By: Thomas Gibbons
The NFL combine is one of the best weeks of the NFL offseason. Outside of all the crazy bench press numbers and the 4.3 40 times, it’s another week closer to football on Sunday’s.
The leagues legal tampering period starts March 12 and free agency along with the new league year starts on the 14th. But before we get into free agent talk, let’s dive into the combine and look at what we saw this week in Indianapolis.
In this special edition post, Thomas Gibbons looks at a variety of players, positions, and chatter around the league from the NFL Combine.
Tremaine Edmunds is one special player. At 6′ 5″ 253 lb, Edmunds clocked a 4.54 40 yard dash. That is crazy speed for a man his size. Combined with speed, strength, and a long frame, the former Virginia Tech standout may have landed himself in the top-10 with his performance this past week.
Edmunds is a generational talent. His athleticism will allow him to play inside in the 4-3 and rush the passer in a 3-4 front. I think it’s safe to put him as the second best linebacker in this class behind Bradley Cubb. He runs sideline to sideline with purpose and will be a nightmare for offensives to game plan against. You can also drop him into coverage and should have no problem making a play.
These guys do not come around often. A week ago you could say he could be an option for the Chicago Bears at 8. But now you have to wonder if he will be there when the Bears go on the clock. Edmunds is an instant upgrade and the versatility to put him inside or outside is what teams love. So don’t be surprised if he’s off the board when Ryan Pace is on the clock.
NBC Sports Chicago reported that Bears writer John Mullin reported that he was hearing the Bears and Miami Dolphins had discussed a Jarvis Landry for Jordan Howard swap with draft picks involved.
Right away, Bears fans went into a frenzy. Trading Howard? The lifeblood of the offense for the past two seasons? There were no takers for this deal even though Bears fans would like the addition of Landry. Shortly after the report, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Bears had no interest in trade Howard, relaxing Bears fans everywhere.
Would this deal have made sense? In a way, maybe. With the system Matt Nagy is bringing to Chicago. Landry fits it perfectly. While for Howard, not so much. Howard has not been successful being a receiving back, a vital part of the offense which Nagy will institute. Tarik Cohen fits the scheme perfectly with his speed, agility and catching abilities whether it’s out of the backfield or in the slot. Howard is your fall forward, fight for the extra yard type back who reads the line of scrimmage very well but lacks true speed and cannot catch. He is not the type of back for the system but the Bears are not looking to move him. Unless Howard can improve and become a threat in the passing game, he may not be in the Bears future plans as long as Nagy is in town.
The Bears are in desperate need at wide receiver. Does Landry solve all their problems? No, but it’s a start. There is no downgrading of what Landry has been able to accomplish in his four years in the NFL, 400 catches for over 4,000 yards, but there are plenty of concerns. First, his yards per reception is not exactly a pretty number, averaging just over 10 yards per catch in his career. Next, he is not going to kill you with his speed. Landry clocked a 4.7 entering the NFL. It’s not the biggest problem in the world but in today’s NFL, teams are obsessed with the testing numbers. A few positives though are he would be a reliable target for Mitch Trubisky and he has not missed a game during his career. The Bears could use someone like that as durability has been a constant problem in Chicago the past few seasons.
Of course the money is going to be of note. Landry is going to demand the likes of what Alshon Jeffery, Davante Adams but does he really fit into that category? I am going to say no.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported the Bears are one team who have contacted Landry’s agent to talk about a potential trade. What could the Bears be trading? Swap of first rounds picks? The Bears would move down to 11th overall if first round picks were traded.
I like Landry but I am concerned about the money. If the Bears acquire him, you will have to lock him up. Of course he will be a reliable target and a receiver to build your group around but he is worth the big bucks? Nagy’s offense could bring out the best in him and he does have the potential to flourish in the system. It is something to keep a close eye on.
Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach, who was actually one of Nagy’s receivers at Delware, connected Chiefs free agent wide receiver Albert Wilson to the Bears. When asked if Wilson would test the market this offseason, Veach said, well, Matt’s in Chicago, so he knows all about him.”
It is no secret the Bears are going to pursue Wilson in free agent. First, Nagy is familiar with Wilson over the years in Kansas City. His numbers are nothing special, but the Bears need help at wide receiver. Wilson had some impressive showing last season, specifically the season finale in Denver where he caught 10 passes for 147 yards. Wilson would be the perfect slot receiver for this offense and will not come with a high price tag. It’s a win-win situation.
The Bears are expected to sign at least two wide receivers in free agency. There are multiple reports that the Jaguars are not going to place the tag on Allen Robinson. Robinson is coming off an ACL injury but would be an instant upgrade for the Bears. Remember, the Bears have still not replaced Jeffery. Robinson was a 1400 yard player two seasons ago and will be 25 when the season starts. The Bears may be the perfect landing spot. Other names on the market include: Sammy Watkins (may be tagged), Terrelle Pryor, Paul Richardson, and Taylor Gabriel. Do any of these guys solve the problem. No, but it would be a start.
