Chicago Bears May Scouting Report
Remember back in February when I said that it was hard for me to find optimism for this upcoming season because GM Ryan Pace and HC Matt Nagy weren't fired after 2020? Well, scratch that. With a little luck and a big trade up, Pace brought excitement (downright euphoria might be a more apt term) and hope to the Windy City and may have saved his own hide and Nagy's in the process. And this came on the same day that reports about Aaron Rodgers wanting to leave Green Bay came out. As Dua Lipa might say, in one night, the Bears' fortunes did a full 180. Crazy.
Going into Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, I felt strangely confident that Pace would do whatever he had to do (even if he had to mortgage the future to do it) to get either QB Justin Fields or Trey Lance. I knew that a lot would hinge on what the 49ers would do with the third overall pick. When they took Lance, I said some naughty words not fit to print because I figured it would become that much harder to get Fields, the other top dual-threat quarterback in this draft. I would've been happy with either of them, but as I mentioned last month, I preferred Fields.
When Carolina went on the clock at #8, I thought for sure that they would select Fields, especially after trading Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos the day before. Fortunately they took a corner instead, and then the Broncos passed on Fields and took a corner as well. After the Bears dodged those two bullets, I was surprised to see the Eagles trade up to #10, but I knew it wouldn't be for a quarterback (they took Devonta Smith). By this point, I was mentally swearing at Pace to do something because I was afraid that New England or Washington would swoop in and steal Fields. Finally, I saw the logo for the team on the clock at #11 change from the Giants to the Bears (thank you Dave Gettleman), and I knew that Pace had gotten his man.
Carlos Nelson (CEO of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation) announced the Bears' pick, and he said in a radio interview the following week that he "lost all consciousness" when he saw Fields' name on the draft card he was given. I imagine that many Bears fans around the world had similar reactions when the pick was announced. Not since the Bulls selected Derrick Rose way back in 2008 has there been such unbridled excitement over a Chicago draft pick. Even though I knew that Fields was the pick before Nelson even announced it, I raised my arms in triumph after he made it official and gave my dad a big hug because I knew what this could potentially mean for the Bears.
Without even playing a down, Fields is already one of the most talented quarterbacks in team history. His talent and toughness were on display in the biggest of games at Ohio State, especially the CFP semifinal against Clemson when he went against #1 pick Trevor Lawrence and beat him, throwing six TDs in the process. He took a vicious hit to the ribs late in the first half of that game, and not only did he come back, he threw four more TD passes afterward. He has similar traits to the quarterback that Pace tried to trade for a couple months ago, Russell Wilson, like strong leadership and the ability to extend plays and get yards with his running ability. From size (6-3 227), to speed (4.44 40), accuracy, the big arm, and the great deep ball, Fields has everything you want in the modern day NFL signal caller. Now the question is, can Nagy take advantage of Fields' talent in ways that he couldn't with Mitch Trubisky. For the past couple years, one big question that the fan base has debated is whether Trubisky didn't work out because he just wasn't good enough or because Nagy failed to structure the offense to take advantage of what Mitch did well (for me, it's more the former than the latter). Now that Nagy has a much more talented quarterback, let's see if he's willing to really open up the playbook in a way that he perhaps felt he couldn't due to Trubisky's limitations in terms of accuracy and reading defenses.
As Nagy has repeatedly said since draft night, QB Andy Dalton is still the starter for now, but I fully expect Fields to make a big push for the starting job in training camp/preseason. The best case scenario would be a Russell Wilson-like situation where Fields is just so impressive that he beats out the free agent acquisition and wins the starting job to start the season. Even if that doesn't happen, I'd expect him to be starting by Week 4. If there's one thing that's apparent from everything I've seen, heard and read about Fields, it's that he's not here to mess around. The guy has had his game face on since the moment he was drafted; he's here to win.
With their first sixth-rounder, the Bears selected Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert. At 5-9 210, Herbert brings some "juice" (his nickname) to this position group with good speed (4.46 40), vision, surprising strength and a "one cut and go" running style. With RB Tarik Cohen coming off ACL surgery and RB Damien Williams coming off a season off, depth here was a little iffy, so I like the pick. Herbert also brings kick return ability that could further aid his chances of making the team.
Pace traded up again in the second round to land Oklahoma State T Teven Jenkins with the 39th overall pick. He had been mocked by many to the Bears as their first-rounder at their original pick (#20), so landing him in the second round was another coup for Pace, though he unfortunately had to give up the team's third-rounder this year to do it. Jenkins was a big, mean, nasty right tackle in college, but it appears that the Bears want him to be their left tackle of the future after they released T Charles Leno to create some cap space. I didn't particularly like that move; while Leno was unspectacular, he was steady and brought stability to the left tackle position. Now you're asking Jenkins, who has been a right tackle pretty much his whole career, to be a left tackle. It certainly appears that the Bears aren't putting him in the best position to succeed, so this a high-risk/high-reward move IMO. If Jenkins can't cut it at left tackle, there aren't really any other left tackles on the roster to take his place.
With their fifth-rounder, the Bears selected Mizzou T Larry Borom. He's a big, athletic mauler of a tackle who, like Jenkins, will bring an element of nastiness and physicality that has been sorely lacking on the O-line here in recent years. Borom will likely compete with T Germain Ifedi for the right tackle job, though some think guard may be his NFL position due to questions about his foot speed.
With another one of their sixth-rounders, the Bears selected North Carolina WR Dazz Newsome. At 5-10 190 with a 4.38 40, Dazz brings dazzling (you knew that was coming) quickness and the kind of RAC ability that you want to see in a prototypical slot receiver. The scouting reports say that he's not a natural hands catcher and needs to refine his route running, which is probably why he fell to the sixth round. The Bears haven't been able to find a taker for WR Anthony Miller after putting him on the trading block, so with Miller's 2021 roster status tenuous at best, Newsome has a chance to stick if he can flash in camp/preseason. He also has punt return ability that could help him as well. I was hoping that Chicago would address this position earlier than the sixth round, but the Jenkins trade took away their third-rounder and a draft day trade from last year (for OLB Trevis Gipson) cost them their fourth-rounder.
On May 4th, the Bears signed free agent WR Damiere Byrd to a one-year deal. Coming off a career year with the Patriots, Byrd brings great speed (he ran a 4.28 at his pro day in 2015) to the receivers room but is a bit undersized at 5-9 180. He'll compete with Miller, Newsome, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Riley Ridley, etc. for a spot on the team. Will the increased competition finally motivate Miller to get his head on straight and get with the program? I'll believe it when I see it.
The Bears did not address this position in the draft.
With their third sixth-rounder, the Bears selected Oregon CB Thomas Graham. He sat out his senior season due to COVID concerns, and it seems that he was somewhat forgotten despite being a very good cover corner in his final two seasons. With Kyle Fuller gone, there's a great opportunity for Graham to not only stick here, but start on the outside or at nickel if he can show enough in camp/preseason.
With their seventh-rounder, Chicago selected BYU DT Khyiris Tonga. At 6-2 321, Tonga is a mountain of a man and could be a part of the D-line rotation if he shows enough to make the team.
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