I know I know, you have to walk before you run, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the Bears can vault themselves into the top ten offensively. Just by the sheer fact, their last three rookie classes have gained another year of experience. Know more, do better. Development is just as big of an impact as a new acquisition. Bears figure to have both with one side of the ball likely a finished championship caliber defense and that’s before any additions in Free Agency and the draft. How does that help the offense you ask? Simple. Field position and more reps on offense and thus more bites at the apple. Here’s how they could possibly piece it together using the draft.
The draft is as much about value and cap flexibility as it is about talent acquisition. This years draft will have a total cash value of $18,640,768 paid out if all contracts are paid out for their entire duration. Only $11,636,922 is committed to signing bonuses. The 2018 cap hit just $3,389,231. So there’s a great chance to add lots of bodies that both fit at the top of the depth chart to the very bottom of it while you pay top notch vets preferably from your draft 3-5 years ago.
Bears could fix this offense with one more draft. They already have a lot of the pieces there. The Offensive Line is not yet set, but they do have a lot of good prospects for each position minus Right Tackle. Tom Compton played well at Guard filling in for both Kyle Long and Josh Sitton when they were injured until he himself got injured which affected his play nursing his own ailments. The Bears also have Eric Kush who had an impressive 2016 season and should be fully healed and properly rehabbed from his season-ending torn hamstring injury. Long and Sitton are still under contract so the Bears can bring them back and even in Sitton’s case perhaps convince him to take a pay cut.
There is also the likelihood that the Bears start last season’s fifth round pick Jordan Morgan at one of the guard spots given Pace’s history in New Orleans of converting mid-round picks into pro bowl linemen, and the fact they brought in Harry Heistand to do just that. So this urgency for fans and some media members to invest highly at interior Offensive line is curious and likely an exercise in futility. Bears have plenty of in-house options. They also have the option of moving Cody Whitehair to Guard a spot he was actually projected to start at in the NFL during most predraft prognostications. With Heistand and Mark Helfrich aboard they may be able to salvage the career of Hroniss Grasu even. However, should they choose to get a Guard &/or a Right Tackle from the draft here are some prospects the Bears may be interested in.
Guards: This is an area the Bears figure to go value first with the draft. This is Pace’s history and you don’t make a big hire like they did with Heistand to draft ready made Guards. There are several ways they can go with this. First, they can get someone who has already played Guard and continue to develop them at the next level. The big issue with that is if they go that route they’d likely have to draft on day 2 in order to get one athletic and big enough to handle NFL interior Defensive Linemen who are all big, strong and amazingly nimble for their sizes without having to develop them first. The other route is to draft a Tackle not quite good enough to play on the outside in the NFL and convert them to Guard.
Now the first suggestion still offers some nice day 3 options. There are two that come to mind instantly only because they were not invited to the NFL scouting combine.
This pretty much tells you they will likely fall to day 3 although you never know. First up Offensive Guard out of N.C. State Tony Adams. Shorter squatty type listed at around 6’2″ and tipping the scales at 315 pounds. Not real athletic but very powerful and has instant leverage being as wide and short as he is. He is an excellent run blocker and figures to dominate in that phase of the offense particularly with inside runs. He likely projects as a Right Guard which means Long would have to move or get cut to make room for him if he was inserted as a starter. He could also slide to Center and they cold move Whitehair to one of the guard spots.
Another player probably more in line with the Bears current system is the very big and tall Washington State OG Cody O’Connell. Standing at 6’8″ 355 pounds he has more of a frame as an Offensive Tackle than a Guard, but does not have the feet for it. A tall guy like him as a guard kind of hinders his leverage game a bit against bigger shorter Defensive Tackles but help immensely in the passing game. Also has pretty good movement skills for a man of his size. Once he anchors with proper pad level while using his long arms to keep defenders out from under his chest to gain leverage, this 355 pounds of hulking football player should become very hard to move. He may even compete at Right Tackle if he shows any hint of athleticism at his Pro Day.
Of course many will make the argument for drafting Quenton Nelson with the 8th pick, but this is highly unlikely and not very wise with a roster in need of play-makers on the outside and Guard not being an absolute deal breaker acquisition for the offense’s success.
If the Bears wanted to go day 2 Austin Corbett out of Nevada is an excellent prospect moving from tackle to guard. He might even drop to day 3 even. At 6’4″ 305 he’s too small to play Tackle on most teams although the Bears show that they don’t mind shorter tackles by starting Charles Leno at Left Tackle who is also 6’4″. However, Corbett is very athletic and has some edge to him to be perfect at Guard. Also has a high football IQ and can play Center in a pinch. His versatility and IQ makes him kind of a Mini Whitehair if you will, to where in a pinch he could probably at least give you a representative effort at any one of the 5 spots on the Offensive Line.
Another possibility for the Bears is converting Humbolt State Offensive Tackle Alex Cappa. He’s a very good athlete. While at 6’7″ 305 he’s got a Tackle’s frame, and could even be a candidate for Right Tackle but he looks like he’s a guy that has a move inside written all over him. He has all the tools to Play outside but is really raw in pass protection. He may need a couple years under pro tutelage before moving outside. Relies too much on power and tends to abandon technique over mauling. He has great feet and plays angry. Perfect for a fit at Guard. Could be had day 2 possibly sneaking into day 3. After a great Senior Bowl showing, I tend to doubt he’ll drop further past the 3rd round. Another notable fact is the Bears were in heavy discussion with Cappa there and seemed to be very interested in him. Of course, the Bears can always go chalk and draft Will Hernandez or Isaiah Winn in the 2nd round to fill their need at Guard.
Right Tackle: As I mentioned in a previous piece I did most people seem to be of the mind that Leno should be the one replaced the most of all the linemen which I disagree with, but it isn’t about mine or anyone else’s opinion that matters. It’s the Bears opinion and their opinion is he’s going to be their Left Tackle for at least the duration of the guaranteed portion of his extension. They also tried to replace Bobbie Massie last offseason, so two and two equal four. It appears the Bears are going to seek out a new Offensive Tackle and it will likely come from this draft class.
Of course, the obvious thing to do would be draft the best available in the first round should they hold at eighth overall. Guys like Orlando Brown, Mike McGlinchey and Connor Williams figure to go in the first round and it’s doubtful that the Bears will go fishing for one in the first. Keep your eyes out for names like Chukwuma Okorafor, Brian O’Neill, and Kolton Miller in the 2nd early third. They’re the next tier level talents. However, there are some possible day 2 & 3 candidates the Bears can insert at Right Tackle day one.
The first name that stands out to me is Tyrell Crosby. There is a connection to Bears Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich as he was a starter under Helfrich just before he was fired as the Ducks Head coach. He’s also a perfect fit for the Bears as their next starting Right Tackle. He’ll likely land on day 3 so the Bears would have to likely draft him in the second if they do not get more picks in a trade down. That might be a deal breaker as the Bears do not have a 3rd round pick this season and that 2nd rounder might be too rich for their blood.
Desmond Harrison is extremely raw but extremely physically gifted too. Great feet and his athleticism jump out at you on tape. He’s also meaner than a junkyard dog. He has long arms and a nice punch. He’s a small school product and weighed in at only 279 so he could be a project and is a redshirt candidate. It could pay off big in the long run but he may not be ready to play in 2017. That along with some character concerns could drop him to day 3 making him an extremely good value if those concerns don’t come home to roost.
Timon Parris is probably a favorite of mine as he is a hard-bodied 6’5″ 320 long-limbed tackle with fantastic feet and lateral movement for a man of that Mass. He’s also nasty and loves the physicality of his job. He is, however, a small school prospect who has not faced top competition on a regular basis coming from Stoney Brook Unversity and is not a very good technician. He’s just relying on his sheer physical size and athleticism to get the job done which of course he did at his level. He may get a rude awakening in the NFL. Currently, most have him going on day 3 but you never know what the combine can do for him if he amazes scouts with his athleticism looking like the well-chiseled athlete he is. He will turn plenty of heads and might make his way into the 2nd or 3rd round.
Weapons, weapons and more weapons:
Some people will dismiss the power of development on the current roster but they shouldn’t. The Bears current weapons will be better just by comfort level alone. Sure, they have to learn a new coaching staff and they them, but the system is pretty much the same. The things ex-Bears Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains ran and the verbiage they used are similar to what Matt Nagy ran in Kansas City so the learning curve won’t be as steep. Guys people know and love like Adam Shaheen and Tarik Cohen will surely have expanded roles.
