The Bears had my 26th ranked draft haul (full rankings below)- this is more a function of their lack of a first-round pick and my disappointment at their Day 2s than it is reflective of where I am all around with this class. When compared to other teams without a first rounder, they were exactly average. They were bolstered by an excellent Day 3, when Poles showed real vision in trading down and still picking up a large number of targeted lineman prospects. For a grade, this is a solid C+. Enough to pass, maybe, but not exemplary.
Round 2, Pick 39: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington. C
This one was brutal to watch play out. I understand the positives- plus athlete who was thought to go a lot higher than 39. But at the end of the day the calls for the Bears to pick up a top tier receiver were well founded- and in my opinion there was still one on the board in George Pickens. Moreover, I have many concerns abouts Gordon’s fit. He’s a top tier athlete, but he struggled in zone and was unable to hold up outside. It’s not just about frame either- compare him to his teammate Trent McDuffie, who’s about the same size and less of a workout warrior. McDuffie had such outstanding instincts in zone as an undersized corner that Washington kept him outside. Not so for Gordon- and the Bears do not need a potentially slot limited corner. They just signed Tavon Young, still have Duke Shelley, and have a glaring hole outside. This one reeks of falling in love with the numbers and not the player.
Round 2, Pick 48: Jaquan Brisker, SS, Penn State. B-
If there were not bigger needs at both WR and on the o-line, and if Pickens were not still available, this pick would be graded a lot higher, at perhaps an A-. But that was not the case. Brisker is an instant long-term starter for this team and an easy fit in the system. I love the player; I just can’t understand going secondary twice to open your first draft designed around your star quarterback. The secondary wasn’t good last year either, but you can get by longer on a poor secondary than on a poor line- and we brought Dane Cruikshank in from Tennessee to man the strong safety side. That said, this is a great player who I will be happy to see succeed in navy and orange.
Round 3, Pick 71: Velus Jones Jr, WR, Tennessee. C-
I know this is finally the receiver pick I’ve been begging for. The fact of the matter is, I watched Velus Jones. And he was my 44th graded receiver prospect. 44. We took him at 71. He is a 25-year-old one-year wonder whose best fit is as a returner. If this is receiver mold we really wanted, why not go Danny Gray or Khalil Shakir? His best traits, speed and contact balance, are a returner’s best traits. His touches were mainly schemed and shallow at Tennessee. His hands and route running are shaky at best. I know we all want to believe in Ryan Poles, myself included, but this is not great. Jones’s skill set isn’t remarkably different from Byron Pringle or Darnell Mooney. And there’s still a gaping hole at the traditional X. This is a reach for need. Luckily, he was a third rounder, and presumably more receiver help should be coming this year and next, but I simply can’t condone this. Maybe Luke Getsy and Justin Fields really put their collective foot down over wanting him, and as such will feed and work with him so that he flashes more than he would otherwise. Anything is possible, but this is not the number I would’ve put my chips on. Wish the man the best. Doubt he’ll get a second contract.
Round 5, Pick 168: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah. B-
Jones is a good developmental tackle who could conceivably push Larry Borom and Juli’en Davenport for snaps by the end of the season. I had a few tackles ranked higher than him still available, but this is a step in the right direction. His explosive out of his stance and strength is nice, though his mirroring against speed rushers could use work and someone like Austin Deculus would perhaps have been a better pass protector pick.
Round 5, Pick 174: Dominique Robinson, DE, Miami (Ohio). C+
EDGE was in fact a need, and Robinson has some juice and potential, but I would rather have seen another dart being thrown at WR and OL here. More OL darts f course followed, but EDGE here should’ve been someone who can truly hold up on that strong side. Robinson is a receiver to linebacker to now defensive end convert who has an excellent speed rush but will need mass and strength. Not quite a strong side filler.
Round 6, Pick 186: Zachary Thomas, OL, San Diego State. C
Thomas at tackle is a bad plan that I hope we do not pursue. He has poor balance and hands in pass protection. At guard, however, I could see him developing into at least a quality backup. He’s smart and gets to his correct spots with ease. If the plan for him is guard, I can get behind it, but even then I had a half dozen still available players ranked above him, including the guard we snagged 40 picks later. Like the idea but seems early and solely based on name (his brother Cameron also went in this draft).
