Ian Cunningham Speaks: Draft Plans, Carter Plays the H.I.T.S., Where Bears Have an Edge, Bijan SZN? More
Every team’s general manager has media availability to team reporters ahead of the NFL Draft. But this year’s state of the pre-draft conversation was a bit different at Halas Hall. Because instead of GM Ryan Poles leading the charge, it was Assistant GM Ian Cunningham fielding questions.
Cunningham, who was a person of interest up for multiple GM openings this offseason, is on a fast-track to leading his own front office. So with that being said, I find it commendable that Poles gave his right-hand man an opportunity to take a crack at this on Tuesday. Getting a dry run at what it would be like to be a GM for a day is a nice move, especially seeing that Cunningham could very well be on his own next offseason. And if he leaves for a GM opening, the Bears will be compensated with future compensatory draft picks.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, here are some highlights from Cunningham’s medi availability.
The Bears’ Draft Plans Are Actually Quite Simple
Keep it simple, stupid.
I try to keep those words from my high school AP Government and Chicago political history teacher in mind — especially when I’m in a place where I’m overthinking. Unfortunately, that happens far too often for my liking. But I am working on it. And that’s all that matters. But when it comes to the Bears’ upcoming draft plans, the K.I.S.S. method is one this front office seems to have in mind.
Cunningham on the plan of attack starting on Thursday:
Maybe Cunningham is just giving off GM speak. If he is, then good on him. That’s the kind of answer seasoned pros give when answering questions regarding draft approach. But also, it is one that I hope is an accurate depiction of what this front office plans on doing this offseason. These Bears have so many needs, it would be counterproductive to go about drafting in any other way. Draft good players now, then let your coaches figure out where they fit later.
Oh, if only it was that easy!
A Secret Edge
Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing is as small as having a leg up in an area where one wouldn’t expect (or expect for it to matter). When it comes to the draft plans of Chicago’s football team, Cunningham seems to think the Bears have an edge when it comes to evaluating offensive linemen. And considering the team’s needs throughout the position group, that Cunningham and Poles played the position is something that could come in handy this weekend:
“Playing the position helps just in terms of you know what is asked of those guys,” Cunningham said, via Larry Mayer). “And again, I feel like when you have a guy like [offensive line coach] Chris Morgan and you have the confidence in him and his development of players, you feel comfortable taking a player that you know has some upside because he is going to get the most out of him.”
We’ve thought about Poles’ past as an offensive lineman and how it would help the Bears spot free agent help for the position group. But we shouldn’t look past how having an eye for the position because you played it could be helpful in sorting through the top of the draft class. We saw Poles take a bunch of swings at fixing the O-line with late-round picks last year. And it certainly helped the depth. Heck, it even unearthed a starter. It is a different course of action when you’re dealing with potentially using a top-10 pick on a prospect. Even still … every little bit helps.
Cunningham on Carter
There was a time when I would’ve been banging the table (loudly!) for the Bears to draft Georgia DT Jalen Carter. And while I’m still high on Carter as a player, the off-the-field questions still nag me. The Bears have met with Carter multiple times since his legal troubles surfaced. In that time, I hope they got whatever answers they were needing to fully evaluate the player and person ahead of the draft.
So while Cunningham didn’t divulge too much, he shared some insight on one of the draft’s most polarizing prospects:
Whatever happens on the Carter front, it feels good that the Bears have at least been thorough in this process. Digging into his situation at his Pro Day at Georgia (which didn’t go well in terms of showing out in drills) and with a top 30 visit feels like a crucial part of an important process.
Odds and Ends
- The Bears have 6-8 players at the top of their draft board, per Cunningham. We discussed what this revelation meant earlier.
- With that wide of a target base, it sounds like Chicago could do well by trading back if multiple players from that group are available when they go on the clock with the No. 9 pick. And for what it’s worth, it sounds like the Bears are open to trading back. However, trade-back options will be judged on a “case by case” basis. (Courtney Cronin, ESPN)
- When asked about taking a running back in the top 10, Cunningham replied: “Yeah, I think it’s worth it.” On the one hand, I want to read this as a sign to not count out the possibility of the Bears drafting Bijan Robinson. The Texas running back is arguably the best non-QB in this class. However, he plays a position many find to be dispensable. Hence, the disparity in player talent and positional value. But on the other hand, I see Cunningham’s comment and take it as words from an exec who wants to drum up trade value. We see you, Ian! (Sean Hammond, Shaw Media)
- Pressure bursts pipes or makes diamonds:
In any case, I am also excited about the NFL Draft. Here’s hoping there are more diamonds than busted pipes at Halas Hall.