Chicago Bears May Scouting Report
As we try to stay home as much as possible and social distance when we do leave the house, let's go over the Bears' moves from the past few weeks, including their draft picks...
As I suspected, the Bears did not use one of their second-round picks on a quarterback. I thought they might take a late-round shot at someone like QB Anthony Gordon, but they did not take any quarterbacks at all. On May 2nd, the team officially declined QB Mitch Trubisky's fifth-year option, another sign that the front office is not exactly bullish on his future with the team. It may be an "open competition" between Trubisky and QB Nick Foles whenever training camp starts, but the cards certainly seem to be stacked against Mitch. He's a good guy, and I feel for him a little bit, but it's up to him to write his comeback story.
The Bears did not address this position in the draft, but they did sign a couple of backs as undrafted free agents, Oregon State RB Artavis Pierce and Florida International RB Napoleon Maxwell. Pierce (5-11 208) has good speed (4.47 40 at his pro day) and hands (74 career receptions), and that skill set could help him make the team as a backup to RB David Montgomery. Maxwell has an injury history (two torn ACLs) and might be more of a long shot.
In the second round, WR Laviska Shenault (my favorite receiver in the draft) was taken one pick ahead of the Bears at #42 overall. With WR K.J. Hamler and WR Denzel Mims still available, I thought the Bears might select one of them, but they opted to wait until the fifth round to address this position. In the fifth, GM Ryan Pace engineered a trade with the Eagles to move up 23 spots and select Tulane WR Darnell Mooney at #173 overall. Mooney has the blazing speed (4.38 40) that the Bears' receiving corps desperately needs, and Pace and HC Matt Nagy praised him for his route running and ability to get separation from defenders. Tulane HC Willie Fritz said that Mooney had a great work ethic, was a willing blocker and made several circus catches because of his great leaping ability. He does have a rather thin build at 5-10 176, so he'll have to get into the weight room, but Nagy and Co. have to be hoping that Mooney can eventually make a WR Tyreek Hill-like impact here in Chicago.
After the draft, the Bears signed Kentucky WR Ahmad Wagner as an undrafted free agent. A former basketball player at Iowa before transferring to Kentucky, he has great size at 6-5 234, and he used it to draw several pass interference penalties while catching 15 passes in two seasons of football. According to Larry Vaught of vaughtsviews.com, Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow said that over 20 NFL teams contacted him about Wagner because he ran a low 4.5 40. He'll be a project because of his limited football experience, but definitely an intriguing one.
On April 29th, the Bears signed free agent WR Trevor Davis to a one-year deal. Entering his fifth season, he's mainly been used as a return man. On April 30th, the team signed veteran WR Ted Ginn Jr. to a one-year deal. Ginn has always been known for his speed, and even at age 35, he's still fast (and probably always will be). He'll bring speed and experience to this receiving corps, so this signing definitely makes sense.
With their first pick in the second round at #43 overall, the Bears selected Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet. With receivers like Hamler and Mims and safeties like LSU S Grant Delpit still on the board, I was a little surprised that the Bears took Kmet, but I probably shouldn't have been that surprised because many mock drafts had Chicago taking him. If you haven't seen it, the Instagram video that Kmet posted of him celebrating with his family full of Bears fans while on the phone with Pace is priceless. The reaction of many Bears fans on various message boards and Twitter? Not so celebratory, not at all. Many felt that taking a tight end so high just wasn't good value at that point in the draft. Some media types have also poked fun at the Bears for the pick because it gives them double-digit tight ends on the roster (they don't seem to realize that only three or four of them are going to realistically make the team).
As for me? I'm fine with the pick, but I think the value of this pick will really come down to how much of a receiving threat Kmet eventually becomes. From everything I've read, he is a "Y" (in-line/blocking) tight end as opposed to a "U" (move) tight end like TE Jimmy Graham. One comp that I've seen thrown around is Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph, a fellow Golden Domer. If Kmet winds up with a Rudolph-like career or better, I'd say that he was probably worth the pick. At 6-5 262 with a 4.7 40, the former baseball player has the size, athleticism and great intangibles to succeed now that he can fully focus on football. But according to J.J. Stankevitz at NBC Sports Chicago, tight ends taken in the first two rounds of the draft have averaged only 27 catches for 306 yards and three TDs in their rookie seasons over the past decade. That said, the importance of the tight end in Nagy's offense may mean more opportunities for Kmet if he can pick up the offense quickly, and he should at least be a red zone threat.
Despite not having a clear starter at right guard, Pace opted to wait until the seventh round to address the O-line. I won't go into detail on seventh-round projects, but the Bears selected two of them, Colorado T Arlington Hambright and Tennessee State OL Lachavious Simmons. At the moment, it looks like free agent signing G Germain Ifedi is the favorite to start at right guard. The fact that Pace didn't address the O-line much in free agency or the draft seems to indicate that he and Nagy think new offensive line coach Juan Castillo will help the line make big improvements, especially in the running game. That's expecting a lot from one guy. Yes, he'll have help from new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, etc., but I'm not sure that one new coach can make a whole O-line have an epiphany. Somehow, someway, the Bears need to run the ball better so they can have more manageable second and third downs and take more play action shots downfield.
With their second pick in the second round (#50 overall), the Bears selected Utah CB Jaylon Johnson. At 6-0 193, he has good size and excels in press-man coverage. He might've been a first-round pick if not for a torn labrum in his right shoulder that he played through for much of last season and had surgically repaired after the Combine. He's also had two labrum surgeries on his left shoulder, so his injury history is somewhat concerning. If healthy, Johnson immediately becomes the favorite to start opposite CB Kyle Fuller.
In the fifth round, trader Pace sent a 2021 fourth-rounder to the Vikings to acquire the 155th overall pick and select Tulsa DE Trevis Gipson. At 6-3 261, he brings length, athleticism and a nose for the ball (eight forced fumbles). He'll get to learn from two of the NFL's best in OLB Khalil Mack and DE Robert Quinn. Speaking of Mack, the Bears signed his little brother, Buffalo DE Ledarius Mack, as an undrafted free agent. He's a bit undersized at 6-1 240, but at least for now, he's on an NFL roster with his big brother. Later in the fifth round, the Bears took Georgia Southern CB Kindle Vildor at #163 overall. Like many Bears fans, I was somewhat perplexed by this pick because of the team's needs at other positions, but the 5-10 191-pound Vildor has good ball skills (nine picks in college) and ran well at the Combine (4.44 40). He'll likely compete with CB Duke Shelley to be the backup nickel back.
In terms of free agency, the Bears signed free agent DT John Jenkins to a one-year deal on April 28th. He'll likely replace DT Nick Williams, who signed with the Lions. On April 30th, the team signed free agent S Tashaun Gipson to a one-year contract after he was released by the Texans. With 104 starts and 23 INTs in his eight NFL seasons, he immediately becomes the favorite to start next to S Eddie Jackson. This looks like a very solid signing.
More to come next month!
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Sunday, September 13th, 2020
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