bears fans shouldn’t forget that Charles Leno was a seventh round pick and has had a nice career overall.
Many around the league have “graded” the Bears draft well and fans should be happy overall with the job done in the draft. In many situations, teams reach for their needs and forgo value, then a couple years down the road that team has to hire a new GM because the best strategy in the draft is to go for value, that is always the case. Given the Bears’ limited capital in this draft it can’t be argued that they got value first while still tending to some current talent gaps.
Some will say Pace made a mistake in trading so much in the fifth round, giving up in part a fourth round pick to the Vikings next year, but regardless of the price incurred by the trades, the Bears got players to help out weaknesses without reaching to do so.
With a few years ahead of us before we can fairly praise or criticize Pace’s latest draft class, lets conclude for the moment that the Bears’ 2020 off-season did wrap-up with an intriguing draft class featuring a few names that should make an impact starting Week 1 — whenever that may actually come.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR