The Bears won over the weekend
The Chicago Bears had the NFL’s Best Draft in 2021. Don’t just take it from me, take it from all the experts. In a rating system done by 20 experts in the field of covering the NFL, their cumulative grades were the highest for the Chicago Bears. This is new territory for Bears fans. Usually, the Bears are middle of the road or worse.
What drastically altered the Bears grading system started with their first-round pick, one Justin Fields. I’ll address all seven of the Bears players drafted but let me say this about Justin Fields first. For some reason, NFL General Managers, Head Coaches, Scouts, Team Presidents, and Owners all find ways to overthink their draft picks. The pressure is immense. Every pick feels like it is life or death. Even more so for a first-round quarterback. A first-round quarterback selection alters the direction of every NFL franchise for at least three years. Hit the pick you will be the belle of the ball. Miss and you will be relegated to MAC conference scout for the rest of your days.
Bears fans know this all too well. What may have been the biggest draft blunder of all time, Ryan Pace chose to pick Mitchell don’t call me Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. What’s worse, he traded up one spot to do so. This pick and the inevitable failure should have cost Pace his job. The Fields pick may have saved it.
Justin Fields is the Savior
The fact that Pace not only drafted Justin Fields, trading away a 2022 first round, 2022 4th round, and 2021 5th round pick to move up nine spots from pick 20 to pick 11, but he also doubled down on another key NFL position early in the 2nd round. Drafting Teven Jenkins at pick 39 when he was mocked to the Bears in about 80% of all mocks I saw guaranteed Pace would receive high marks for his draft class. Does Ryan Pace’s aggressiveness finally pay off for a franchise dying to be relevant? We shall see. But the grades on Justin Fields were a top ten QB. Many execs had Fields rated higher than Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence to me is a generational talent but I only had him slightly above Fields. Fields was my clear-cut QB2. He has the athleticism, huge arm, and pocket presence to be elite. How he fell out of the top ten, I’ll never know.
Draft grades are usually judged based on value and up and down this year’s class, the Bears continued to draft guys lower than where many experts projected they would land. The Bears essentially gave up 2022 first, 2022 fourth, and 2021 third-round pick to land not one but two first-round talents in Fields and Jenkins. If they both end up playing for 10 years with the Bears this will be the greatest draft the Bears have had since 1982. An ’82 draft that is largely responsible for the Bears winning the Super Bowl in 1985 and being a dominant force in the league throughout the 1980s.
Below I will break down why I believe this Bears draft is a generational class that will set the Chicago Bears up for high-level success throughout the 2020s.
First Round (Pick 11) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State University (6’3, 225lbs, 4.44 forty)
For the Chicago Bears NFL Draft, this pick was a no-brainer. As soon as the Lions passed on Fields I thought for sure the Panthers would draft him. I was hoping the Bears would try and trade up to number 8, but I just couldn’t believe the Panthers would pass on Fields talent. Well, they did. Not only that but the Broncos also failed to land their next franchise QB. Both of those organizations chose cornerbacks. Good players to be sure, but Fields could be transformational. If he is, the Lions, Panthers, and Broncos will rue to the day they passed on Fields. Because Sewell, Horn, and Surtain all may turn out to be excellent players, none of them will have the impact of how great Fields very well may become.
Justin Fields is 6’3, 225 pounds and he ran a 4.44 forty. Not to sound like Randall Pink Floyd’s coach describing his grandmother but that is elite. There have been a total of five quarterbacks that ran a sub 4.5 forty drafted in the first round since 1990. Can you name them? Fields isn’t just a physical specimen, he also produced. Fields had 5,373 passing yards in 22 games for Ohio State. He had over a 70% completion percentage with only 86 yards coming on screen passes. His 9.2 yards per completion was first in the big ten, and he also threw for 63 touchdowns to only 9 interceptions. Fields can also run, running for 1,133 yards at OSU and 19 touchdowns.
Justin Fields is the total package. His flaws will now be up to Matt Nagy, Bill Lazor, and all the offensive coaches for the Bears to mitigate. His flaws are that he holds the ball too long looking for the deep ball and he wasn’t great while being blitzed. This will have to improve for Fields to become elite and I think it will. Not only is Justin Fields a unicorn physical specimen but he is also incredibly intelligent. He scored a 130 on the sports recall test. A test that was administered to 6,500 athletes, Fields had the highest score.
This is a generational pick for the Bears. They made the right move to trade up to grab him and I think in 10 years Fields and not Lawrence, Wilson, or Lance has the ability to be the best QB in this draft class.
Second Round (Pick 39) – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State University (6’6, 317lbs)
Another bold move by Bears GM Ryan Pace. Pace traded up with the Panthers in the 2nd round by trading their 3rd round pick (pick 83) and the Bears also received a 5th round pick in the deal (pick 151). More on that later. Jenkins is a mauler. He started the majority of his time at right tackle with Okie State but he is a self-described mean, nasty, motherfu**er. Jenkins has the type of mentality that has been missing on the Bears. A dude that wants to line up and drive his guy into the next universe.
