Looking ahead: how could Bears improve their offense early in the draft?
Well, for those of us who look at the glass half-full, this Sunday’s impending Battle of Badness between the Chicago Bears (2-9) and San Francisco 49ers (1-10) does have some meaning, even if it is a little sad to think about.
Whoever wins Sunday’s game gets an inside track to the #2 pick in the upcoming draft (take from that what you will), which will add to the intrigue regarding which top prospect will go where given that the Cleveland Browns could also opt to go in a number of directions at this point.
While I’m firmly of the belief that the Bears should select the best player available at either #2 or #3, I thought it would be interesting to see how the various potential options fit with the Bears’ current roster and how it could affect the team’s outlook next season.
Of course, it’s not just about that one pick at the top of the first round (particularly if they were to trade down and grab a few more…), so I’ll be talking about a range of players and possibilities here.
That said, I’ll be focusing mainly on players the Bears could take on Day 1 or early Day 2—doing a seven-round mock draft right now would be nuts (and I’m still riding high on correctly predicting Jordan Howard last year, so I don’t want to throw nonsense out there right now).
Note: the following images/grades are from ProFootballFocus.com and show the units as they currently stand with injuries. All grades out of 100.
Let’s start with the offense first. To avoid re-writing the Magna Carta, I’ll do defense later.
Here’s what most people’s eyes are on, and who can blame them?
With Jay Cutler (41.9) going on IR with a torn labrum, and given the circus of a season he’s endured, it’s totally fair to wonder if he’ll ever suit up for the Bears again. My money is still on “no,” but the truth is that while it would make about as much sense to keep him as much as it would make sense to cut him from a money standpoint.
That said, I’m thinking Chicago’s about ready to break up with the guy. It hasn’t helped that, outside of the Halloween game against the Minnesota Vikings, he hasn’t been spectacular, though aside from the Tampa Bay game one could argue that his struggles weren’t 100% on him (I’d agree).
So, do you try to trade for hometown hero Jimmy Garrapolo, who was solid in relief of Tom Brady (76.7), despite the first-round pick/other ransom the Patriots will try to squeeze out of you?
Or do you keep one of your veterans—Cutler, Brian Hoyer (80.6), or Matt Barkley (74.6)—around to mentor a young quarterback? Hoyer could likely get paid nicely to compete for a starting spot somewhere else next year and Barkley is, well, Barkley.
There’s also the potential choice of a Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina) or DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) with one of the top-3 picks to compete for a starting spot right away. Deshaun Watson could be in the mix, but I’m not sure I see him getting picked in the top-5 because of his raw mechanics. Also, I just can’t see Mason Rudolph or Pat Mahomes getting overdrafted THAT much.
— emanuel80s (@emanueleaddondi) October 26, 2016
Trubisky, though inexperienced as a starter, looks smooth and can make all the throws, whether on the run or in the pocket. Kizer, though going through rough patches with Notre Dame, is the better athlete with a rocket arm and solid pocket poise and playmaking ability.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say Trubisky might be the guy the Bears prefer if they went QB as he looks a bit more polished and takes fewer risks (which John Fox loves), though for those of you who like Dak Prescott, Kizer fits that mold a little more…if Ryan Pace opts for either one of those guys, however, I will be content. From all I’ve heard, the man knows a good quarterback when he sees one.
Despite the inconsistencies in his game, and a couple of truly awful performances, Charles Leno Jr. has, surprisingly been passable at left tackle (70.8). While he’s been dreadful in the run game (46.1), his pass protection has been solid overall (78.3).
Bobby Massie, however, has just been bad all-around. Astonishingly, in fact, his run-blocking (50.2) has somehow graded out worse than his pass-blocking (64.2). And if that’s the case, I’m not sure what the Bears are paying him for.
I’ll be interested to see if the Bears decide that Alabama’s Cam Robinson (if they can get past his off-the-field issues) is worth heavy consideration, especially if they trade down in the first round. Other guys worth watching as a future Bears OT would be Roderick Johnson (Florida State) and Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame), if he were to change his mind and come out for the draft.
