The 2022 NFL Draft is fast approaching. And even though new GM Ryan Poles doesn’t have a first-round pick, he is set to usher in a new era of Bears football with Assistant GM Ian Cunningham, Head Coach Matt Eberflus, and a host of other newbies. Starting today, we’re looking at some of the best prospects at various positions leading up to the Draft in search of fits for the Bears’ needs.
Need: The more pressing need than a tight end is the Bears’ need for Cole Kmet to have a breakout season in 2022.
Currently on the Roster (2021 PFF Grade):
Cole Kmet (63.4), James O’Shaughnessy (62.8), Ryan Griffin (55.8), Jesper Horsted (N/A)
BN’s Composite Ranking
Ranking prospects is difficult, in part, because no one publication has the same set of fundamentals or preferences. In an attempt to work through that noise, we’re using a composite ranking based on opinions from PFF, ESPN, CBS Sports, and NFL dot com, and adapting them to a points scale. The best of the top-10 prospects gets 10 points, the 10th ranked prospect gets 1, and prospects outside the top-10 get 0. From there, the prospects are ranked by total points.
Here’s how the tight ends stack up (points in parenthesis):
1. Trey McBride, Colorado State (40)
2. Greg Dulcich, UCLA (33)
3. Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State (23)
t-4. Jelani Woods, Virginia (21)
t-4. Charlie Kolar, Iowa State (21)
6. Cade Otton, Washington (19)
7. Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina (19)
8. James Mitchell, Virginia Tech (11)
9. Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin (8)
10. Daniel Bellinger, San Diego State (7)
Also receiving Top-10 consideration: Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M – NFL, CBS), Cole Turner (Nevada, ESPN), Chigoziem Okonkwo (Maryland – CBS, PFF), Grant Calcaterra (SMU – PFF)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bears have revamped their tight ends room. Gone are Jimmy Graham, Jesse James, and J.P. Holtz, while Ryan Griffin and James O’Shaughnessy step in to join Cole Kmet and Jesper Horsted. It’ll be a different looking group in 2022, and even more change could come on draft weekend.
To be clear, this isn’t a priority need. But the Bears could stand to add a player with a different dynamic to this bunch. Getting younger would be nice, too. And if the Bears aren’t going to go hog wild drafting receivers, perhaps identifying a solid pass-catching tight end to essentially serve as a jumbo-sized receiver could be in play.
Most Likely to be Available When the Bears Are on the Clock:
Choosing three players who project to be available when the Bears go on the clock with each of their picks.
Round 2, Pick 39: There isn’t a tight end I’d be comfortable with the Bears taking with this pick.
Round 2, Pick 48: Please see the sentence above.
Round 3, Pick 71: Trey McBride (Colorado State), Cade Otton (Washington), Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State)
Round 5, Pick 150: Charlie Kolar (Iowa State), Chigoziem Okonkwo (Maryland), Jelani Woods (Virginia)
Round 6, Pick 186: Grant Calcaterra (SMU), Jake Ferguson (Wisconsin), Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina)
• The Bears used a top-30 visit on Maryland’s Chigoziem Okonkwo, who was the fastest tight end at the Combine.
• Unspecified visit: Sean Dykes (Memphis)
Zack Pearson of Bear Report does a tremendous job compiling Bears prospect visits. You can follow his work here.
If I Had to Pick One:
It’s hard for an Ohio State product to fly under the radar, but tight end Jeremy Ruckert took a back seat to Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and a handful of other high-octane weapons on the Buckeyes offense. And because of that, I don’t think he gets the prospect buzz he should. But maybe I’m OK with that because it could allow the Bears to snag one of Justin Fields’ old college chums.
No, Ruckert isn’t a game-changing tight end. But his game is has the type of balance to do this:
Jeremy Ruckert handling George Karlaftis. Whew. pic.twitter.com/lwvmQECQzH
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 17, 2022
— ESPN (@espn) January 12, 2021
That he comes comes in a 6-5, 250-pound package could make him an ideal tight end partner for Cole Kmet. It might leave the Bears without a true “U” tight end, but perhaps they need to step away from trying to find someone who fits that mold and focus on reeling in a quality player for the position group.