Here is a checklist of what the Chicago Bears did this offseason before the draft:
- Hired an offensive-minded head coach who is schooled in quarterback development.
- Retained the defensive coordinator who orchestrated a group that finished in the top-10 in scoring defense and yards allowed.
- Signed three highly-sought-after free agent pass-catchers as part of an offensive overhaul.
- Re-signed the team’s two starting cornerbacks to multi-year deals.
And judging by the reactions across the media landscape, the Bears did quite well in this NFL Draft.
What a difference a year makes!
- Andy Benoit of SI.com’s The MMQB gives the Bears an “A” grade for their efforts in 2018. Chicago was able to add to their defensive depth, which probably puts some extra pep in the step of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Benoit sees Roquan Smith as a “safe” and “electrifying” pick, while adding depth to the group with Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Bilal Nichols. The team also rounded out the offensive side of the ball with center/guard James Daniels, who Benoit noted was projected in the first round and Anthony Miller, who helps complete the receiving corps.
- SB Nation’s Dan Kadar handed out a “B+” grade to the Bears, noting the team added starting caliber players with their first three picks. The one need the team didn’t address in the draft was cornerback, which happens to be the thing that kept Kadar from giving the Bears a higher grade.
- The Bears earned some local praise, too. JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago presents the team with an “A-” grade, citing the bold move up to draft Miller – whose skills are expected to be a nice fit for Matt Nagy’s offense. It would have been tough to earn a higher grade, but addressing the pass-rush problem could have really given this group an extra boost. The drafting of Iyiegbuniwe is going to come off as a reach in the fourth round, which will also ding the Bears’ grade in the eyes of some.
- ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson offers up analysis for each of the Bears’ picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, and you’ll want to clear some time on your schedule for that.
- Let’s circle back to Day 2 for a moment, where ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. declared the Bears as one of the NFL’s big winners for what they did to draft Daniels and Miller.
- It all represents a change of pace (no pun intended) for the Bears and the draft strategy employed by their general manager. Rather than banking on long-term projects with high upsides, Pace drafted some polished and experienced cfootballl prospects … and they still have loads of upside. Not only did the Bears fill needs, they did so by drafting highly-regarded players. The team added playmakers at wide receiver and linebacker, as well as an offensive lineman who can clear space and give Mitch Trubisky some time to work his magic.
- Tribune columnist David Haugh believes the Bears can say they are the NFC North’s most improved team after their offseason moves in free agency and the draft. It’s a bold statement, but one I’m willing to co-sign. Maybe the Bears started off at such a low point where any improvement constituted being eligibility for “most improved” status. But even then, the Bears added some real high-end talent as far as players and coaches are concerned. If things pan out with players reaching their floors and others reaching their ceilings, we could be looking at the first non-losing season since 2013. It’s not where the Bears ultimately want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction.
- The Bears love-fest was almost unavoidable:
More Daniel Jeremiah: “I think you’re going to see a big step up for their quarterback and for this football team.”
— The Ten-Yard Line (@TheTenYardLine) April 28, 2018
I would say the Bears and the Vikings. Both had solid free agencies and drafts. https://t.co/Eggg6x5rKN
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) April 29, 2018
Charlie Casserly called it: Roquan Smith defensive rookie of the year for 2018. I’m sure Bears fans would love that!
— Jeff Luongo (@Jeff8275) April 29, 2018
- On the other side of the coin, long-time NFL insider Hub Arkush isn’t as high on the Bears as others – especially after what was deemed by him to be a “head-scratching” Day 3. Arkush lists drafting Iyiegbuniwe as a pick that slowed the Bears’ momentum and seems to feel similarly about Nichols – a pair of selections from smaller schools. Arkush believes the team could have used the picks more wisely on players from bigger schools who played other positions of need.
- Arkush also wonders if the talent on the Bears roster matches the buzz that has been created around what’s happening at Halas Hall. Arkush likes the first-round choice of Roquan Smith, even if he believed Smith was a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. With the Ryan Pace honeymoon period declared to be over, Arkush fears the overall quality of the roster isn’t equal to the hype that surrounds it. However, he also thinks the Bears “will be a much improved team and win eight or nine games.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Perhaps one day down the line, one of the draft picks from the class of 2018 will be able to say thanks on a billboard like Matt Forte:
Thank you to @LamarChicago for all your help with the billboard! Billboard is located off Tri-State Tollway (1-294) in between mile markers 34 and 34 ¼. It’s right in front of the Tribune Direct Building. If traveling South it is about ½ a mile before exit 33. pic.twitter.com/vv8vToOjIE
— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) April 28, 2018
- Elsewhere in the NFC North, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune analyzes what the Packers, Lions, and Vikings did over the weekend. It pains me to say it, but I can’t help but come away impressed with the Packers did – especially when considering what the Bears have done to upgrade their team. Chicago added big-play receivers, Green Bay drafted two of the top cornerback prospects in the draft … and added the New Orleans Saints’ first-round pick in 2019. Savvy move from their first-year general manager.