In case you needed a reminder that there are no Chicago Bears in Pro Football Focus’ top 50, here it is:
ICYMI: The entire #PFF50
Ranking the top players in the NFL at the moment heading into 2017 pic.twitter.com/R82IdAFJH4
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 28, 2017
To be fair, this isn’t an easy list to crack. Ezekiel Elliott is the lowest rated of the three running backs who make the list, and topping him won’t be easy – even if Jordan Howard has his eyes set on taking the rushing crown in 2017. If Cody Whitehair is to make the cut, he’ll have to rank among the best offensive linemen in football. Travis Frederick is the only center who makes it, and he ranks 16th overall.
Still, the most obvious snub is linebacker Jerrell Freeman, whose 93.8 grade in 2016 was the best the site handed out to a linebacker last season.
Here’s hoping the Bears have some skill position players on this list sooner, rather than later.
- Like PFF before them, NFL Network’s Top 100 players left the Bears completely out of the mix, too, but it doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have pieces to dream on. For starters, the offensive line represents the most solid building block for the Bears’ future. Pro Football Focus ranks it as the fifth best in football going into the 2017 season – and for good reason. The interior is strong enough to carry two tackles who are viewed as sub-par to the near top of the chart. Based on his production, it’s crazy to think the Packers just flat-out cut Josh Sitton last summer.
- Over at 247 Sports, Matt Eurich lines up the five players who will be the most important teammates quarterback Mike Glennon will have this season. Of course, Sitton makes the list as an honorable mention. It’s worth noting that three players listed are offensive linemen, who will likely hold the key to how well Glennon performs. After all, we recently discussed how the offensive line can boost Glennon’s play if they continue to be strong up front.
- I was surprised to see Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon rank the NFC North as the second worst division in football. And not just because the Bears drag it down, either. Gagnon points out that while each of the NFC North teams not located in Green Bay attempted to plug leaks on their rosters, the Lions are viewed as a team that played over its head and the Vikings are in a place where they should be hoping momentum can’t carry over from one year to the next after losing eight of their final 11 games after starting 5-0. The NFC North is a division that could send as many as three teams to the playoffs if the Packers stay on top, and the Lions and Vikings work out their kinks.
- As for the Bears, they aren’t in no-man’s land as one might believe. While the Vikings and Lions fight to stay afloat, the Bears – while admittedly fighting an uphill battle – are building from the bottom. So technically, there is nowhere to go but up. If the NFC North is as bad as Gagnon projects, the Bears could really sneak up on some teams in 2017. And wouldn’t that be fun to watch?
- The Bears don’t make Connor Orr’s list of underrated receivers groups, much to the chagrin of Markus Wheaton. Then again, Wheaton can prove his point starting this summer.
- In another NFC North roundtable, Rob Demovsky asks how long can Aaron Rodgers play at this high of a level – and the answers aren’t surprising, but they can be disheartening if you’re a Bears fan. In short: No one sees Rodgers slowing down any time soon. And as far as I’m concerned, he’ll be as good as he wants to be for as long as he wants to be, just like the player he says he models himself after – Tom Brady. Still, this doesn’t mean the Bears should throw in the towel. If anything, this should motivate the team to keep chasing the carrot. To be the best, you must beat the best, and the Bears need to continue to build with the goal of knocking off the NFC’s best quarterback.
- And finally, Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski threw a strike of a first pitch before Tuesday’s White Sox-Yankees game at Guaranteed Rate Field:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 28, 2017