Tanner Gentry was virtually invisible but was signed to a futures contract and kept finding his way back to the Bears roster. So someone likes him. Kendall Wright was the best representation of an NFL Wide Receiver the Bears had all last season and has a real chance to get resigned back and may be even more of a factor with the Bears as he and Trubisky have developed some chemistry on their option routes. Trubisky admittedly was hesitant to throw as he didn’t trust his reads matching up with Wrights. Jordan Howard may develop into a better pass catcher. The Offensive Linemen may stay healthy and should improve under Heistand as well to add time for longer routes downfield to develop. Then there are the two returning vets coming off injuries in Cameron Meredith and yes even Kevin White who can come back healthy and finally realize their potential. They can also bring back veteran Dontrelle Inman who brings leadership and IQ to the Wide Receiver room along with good hands and route running. However, I fully expect the Bears to be active acquiring weapons in the draft and they will come from everywhere not just at Wide Receiver.
When the subject of improving the Bears offense comes up it begins with the Wide Receiver position. The Bears will begin to build that group starting in mid-March acquiring a free agent or two, but they will not ignore the draft no matter who they sign. It’s possible the Bears draft up to 2 Wide Receivers in a very deep class. Maybe even an undrafted player or two as well. They will throw a bunch of darts at the board until they hit some bullseyes.
As I mentioned this class is deep. It’s positional versatile too with many different skill sets. You can add both talent and diversity in this draft. You have the small shifty guys that can dominate in the slot. They have fast athletic guys to stretch the field at Flanker. they have monster sized Split ends that can post up, out leap and physically dominate smaller Defensive Backs trying to cover them.
There is only one Receiver considered a sure-fire first rounder and that’s former Alabama’s Flanker Calvin Ridley, a player the Bears may very well be choosing with the eighth overall pick come this spring. Fast, quick, smart, great route runner, pro-style offense experience and the full route tree available to Mitch Trubisky is what the Bears would get if they drafted Ridley. They’d also be getting a slight receiver who may struggle against physical corners and be at risk to trauma and injury to his body. An NFL weight program should take care of that, but you hope he doesn’t suffer a catastrophic injury before then that could lead to other injuries in a chain reaction from one to another.
A lot of people are bullish on Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk as the best slot receiver. He’s Tough, Smart and quicker than fast. Will separate underneath. More of a 20-yard dash winner. Not a slug but not known for long speed so the slot is where he’ll stay. Has drop issues at times too. Thought by many to be the best of the slot receivers. Very productive but a lot of that was due in part to playing in the Air Raid offense.
Anthony Miller is another interesting choice as a Y route receiver but has the ability to win on all three levels. He is fast and quick and extremely competitive. Plus leaper with a penchant for making the spectacular catch but he can also make the frustrating drop too. Has had 5 career fumbles too so ball security has to improve. NFL.com’s draft analyst Lance Zierlein compares him to Bears Free Agent Wide receiver Kendall Wright. Could be there at the top of day 3.
D.J. Moore is my number one slot target in this class. The Big Ten Receiver of the year and First team All-Conference pick had an amazing season in spite of Maryland having a clear deficiency at the Quarterback position as they started 4 Quarterbacks during the 2017 season. Moore still managed to catch 80 passes for over 1,000 yards and 8 scores. He has great hands, cat quickness, above average speed, is smart and tough. Very athletic who makes the spectacular grab in traffic and will be a YAC monster. Has to refine his game and expand his route tree, but has all the tools and coachability to get it done. He has a real good chance of being a better pro than a collegiate player. Has the talent to play on the outside but his size (5’11” 215) will likely keep him inside.
Day 3 value picks:
Braxton Berrios looks like he was made to play for the Patriots in the slot. Quick, smart, tough, good route runner. Probably will be a great value in the mid day three range?
Another day three option Could be Sam Darnold’s safety blanket, Deontay Burnett. More quick than fast but he gets separation underneath. Another one who should time well in the 20-yard dash. He runs crisp routes and has sure hands. Was very productive with 86 receptions 1,114 yards and 9 touchdowns. He is very slight at 6′ 170 but has had no major injuries thus far.