Round 6, Pick 203: Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor. C+
I see the reasoning here. Cohen is gone and Darrynton Evans is late waiver add. The running back room could use some speed and pass rushing chops. I just don’t see much of a leap coming for Ebner, who could never really establish himself as a 10+ touch guy in college. The UDFA addition of Master Teague provides some missing power, but this could have been another receiver or tight end perhaps.
Round 6, Pick 207: Doug Kramer, C, Illinois. B
Love a homer pick, and Kramer could easily establish himself in years to come. He’s really effective in the run game, keeping low and finding good angles. He struggles in one on one’s on both pass and run plays due to poor strength and balance, but those are things that can be grown out of.
Round 7, Pick 226: Ja’Tyre Carter, OL, Southern. B+
This is the guard I’d prefer to see start over Thomas at some point. Carter played tackle at Southern due to his abnormally long arms and strong punch and mirroring skills in pass pro, but at 6’3 he’s too small to stay there in the NFL. He can use those skills to lock out interior pressure at guard and use his quickness to get up field in outside zone. I respect Poles strategy of drafting an entire backup offensive line in hope one hits and becomes a starter- let’s see if it happens.
Round 7, Pick 254: Elijah Hicks, S, Cal. B-
Taking a shot on a strong tackler with experience in the slot and deep never hurts. Again, another receiver or DT would perhaps have been preferred but it’s close enough to free agency to not matter. I trust Hicks to make a roster one day, and that’s good for pick 254.
Round 7, Pick 255: Trenton Gill, P, NC State. A-
A needed addition with Pat O’Donnell gone and a strong leg who can also kick off. Pencil him in.
There’s three near-guaranteed year one starters in here at corner, safety, and punter. There’s a new returner, third receiver, and depth gadget back. There’s at least two o-line backups who will make the team. This isn’t nothing. Poles took a lot of shots, and that’s commendable. But I don’t see this team having a better record than last year, and I don’t see Justin Fields being positioned to make any leap that he himself does not will into existence. There may be some impact players here, but there are some clear missed opportunities. If the second round had gone Pickens-Brisker or Brisker-Pickens and then someone like Bernhard Raimann or Coby Bryant at 71, this would be a different story.
Bears Projected 2022 Depth Chart
Black = here in 2021, Orange = FA, Green = Day 1 or 2 Pick, Blue = Day 3, Red = UDFA
QB: Justin Fields- Trevor Siemian
HB: David Montgomery- Khalil Herbert- Trestan Ebner– Master Teague III
X-WR: Byron Pringle– Equanimeous St. Brown
Z-WR: Darnell Mooney- David Moore
Slot-WR: Velus Jones Jr.- Savon Scarver
TE: Cole Kmet- James O’Shaugnessy– Ryan Griffin
LT: Julie’n Davenport– Braxton Jones
LG: Cody Whitehair- Ja’Tyre Carter
C: Lucas Patrick– Doug Kramer
RG: Dakota Dozier– Zachary Thomas
RT: Teven Jenkins- Larry Borom
LE (Strong Side): Al-Quadin Muhammad– Mario Edwards Jr
NT: Khyiris Tonga- Angelo Blackson
DT: Justin Jones– LaCale London
RE (Weak Side): Robert Quinn- Trevis Gipson- Dominique Robinson
MLB: Roquan Smith- Noah Dawkins– Jack Sanborn
WLB: Nicholas Morrow– Caleb Johnson- Matthew Adams
CB: Jaylon Johnson- Thomas Graham
FS: Eddie Jackson- Dane Cruikshank
SS: Jaquan Brisker– Deandre Houston-Carson
CB: Kyler Gordon– Allie Green IV
Nickel: Tavon Young– Elijah Hicks
K: Cairo Santos
P: Trenton Gill
For those of you counting at home, that’s 12 new starters (out of 24).
Also for those of you counting at home, how many wins do you see? I try to avoid the endless Bears nay-saying and pessimism, but this has not left me hopeful. Maybe we end up with Jaxson Smith-Njigba next year.
Draft Rankings Full
Also, I firmly believe that my disappointment in the Bears Day 2 is what caused me to tear my meniscus and damage my MCL in a softball game on Saturday. I just can’t figure out how exactly. This probably contributed to the sour mood of the affair.