Calvin Ridley is still the clear-cut number one wide receiver in this draft but others boosted their stock this week in Indy.
Ridley is the best route runner in this class, it’s hard to argue that. He is going to challenge whoever lines up against him down the field and has the potential to be a very successful pro. Ridley ran a 4.43 40 yard dash, tied sixth among wide receivers.
One receiver that owned the day was DJ Moore from Maryland. Standing at 6′ feet, 210, Moore ran a 4.42 40, has a 39.5 in. vertical jump, and posted the best broad jump among wideouts at 11 feet. He owned the drills and has emerged as possibly the second best receiver in this class. Could he go before Ridley? I don’t think so but his stock definitely went up.
LSU’s DJ Chark had a very impressive day, running a 4.34 and posted a 40 in vertical. He’s 6′ 3″ and will challenge opposing secondaries down the field. Chark is someone who would be great for Nagy’s offense because he is a downfield option along with the ability to make people miss in space on RPO schemes. Chark’s showing at the combine has brought on some day 1 talk but is more likely a day 2 selection. He could be an option for the Bears in Round 2.
Another name that continued to improve his stock is Christian Kirk from Texas A&M. As NFL writer Matt Bowen said, “Kirk’s route running shows up on the tape in the quick passing game and he can attack the intermediate cuts in the middle of the field.” There is no question Kirk is going to be a threat at the pro level and putting him the right system will lead to success. He is another option for the Bears at the top of round 2, if he makes it to day 2. Personally, I think Ridley, Moore, and Kirk could be drafted on day 1. Ridley is not a top 10 guy but should be a mid teens picks. Both Moore and Kirk will be hard to pass up for WR needy teams like the Ravens and Cowboys. So if the Bears really like one of these receivers, trading back for a better value in the first round is a path they may go down.
Quarterbacks are always the center of attention at Lucas Oil Stadium. This class has plenty of talent and we could see multiple QB’s go into the top 10 and teams trading up to land their hopeful franchise QB.
Who’s my top quarterback? I am still not too sure. Josh Allen has a cannon of an arm. He was throwing the ball 70 yards in the air. Crazy. Josh Rosen may the most “pro ready” QB in this class with his pocket presence and good mechanics. There is plenty of potential with Rosen and teams will go after that. Baker Mayfield is competitive and has that “it” factor that you can’t teach. He can scramble and beat you with his feet. His athleticism may make him a top 10 pick. Sam Darnold did not throw at the combine rather he will throw at his pro day at USC. He’s got good size, 6′ 3″,220lb and has a great arm as well. Turnovers are a concern but the upside is there. Lastly, the Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Jackson can beat you with his arm and feet and can thrive in a spread system. RPO’s, QB designed runs and taking shots down the field would lead to success for Jackson at the pro level. I think he is someone who sits for a season but has potential to be a game changer at the next level.
The Browns are going to draft another quarterback. Allen is reported to be there guy and I think he goes there. Will the Giants take a quarterback at 2? I think Mayfield or Rosen could go to the Giants. The Broncos and Jets are other teams in the top 10 who could go the quarterback route on day 1. It could be QB crazy in the top 10 with teams outside of the top picks trading up to get their guy. This leaves guys like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Edmunds to fall right into the Bears hands. But no one knows what will happen until the commissioner gets handed the cards.
When Ryan Pace met the media last Wednesday, he told reporters that the Bears were aggressive in talks with Kyle Fuller. There are also reports from Fuller’s camp that he would like to remain in Chicago.
Brad Biggs reported on Monday that the Bears are not expected to place the franchise tag on Fuller, letting him hit the open market. It’s a risky move for Pace who cannot afford to let talent leave the building. The Bears are already very thin at cornerback and if Fuller were to leave for another city, the Bears would be staring from scratch. Pace cannot let successful draft talent leave the team, especially someone who can be a cornerstone of the defense and a main part of the rebuild of the roster. The Bears missed out on Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye last season and this free agent class does not have those caliber players. The Bears got to keep the defense intact and re-signing Fuller is a must.
If the Bears were to lose Fuller in free agency, this draft has some studs in the secondary. Denzel Ward from Ohio St. comes in at 5′ 10″ but ran a 4.32 40 and his technique is sound. He may be the best cover guy in the draft and should go in the top 10. Joshua Jackson from Iowa has great ball skills and will be a play maker in your secondary. Others include Donte Jackson from LSU and Jaire Alexander from Louisville. Fitzpatrick from Alabama would be a fantastic pick by the Bears if he fell to them, even if Fuller was re-signed. Overall, the Bears cannot let Fuller leave Halas Hall.