Antonio Callaway could be the best of them out of the slot but has had way too many off-field issues ranging from sexual assault accusations to credit card fraud which caused him to miss the entire 2017 season. But he does have amazing talent. He’s fast, quick, explosive, and competitive once on the field. His coachability is in question as well. He will blow up the combine but still can go undrafted. He could be a good value pick in the 7th if the Bears are willing to take a chance on him.
KeKe Coutee Can play Flanker too as he has speed to burn. Comped to Arizona’s John Brown by Lance Zierlein. He’s probably best suited for the slot as he’ll draw nickel corners where he will match up size wise. Coutee isn’t very strong nor does he show the toughness to compete against bigger stronger corners. He could be there at the top of day three giving the Bears an excellent value pick as well as an explosive big-play receiver.
Quadree Henderson is a gadget player at this time who brings an explosive element to an offense and is maybe the best special teams returner in the draft. He had a high amount of jet sweeps and averaged over 10 yards on 32 % of his attempts. Diminutive in size 5’8″ 190 but thickly built. Has a lot of juice and does not hesitate with the ball in his hands. He is not a dancer and makes movs while going North to South and vice versa. Maybe with proper tutelage, he could be a starting slot receiver in time. Could be part of some amazingly creative play packages with a creative coaching staff such as the Bears appear to have.
Trey Quinn is a hard one to pin down as far as draft slotting him is concerned. He had an exceptionally productive season catching a school record 114 passes for 1,236 yards. While the production is eye-opening many believe he was the recipient of favorable coverage matchups based on the fact he played alongside possible first round Split End Courtland Sutton. Quinn has very good hands. Most believe possibly the best in this draft. That along with his size makes him a perfect fit in the slot. He was an excellent baseball player which helps with his hand-eye coordination and tracking ability which may explain his hands. He was also a 100-meter state finalist two years running in high school so he can run a little bit too. I’m putting him on the day three discussion because of the insane depth of this draft but that could change with a great combine performance.
DaeSean Hamilton is another borderline third rounder that may be there at the top of the fourth round for the Bears to pick. Big, competitive, and very good on contested catches. He will keep the chains moving while offering some big chunks along the way. Very reliable on high leverage targets. Just under 80 percent of his catches resulted in first downs in 2017. Wins more with route savvy, than with natural speed and quickness. Team captain and excellent as a leader.
Possible undrafted Free Agents:
Richie James is a small school receiver with electric speed and athleticism who is an ex Quarterback and knows the passing game and route concepts. Ray-Ray McCloud was a clutch player for Clemson and has the smarts, Quicks, and toughness to succeed in the slot. Cam Phillips has good hands and is a good route runner who wins his share of Y routes.
James Washington may very well be the best fly route option of any receiver available in both the draft and veteran Free Agency. He and OSU Quarterback Mason Rudolph connected on a high amount of deep balls during their careers. He is a coverage dictator that will see very little single man coverage. Almost all single man coverage will be significantly off man. He eats up cushion faster than Pac Man eats dots. Not only will he be a part of big plays as a receiver he will create big plays for other receivers as well as open up the run game taking that extra defender out of the box and in blanket coverage to his side. There were questions about his ability to win as a pure route runner but the Senior Bowl week he had blown up that myth as he won against any cornerback there on a variety of routes. He did measure shorter than his 6′ measurement on OSU’s website at 5′ 10″ but is extremely strong and shifty to beat press and keep him on the outside while he may be kicked inside on occasion to develop favorable matchup wins for.
D.J. Chark reminds me of Randy Moss a little bit. Tall and thin (6’3″ 190) with an excellent catch radius who can fly down the field. Like Moss when he first entered the league his route tree is limited, but what he does offer now in routes he can run will produce huge plays down the field and even on smoke routes that are well designed and blocked well. He’ll likely cost the Bears a second-round investment but he will keep the box clean while terrorizing defenses deep downfield and opening things up underneath for guys like Cohen and Shaheen.
