Some of college football’s elite defensive prospects are already projected to go to the Bears in the early editions of next year’s NFL mock drafts. However, I just can’t see any of them being available when the Bears go on the clock with the 32nd pick in the draft.
- We continue to unpack what went down in the 2018 NFL Draft, which Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald described as boring and conventional … but also good. The Bears played it safe (well, safe by the standards we set based on GM Ryan Pace’s history) and came away with three projected starters who were selected in the first 51 picks. It’s a stark contrast from the prior three drafts when the team was taking calculated risks on athletic, high-upside picks who were deemed to be more like projects instead of players.
- Greg Gabriel of 670 the Score lauds the Bears for filling some holes that we probably didn’t consider as much as we should have leading up the draft. Gabriel commends GM Ryan Pace for adding speed and athleticism via this draft class.
- The team’s first three picks – Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels, and Memphis receiver Anthony Miller – were players who filled positions of need, but also provided different dimensions that players currently at their spots didn’t have. For example, Smith was one of college football’s fastest linebackers, and it wasn’t just limited to straight-line speed. Smith’s ability to close in on ball-carriers and make big hits stood out every Saturday. Miller flashed speed and athleticism in his many runs after catches when he was breaking away from defenders as an All-American receiver. Daniels was one of the more athletic interior linemen in the draft, with good footwork and a strong base that pushed the Bears to draft him with and have confidence in their ability to move him to another position.
- Even the Bears’ later picks fit the speedy/athletic bill, too. Delaware defensive lineman Bilal Nichols ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds at 6-4 and 306 pounds. Utah edge rusher Kylie Fitts posted a nice 40 time too, completing the dash in 4.69 seconds. Western Kentucky linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds and had game-speed that matched. Not only do these players have quality athleticism, but they also put together some quality tape. Or in the case of Fitts, shined during Senior Bowl week.
- Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com raved about the Bears draft, listing Chicago’s haul as his favorite – mostly because of what was done in the first two rounds to select Smith, Daniels, and Miller. Brugler seemed to be complimentary of Pace’s ability to get around not having a third-round pick to trade back into the second round. Yes, it cost the Bears a second-round pick in 2019, but it will be worth it if Miller is the player he believes he can be.
- If Miller turns out to be the best receiver of this class and Smith is who NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly thinks he is, then the Bears could be surprisingly awesome next season. Casserly applauds the Bears’ continued progress in building an offense for Mitch Trubisky to thrive, but it’s clear that the Bears’ first-round pick in 2018 truly has his eye. Casserly has been on the Smith bandwagon since Day 1 of the NFL Draft, beating the drum for Smith’s candidacy for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The expectations are high, but Casserly thinks that highly of Smith and his situation to put him atop his list. I mean, if you want to crown him, then … well, you know the rest.
- Pete Prisco of CBS Sports wasn’t too kind in handing out high grades, but it’s worth noting the Bears were one of the four teams to receive “A” grades for their work on draft weekend. Prisco says the Bears “knocked it out of the park” with the selections of Smith, Daniels, and Miller. So much so, he views the team’s other four picks as icing on the cake. “If they get a little out of the rest of the class, it’s a bonus,” Prisco writes.
- At some point, Matt Nagy should get a little bit of love too … right? Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes about Nagy’s first draft with Pace and the momentum the two continue to build as they attempt to construct a winning roster. Not only did things feel different, the end result looked different than previous drafts. Some of us are still trying to let that all sink in.
- Without putting blame on John Fox (because that might be unfair), it’s worth pointing out the kinds of players the Bears were drafting compared to who was being drafted when Fox was the head coach. Different strokes for different folks, and it’s evident through the Bears’ moves in free agency and the draft that Fox and Nagy have two different ideas of what they wanted their players to look like, what traits they wanted them to have, and ultimately differing visions on how to build a football team. Judging by how Pace talks about Nagy, the two are on the same page now more than Fox and Pace were at any time over the previous three years.
- All this to say, kudos to the Bears for sticking to their guns, not reaching, and getting a little lucky along the way:
Ryan Pace: “We stay true to our board and stay true to guys we’re passionate about. … In this draft, things kind of fell our way.”
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) April 30, 2018