Finding capable safeties hasn’t been easy for the Chicago Bears, which is why many believed the team would target one early in a 2017 NFL Draft crop that was loaded at the position. Instead, the Bears went in a totally different direction and waited until the fourth round to address a primary need in the secondary.
Eddie Jackson has proven worth the wait.
Jackson is on Pro Football Focus’ midseason All-Rookie Team, which comes from the site’s All-22 review and play-by-play grading of each player on every NFL team. His 81.2 grade is the best among rookies who have played at least 300 snaps and ranks 24th overall. Jackson’s ability as a tackler was among the reasons his draft stock slipped to the fourth round, but it turns out that skill has been one of his strengths through eight games in the NLF – his 14.5 tackling efficiency grade is the best among rookie safeties.
Three safeties went in the first round of the most recent draft, but none have recorded a better than average grade. The New York Jets made Jamal Adams the first safety selected in April, and he’s played well, earning a 75.6 grade that ranks 41st. Indianapolis Colts safety Malik Hooker showed flashes with a 77.3 grade before going down with a season-ending injury. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns haven’t received much from Jabrill Peppers, whose 37.2 grade is the third lowest among qualifying safeties. So while the 2017 season is far from over, it’s evident the Bears are getting an extreme value from Jackson as a fourth-round pick.
While Jackson has been a pleasant surprise for the defense, sometimes the picks that aren’t made can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Every draft will have its share of hits and misses, and this one is no different. BUT, the two wide receivers who made PFF’s All-Rookie Team were both available when Chicago made its second-round pick and neither waited long to hear their names called by their respective teams on draft day.
Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams was selected with the 69th overall pick, making him the fifth player off the board in the third round. Kupp has been an impact player for second-year quarterback Jared Goff from Week 1, gaining 151 yards after the catch (most among rookie receivers) and playing at least 60 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in seven of eight games. His 76.0 grade is the highest among qualifying rookie receivers, as are his seven missed tackles forced.
It’s not as if the Bears didn’t get a good look at Kupp, who was on the Senior Bowl roster that was coached by John Fox.
While Kupp has been steady and reliable, JuJu Smith-Schuster has been the rookie receiver with an appetite for the big play. Smith-Schuster’s breakout came in Week 8 with a seven-catch, 193-yard performance against the Detroit Lions. That game helped put Smith-Schuster on the national radar, and opened eyes as he entered the break with 293 yards after the catch. Smith-Schuter’s 1.94 yards per route run leads NFL rookies, making him a potential deep threat every snap he plays.
The Pittsburgh Steelers must have liked what they saw from Smith-Schuster at USC, as they chose the rookie 17 spots after the Bears chose tight end Adam Shaheen.
You win some, you lose some.