Michael Gallup is one of my favorite players in the entire draft. He has good size and strength with speed and explosive leaping ability he uses along with strong sure hands to win 50/50 balls. Back shoulder throws are second nature to him. Can beat you at all three levels. He did have a rough game against Alabama which gives one pause, but one bad game does not a prospect make or break.
Korey Robertson is a size/speed Flanker who is a big play machine. Very productive this season with 76 catches for 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s a strong leaper who competes hard for the ball and wins most of the 50/50 ball battles he’s involved in. Strong run after the catch ability. Likely will be a day three pick.
Cedrick Wilson has a lot to offer as a flanker prospect. He’s tall, has long arms, is fast, and insanely productive with 56 rec. 1,129 yards 11 TD’s as a junior and 83 rec. 1,511 yards and 7 Td’s. Big play machine. 26% of his catches went for 25 or more yards. Can win on all three levels. Despite his height though he is not the best 50/50 guy in this draft class.
Dante Pettis is yet another Flanker that wins downfield and creates big plays while helping others get there’s by drawing a lot of attention to avoid these big plays. Can run the full route tree with precision. He also possesses plus speed and exceptional quickness. Plus stop/start skills which aids him in getting a lot of YAC. He also has good tracking skills and will compete on 50/50 balls.
J’Won Moore is yet another size/speed Wide receiver prospect that can run past or run through you. Excellent tracking skills and speed to run under fly routes as well as plenty of foot speed to win on short passes and run for a big play. Has excellent hands and plucks it out of the air away from his frame. Can win on all three levels. Has had drop issues and needs to keep his focus.
Deon Cain took over as Clemson’s number one once Mike Williams left for the NFL and Clemson didn’t miss a beat. He helped lead them all the way back to the College football playoffs. His production did not increase as expected, however, but some of that can be explained by the fact he was playing with a new inexperienced Quarterback. He has the skill set to be a WR2 at the next level and with work possibly a WR1. Has speed, agility, good size and will fight for every reception and dangerous with the ball in his hands after the catch. Cane would be a legit deep threat at the Flanker spot that will dictate coverage.
Late value picks and UDFA’s:
Jordan Lasley is fast and jitterbug quick but has drop issues. Some say this is not correctable but if you believe it is or you can live with the bad parts for the good ones he is an explosive athlete with big-play potential. Had a pretty big season with Josh Rosen with 69 grabs and 1,264 yards to go along with 9 touchdowns in only 9 games. That’s why he may drop though. He was suspended for various arrests throughout his 4 seasons at UCLA and although not terribly serious charges, it does bring to question his maturity and love for the game rather than love of the rock star like career football brings. Also, he did put himself before the team. This will likely drop him to the day 3 status and depending on what the off-field investigation brings to light possibly may find himself undrafted.
Daurie Fountain is a physical freak of a Wide receiver. 6’1″ 210 with 34 1/2 ” arms he has the size and the catch radius and the explosive leaping ability to pluck 50/50 balls out of the air and into completions deep downfield. Extremely explosive and fast with a quick accelerator. Could fall into the Day 3 pool, but with a good pro day can maybe sneak into the 3rd.
The Split Ends:
This is my favorite position group in this entire draft. There are some monster Split Ends in this year’s draft and my favorite of them all may be Simmie Cobbs Jr. Now he is not the most talented one out of this bunch, but he plays with rude intentions. He will straight bully you if you’re a smaller corner trying to dare cover this beast. Ultra competitive and physical and that will be his calling card to the NFL, but he also offers other qualities. He is not the fastest or the quickest, but he is pretty athletic. Has excellent body control to make indefensible back shoulder throws. He also tore Ohio State’s secondary a new one. He made Denzel Ward look helpless who many say is the top Cornerback prospect in an excellent and deep cornerback class.
Courtland Sutton is a borderline first-round pick who can win with power consistently at the next level. Plays like a basketball power forward posting up smaller Defensive Backs and grabbing contested catches with ease. Has a cerebral game to him and won’t wilt in the big moment. Physically tough with big hands who can make receptions in traffic. Open even when covered. Has a nice catch radius and good timing on his leap to get throws at their highest point. Probably will be a career WR2 as he doesn’t have the explosive element to make big plays without relying on his Quarterback to throw him open.
