DA BEARS had a disappointing 5-11, 2017 record, but given the roster rebuild it certainly was not totally unexpected . At the end of season the team let go of veteran HC JOHN FOX. That move was also NOT unexpected by most. Many of us felt he was a caretaker, short term HC when hired and the roster rebuild began. As expected FOX was a calming influence as the team struggled, but not who they wanted going forward. By the end of the 2017 season the biggest point of progress was the clear signs that the NFL stage was not too big for QB/MITCH TRUBISKY, and with the right surroundings, he was ready to start and grow. So, to handle TRUBISKY the team went out and hired ANDY REID Lieutenant MATT NAGY as their new Head Coach. Then they convinced DC VIV FANGIO to remain to run their Defense. So with their key positions filled what did they do during the 2018 DRAFT to upgrade the roster further?
They started with reinforcements for FANGIO’s Defense this time around. And in Round 1 they selected ROQUAN SMITH/Georgia who was the consensus top LB available and expected to be an instant, quality starter. He’s not the URLACHER/SINGLETARY bruiser LB of yesteryear, but he’s a tackling machine who has the athleticism and FBI to lead a D in tackles immediately. His 4.53/40 time doesn’t lie. He’s everywhere and does not miss tackles. In the tough SEC ROQUAN recorded 137 tackles last season. Expect more of the same at the pro level. He also has the smarts and personality to be a team leader right away as well. This player is top notch and should be a solid fit for the team.
In Round 2, with Pick 39 the team selected JAMES DANIELS/OC/IOWA who may face a move to OG since CODY WHITEHAIR seems to have emerged as their starting OC. But wherever he ends up playing I would expect DANIELS to be a starter by mid-season. There were whispers of medical issues (though not specified) which may have pushed him out of late Round 1, but DA BEARS were not overly concerned. He needs a bit more sand in his pants, but he has a long lean body type with 33 3/4″ long arms and 9 1/2″ hands. Having been coached up at Iowa he is well schooled in the fundamentals of OL play and worked in Iowa’s pro-style Offense.
After 2 Rounds DA BEARS are two for two, with guys I had ranked 13 and 26 overall, and both projected as year one starters. But wait BEARS fans, it just gets better IMO.
GM RYAN PACE is totally rebuilding the receiving corps for TRUBISKY, and I think they got a superior talent in Round 3, when at Pick 51 they selected WR/ANTHONY MILLER/Memphis. MILLER caught 96 balls in 2017, and would easily have sailed over 100 late in the season had he not had a nagging right foot injury near the end of the year. He is quicker than fast but displays incredible hands for the position. And at 10″ they are above average in size. I would also note that of his 96 catches, 18 went for TD! He finds holes in coverage and shows great balance and elusiveness after the catch. The former walk-on is a human highlight film at times. I think he will be a star receiver as a pro. I’ll leave my praise for him with my comp since last Fall. Anthony Miller is the next Antonio Brown in the NFL.
Now it gets a bit strange, IMO. At Pick 115 DA BEARS selected my 292nd overall prospect in JOEL IYIEGBUNIWE/LB/Western Kentucky. Logic would dictate that what DA BEARS saw in this player was a potential hybrid SS/LB which has come into vogue around the League in recent years. He will certainly star on Special Teams coverage units, and over time DC FANGIO is likely to find him multiple roles out on the field. JOEL showed enough as a senior at WKU that he got a Combine invite and did not waste it. He showed up at 229 lbs. and still posted a 4.60/40-time. As another example of his athleticism he posted a 35″ vertical jump. My guess is the team was excited about his potential in the pass-happy NFL and felt they had to move on him sooner, rather than later to get him.
In Round 5 the team picked a very solid athlete at Pick 145 in DT/BILAL NICHOLS/Delaware. NICHOLS was at the Shrine venue and I thought he had an impressive week there. He also showed well at the Combine where at 6’4/306 he ran a 4.93/40. He has big hands (10 1/4″) as well as long arms (33 3/8″). He is not bulldozer strong but has a nice combination ratio of size/length/speed/quickness about him. He played mostly on the Nose in college, but I think he may be a better fit at DE in DA BEARS base 3-4 scheme. Don’t know that I would rate him as an NFL starter, but he certainly should be a solid fit in their DL rotation.
DA BEARS rolled the dice a bit in Round 6, but DE/KYLIE FITTS/Utah State had a solid senior season, including good work in Mobile and Indy. He reminds me, in playing style, of former BEARS Pick SHEA McCLELLAN, who was over-picked in Round 1. FITTS ran a 4.71/40 at the Combine and might be asked to shed a few pounds (6’4/263) and spend time as a pass-rush OB. FITTS had a history of minor injuries in college, but plays all-out when healthy. His 33″ long arms serve him well fending off blockers. Could make a very nice developmental project with some legit upside if he can stay healthy.
Last, but not least, they got TRUBISKY another potential target in the athletic, ex-basketballer JAVON WIMS/WR/Georgia. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well yet, but has some athleticism to develop. Plays a bit bigger than his 6’3/215 frame would indicate. Shows strong hands and could be a solid red zone weapon. Looks to me like a good Practice Squad candidate who they can try to coach up and develop.
A lot of people, yours truly included, thing GM PACE and his personnel Dept. had another solid Draft here. Every player should have a chance to make the final roster and the first 3 guys could be starters right away, with the rest winning back-up/rotational jobs. We won’t get into detail here, but I also think it’s safe to say that a handful of solid URFA signees should mount job pushes during Training Camp and pre-season.