Alabama LT Cam Robinson dominated the SEC this year pic.twitter.com/CMqoi1B5WC
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) November 28, 2016
Just judging by what you’re seeing on the injury-ridden graphic, the wide receiver position is a total mess right now without Alshon Jeffery (76.3) and Kevin White (69.2 before going on IR, but trending upward).
Marquess Wilson has played all of five minutes and he’s already the third-best rated receiver on the team (75.1), though to be fair, he’s really looked the part so far, aside from his horrifying touchdown drop last Sunday.
If we could say that those three guys were, without a doubt, going to be the Bears’ top-3 receivers Week 1 of next year, I would take that group immediately (I doubt Eddie Royal will be with the Bears next year).
But how can you? They can never manage to be on the field at the same time between injury issues and drug suspensions. Plus, you still have no clue whether or not Alshon Jeffery will remain a Bear after this season, though many are assuming his free agent stock has taken a significant hit.
So, does that mean the Bears would consider drafting a wide receiver in the first round if they’re the best player available? I’m not sure I would do it, but the answer shouldn’t be a flat “no,” especially if they trade down.
I doubt that the Bears would legitimately be in the market for Mike Williams (Clemson), who’s projected to be a top-10 pick. But if the Bears trade down in the first round or get a favorable pick early in the second round, that leaves the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC), Corey Davis (Western Michigan), and Dede Westbrook (Oklahama) as possibilities to add talent at the wide receiver position.
Corey Davis is the best route runner in this class. Arguably the most physical WR too. #firstrounder
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 30, 2016
To be clear, I don’t expect the Bears to draft a receiver early on. I’m just saying that it doesn’t make an sense not to consider it given the Bears’ terrible fortune at the position, especially if the value and skill of the player call for it. If the Bears have multiple picks in the first and second rounds especially, don’t be surprised if this happens.
I know quarterback would be an exciting pick for the Bears at #2 or #3 (or wherever they potentially land in the top-10), but if Alabama’s Jonathan Allen is still available, it would be hard to pass him up. Also, depending on how highly they think of Marlon Humphrey or Jabrill Peppers, they might opt to go that route as well, but more on all those guys when the defense comes up.
Bottom line: it is inevitable that the Bears will draft a quarterback this year, even if they were to trade for Garrapolo or pick up a QB in free agency. And, as Dan Durkin of The Athletic wrote earlier this week, early picks spent on the right quarterbacks can turn out to be quite lucrative in terms of playoff appearances, as 56% of QBs who have started a playoff game in the last five years were first-rounders and 80% of QBs who started a playoff game were picked no later than the third round.
While the injury issues have been a bit baffling, I must say that I do trust Ryan Pace to evaluate quarterback talent. So if he decides that Trubisky, Kizer, Watson, Mahomes, or whomever are/will be better players than the defensive talent they’ll have to choose between, I’m in.
With Cody Whitehair being as good as he’s been at center (80.7), the Bears have an extremely solid interior on the offensive line when Josh Sitton (87.2) and Long (78.1) are healthy. Now it’s time to do something about the tackles.
Leno Jr. hasn’t been utterly terrible but needs to be pushed by someone to really win that job. If the Bears were to draft a Robinson or Johnson and they outperformed Leno Jr., I think it’d be worth sliding him to right tackle, which could kick out Massie. A hypothetical McGlinchey pick would probably send Massie packing and leave Leno Jr. on the left.
One way or another, the Bears HAVE to find at least one more decent tackle. There’s just no way around it.
Do the Bears need a receiver? On paper, definitely not. But there are some really interesting options later on in the first round and early in the second that could both aid the 31st-ranked scoring offense in the league and provide much-needed insurance for a badly battered receiver position. Don’t sleep on it.
By the way, want to know what else would help the second-worst scoring offense in the league?
GIVE THE BALL TO JORDAN HOWARD.