I almost thought about including Notre Dame’s Equanimeius St. Brown in my Flanker group because he moves like one. With both the wiggle and the long speed to separate he figures to be a much more productive pro than he was as a collegiate player. The biggest reason being lack of Quarterback stability and skill set last season. Pro coaching could do him some good. He also has great size and strength to play the power game when necessary. A plus athlete across the board should blow up the combine and send scouts scrambling to the tape to see what they missed and have him vaulting up the boards. Could be a true Number one with a floor of a WR3. He does not just rely on his natural physical skills. He is a very polished route runner with a familiarity of pro concepts and can run a full route tree from the get-go. Might be the hidden jewel of the draft and become a Julio Jones type pro.
Late value pass catching Monsters:
Justin Watson out of Penn could be the best value in this draft. A 6’3″ 213-pound man with the fluidity of a slot receiver. This helps him get separation with sharp precise cuts in and out of his breaks. Great body control and long arms make him a good bet on back shoulder fades.
After breaking his foot in the pre-season and missing his entire 2016 campaign Marcel Ateman worked his tail off to come back stronger and better than ever and he was successful. He played in 11 of 13 games and put up big numbers (59 rec. 1,156 yards 8 TDs). Ateman is your prototypical X. He is not limited to just X routes either. He can run the full route tree and win at every level. However, his forte is using his size and big strong hands to snatch balls from smaller Defensive backs on 50/50 balls downfield. Has excellent body control and times his jump where he catches the ball at it’s highest point consistently and is able to make back shoulder catches with relative ease. With the incredible depth at Wide receiver in this draft, he’ll likely slide into day 3 making him a great value pick.
Allen Lazard is yet another one of these plus-sized Wide Receivers who could also play as a move Tight End in an NFL offense. Standing at 6’4″ and tipping the scales at around 230 he is a load to deal with for most Cornerbacks and safeties in coverage. He’s a smart player who uses his frame to his advantage by playing a physical brand of ball. Typical post up high pointing X. Catches balls away from his body minimizing drops. Is an easy target for Quarterbacks with his size and length giving them an excellent target to throw to without having to be dead on precise because of his catch radius. He won’t just help on higher throws as he can get down and dig out low throws as well. He won’t get a lot of separation at the next level but he will give his next team someone who doesn’t need it a whole lot to win at the next level.
Georgia Bulldogs Wide Receiver Javon Wims helped lead the Bulldogs to the College National Title game by providing a big target who can go up and get passes thrown downfield. Wims can possibly be a starting X at the next level. He has the size and physicality to win jump balls over helpless Defensive Backs. Offers a large catch radius for a welcome target to throw to with confidence of it being a completion. Excellent leaper with great body control to catch back shoulder balls with ease.
Jake Wieneke stands 6’4″ 213 and was made to win jump balls at the next level. He’ll be particularly effective the closer he gets to the end zone. A great leaper with excellent timing he can go up and win 50/50 balls to his heart’s content. Small school talent will be a great value pick on day 3. Put up prodigious numbers while at South Dakota State. Had 78 catches for 1,316 yards while grabbing 16 touchdowns. Experienced in a pro-style offense and he can run a full route tree.
The run on great value Split Ends continues. Auden Tate figures to drop to day 3 in spite of good tape and production because of his limitations athletically particularly with speed and quickness. There will be routes very seldom won by separation at the next level for Tate. His Quarterback will have to have confidence they can throw to a covered player and have him come down with it. His game will mirror a player like Alshon Jeffery where he will not win with separation but superb ball skills, strong hands, and the ability to adjust his body to snag pass after pass.
Jaleel Scott Has a thin wiry frame but is wiry strong. He is not easily knocked off his routes and will fight for the ball and wins most of those fights with great size and surprising strength. At 6′ 5″ with long arms, he offers an inviting catch radius for Quarterbacks to confidently throw his way even in tight coverage. Has great timing on his leaps and he can leap out the gym. Good hands to secure 50/50 balls while having a defensive Back draped all over him. He isn’t a slug out there but isn’t real sudden in and out of his breaks so he’ll have to continue winning without a great deal of separation. Yet another excellent mid to late round value pick.
