Chicago Bears May Scouting Report
Let's review the Bears' picks from the 2019 NFL Draft:
Because the Bears had no first or second rounders, their first pick of this draft came in the third round. With Penn State RB Miles Sanders off the board in the second round and Memphis RB Darrell Henderson taken at #70 overall, GM Ryan Pace once again traded up to get his guy, moving up 14 spots to #73 overall and selecting Iowa State RB David Montgomery. Knowing that the Bears would take a back at some point, I was intrigued to see if they would take a three-down back capable of starting right away or more of a change-of-pace type. In Montgomery, they clearly got a three-down back.
Watching his highlights, the main things that stood out to me were his lateral agility (he juked quite a few defenders out of their shoes) and his ability to consistently break tackles. He has impressive "wiggle" for a 5-10, 222-pound back. According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery led the nation in forced missed tackles in each of the past two seasons. Pace mentioned Montgomery's vision, instincts and contact balance as some of the reasons why he traded up to get him. Pace also said that Montgomery has natural hands and great character. In three seasons at Iowa State, he caught 71 passes. Not a huge amount, but enough to show that his hands are solid. Another thing that stood out was his lack of breakaway speed (4.63 40), likely the main reason why he was still available in the third round.
Admittedly, I wasn't really enamored with the pick at the time (I was hoping for a more explosive back like Henderson), but based on his skill set and college production, Montgomery looks like a great fit for the Bears' offense. When RB Jordan Howard was in the game, opposing defenses figured that a run play would likely be called because of his average pass-catching ability. Now, having Montgomery, RB Mike Davis and RB Tarik Cohen as backfield options increases HC Matt Nagy's unpredictability in his play calling because all three of them can take a handoff or run a pass route and catch the ball consistently. Montgomery's lack of breakaway speed may mean that we won't see him break a lot of long runs, but he seems like the kind of back who will consistently keep the chains moving with his elusiveness and physical running style. If he picks up the offense well in training camp and impresses in the preseason, I think he will be the Bears' opening night starter.
At #126 overall, the Bears selected Georgia WR Riley Ridley in the fourth round. At 6-1 199, he has good size, is a natural hands catcher, and shows very good route running ability and body control. Ridley has also shown an impressive ability to make contested catches. As I mentioned last month, wide receiver wasn't necessarily a huge need, but I thought Ridley represented very good value in the fourth round. He likely dropped because of a pedestrian 4.58 40 (unofficial) at the Combine and relatively modest college production (though he did catch nine TDs in his final season). Ridley joins a very crowded Bears receivers room, but if he performs well in the preseason, I can see him taking some snaps away from WR Taylor Gabriel as the #3 or #4 receiver.
At #205 overall, the Bears used their sixth-rounder on Kansas State CB Duke Shelley. He mainly played on the outside in college, but because of his size (5-9 180), he likely projects as a slot corner in the NFL. Considering the relative lack of depth at the position, this pick made sense, and Shelley will likely (if he makes the team) back up nickel CB Buster Skrine.
The Bears had two seventh-rounders. They used their first one (#222 overall) on Florida Atlantic RB Kerrith Whyte. The backup to Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary (who was selected one pick after Montgomery by Buffalo), Whyte (5-10 197) has blazing speed (4.38 40) and good contact balance but is lacking in vision and patience according to scouting reports. He also had success as a kickoff returner (26.1-yard average with two TDs), and that may be his best way to make the team. If Whyte does make the opening night roster, I can see Nagy occasionally taking advantage of his speed with some creative play calls (i.e. jet sweeps), but that would likely be the extent of his role in the offense.
At #238 overall, the Bears selected Valdosta State CB Stephen Denmark. At 6-3 220 with a 79 1/2-inch wingspan and a 4.46 40 at his pro day, he basically has Madden create-a-player measurables, which are pretty much what you're looking for in a seventh-round flyer. He only has one year of experience at corner after playing his first three college seasons as a receiver, so he is definitely a project, but a very fun and intriguing one.
Undrafted free agents
As most teams do, the Bears signed a lot of UFAs after the draft. For fantasy purposes, we will focus on two of more notable ones: Missouri WR Emanuel Hall and Utah State TE Dax Raymond. Hall has good size at 6-2 201 and was impressive at the Combine with a 4.39 40 and a 43.5-inch vertical. You would think numbers like those would've at least gotten him drafted, but apparently concerns about his limited route tree, injury issues and general lack of polish were enough to relegate him to UFA status. With such a crowded receivers room, he faces an uphill battle to make the team. Raymond has good size at 6-5 255 and shows good athleticism and run-after-catch ability but generally needs more polish. Given the team's lack of depth at the position and the fact that the team did not draft a tight end, Raymond may have a better chance than most UFAs to make the team.
One of the other UFAs the Bears signed was San Diego State K John Baron II, who participated in the team's somewhat farcical kicking competition along with seven other kickers during rookie minicamp a couple of weeks ago. After minicamp ended, the team kept only two kickers: K Chris Blewitt and K Elliott Fry. They then sent a 2021 seventh-rounder to the Raiders for K Eddy Pineiro. How this will shake out, nobody knows, and I for one am tired of hearing about it. The team's opening night kicker might not even be on the roster right now.
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Sunday, September 13th, 2020
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