Another plentiful resource to add a pass-catching weapon for the Bears young Quarterback. A lot of people are down on this Tight End class but I like it better than most. It may not be as good as last years class, but it’s a very fertile draft of pass-catching move Tight Ends in day two even some inline ones who can catch the ball too later on Day three. Probably at the top of this group of pass catchers is Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina. Great hands, athletic, smart, tough, good route runner with big play ability down the field. He will be a 26-year-old rookie due to pursuing a baseball career after getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 17th round pick.
You can pretty much say the exact same thing about Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, and Ian Thomas as the scouting report I gave for Hurst. I think all four can be much better pros than collegiate players with good coaching and better Quarterbacks who can get them the ball.
Day three Move Tight Ends:
There are even a couple of guys that can be very good pro move Tight Ends on day three in Jordan Akins and Troy Fumagalli. Both have negative marks that should be no big deal. Akins like Hurst tried his hand at baseball after being drafted by the Rangers in the 3rd round. If anything it added to his skill set enhancing his hand-eye coordination and ball tracking skills. Fumagalli was born without a left index finger but still has one of the best hands in the entire draft. It’s reasons like these and college production that has people down on this class. It’s more about projection and I love the talent of these guys.
Another sleeper-type prospect is Florida State’s Ryan Izzo who was hurt by losing his starting Quarterback during the season. While his pass catching stats suffered his blocking did not. One of the better Y Tight Ends in this class who has soft enough hands to be a reliable target in the middle of the field.
The Bears figure to target more of a flex type Tight End but another Y is not out of the question. The Bears do have a couple of athletic Tight Ends in Daniel Brown and Ben Braunecker they may want to develop and actually use more in Matt Nagy’s Spread Coast scheme. So maybe they concentrate on a blocker to blast holes in the running game and pass protect for big plays downfield to other playmakers.
In-Line (Y) Tight Ends:
The best of this bunch may be Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe someone Bears Offensive Line Coach Harry Heistand should have intimate knowledge of and no doubt had a hand in tutoring. He is a big physical run blocker with excellent technique in pass pro. He also has good reliable hands for the occasional pass reception.
Dalton Shultz is another Y type Tight End who Stanford Head Coach David Shaw called the most complete Tight End he has ever had which is saying a lot with the run of good Stanford Tight Ends coming into the NFL under Shaw. Tall and with room to add weight Shultz isn’t a bad receiver who loves to block.
Tyler Conklin is another guy to watch as a combo Tight End. As a Y Tight End, he’d be a little undersized at 6’4″ 240 but has room on his frame to add weight and can be a decent blocker as either a Y or a Flex Tight End. I also see him a lot at H-back. Before his foot injury in 2016 he was a pretty good looking pass catcher. So 2017 may have had a lot to do with his recovery from that and if he gets it back could be a Zach Miller type of weapon at the next level.
Change of pace Running Backs:
It’s highly unlikely the Bears pick a Running back in the first two days of the draft so I’ll leave out the prospects that will likely be day two guys. I’m going to be concentrating on guys who offer speed and pass-catching ability who can thrive on 3rd downs.
My favorite Running back that could fall to day three is Kalen Ballage. Ballage is a big back who has a similar running style of Howard with maybe a little more juice and a little less power, but it’s his pass pro skill set as both a blocker and a pass catcher that has my attention and would be a fit for the Bears.
Other guys that fit more the mold are Chase Edmonds, Nyheim Hines, Justin Jackson, and Akrum Wadley who all fit the scatback 3rd down profile. All are fast and elusive in the open field and are dangerous out of the backfield, in the slot or split out wide as receivers and offer extra value on special teams as returners and gunners and all four can hit the Homer run from anywhere on the field at any time.
Mark Walton is yet another back that profiles as a change of pace back, but he might be seen as a feature back by some and go on day two. If he did fall to the Bears in the fourth round they would be wise to consider him as he offers all the complimentary qualities the Bears would be looking for opposite Howard thus lightening his load and extending his career. A situation where less may equal more for Howard.
Coda: As you can see by the names and skill sets of these prospects the Bears offense can get healthy fast. They could fill every hole and every need while benefiting from the development of past rookie classes who are more experienced and ready to take on an expanded role as playmakers, blockers, and leaders.