Jenkins isn’t just a road grader. He can move. He has excellent feet and although he has shorter arms, he hasn’t given up a sack since 2018. His coach, who also coached Russell Okung, said he has the potential to be even better than Okung. That’s saying something. I believe the Bears drafted not only their franchise QB in this draft but also their franchise left tackle. With the recent news that the Bears let go of a long-time starter, Charles Leno, the Bears believe they drafted their future left tackle.
Before the move up to draft Fields, I would have been happy with Jenkins at pick 20. He was mocked there in many expert drafts. The fact that he fell to pick 39 and the Bears once again traded up to pounce, means they have high expectations of this player. I think he is great. This draft class was loaded with offensive linemen talent and Jenkins will be in the same conversation as Sewell and Slater, guys who went #7 and #13 respectively. I love the potential, I love the height/weight and more importantly, I love the attitude. The Bears needed more attitude upfront. More swagger and more of an “I’m here to dominate” mindset. Jenkins brings this and the Bears hit two high-level starters with their first two picks.
Fifth Round (Pick 151) – Larry Borom, Offensive Tackle, Missouri (6’5, 322lbs)
Of course, it wouldn’t be draft season if Ryan Pace isn’t giving away picks. I pray he changes course in the future and lets the draft come to him, even trade down once in a while. This wasn’t the draft however and Pace ended up with his third pick being in the 5th round.
Larry Borom has good tape at Missouri. He is another huge man with a mean attitude. The Bears got better and meaner on the line this draft. Borom has the talent to settle in at right tackle or even guard. I believe he will be groomed as a swing tackle this year, Germain Ofedi will start the majority of games at right tackle but Borom brings good depth and a solid value at this point in the draft. He is another big man that plays with light feet and a mean attitude.
Sixth Round (Pick 217) – Khalil Herbert, Running Back, Virginia Tech (5’9, 210 lbs)
Pace finally trades down, this time from pick 208 in the sixth round to pick 217. The Bears picked up a 7th round pick in the 9 spot trade down with the Seahawks. The Bears and Seahawks finally make a deal, just not the one that almost blew up the NFL back in March.
Herbert is a solid running back. His specialty is speed. He had a fantastic year with Virginia Tech after transferring from Kansas. He ran a solid 4.46 forty at his pro day and his tape shows a guy that is patient enough to set up his blocks and fast enough to hit a lane and take it the distance. Herbert didn’t catch many passes and he isn’t as shifty as I’d like for a breakaway back but he is a stout 5’9, 210lbs, he has solid contact balance, good vision, and run away speed.
Special teams are where Herbert will have to make a name for himself, with the Bears already locked into 3rd year back David Montgomery, backup Damian Williams, and the return of Tarik Cohen. But Herbert is talented and the Bears are collecting young, fast, talented playmakers to go along with their young fast rookie QB. Herbert could be a lottery ticket if an injury were to strike.
Sixth Round (Pick 221) – Dazz Newsome, Wide Receiver, North Carolina (5’10, 190lbs)
The majority of the Bears draft happened from pick 150 on. The Bears had 5 picks in total from 150 to 250, with 3 picks in the sixth round. With their 2nd pick in the sixth round, the Bears went with more speed. Dazz Newsome out of UNC had one of the most disappointing pro days in terms of straight-line speed measured in the forty.
I watched a lot of Dazz Newsome (scouting Dyami Brown) and number 5 kept popping up on the screen. He was a playmaker with soon-to-be first-round pick Sam Howell. Newsome has returned punts and the Bears are looking to upgrade their kickoff and punt return game. All that Dazz will also have to find his way on special teams. With a suddenly crowded receiving crop full of small fast guys, the Bears are looking for competition at the slot receiver position.
The Bears recently signed Damiere Byrd (4.28 forty), brought in Marquise Goodwin (4.34 forty), have Darnell Mooney (4.38 forty), now have Newsome (4.58 forty). The Bears have upgraded their speed. All of those receivers are similar in size and stature, small and fast. I only see 1 of them, maybe two making the teams so if Newsome wants to stick he will have to impress the coaches in a hurry and find ways to make plays he is fully capable of.
Sixth Round (Pick 228) – Thomas Graham, Cornerback, Oregon (5’10, 192lbs)
At this point in the draft, I was blown away by the Bears. Not only did I love the Fields and Jenkins picks, but for the first time in my life, every pick was on the offensive side of the football. Who the hell is this team? A QB? Not one but two O-linemen? A talented but unneeded running back, and another slot receiver? In 2021, the offense wins. It’s just different now. The Bears still acted like a team of Butkus and Singeltary but they are ten years behind the party. The party is on offense.
This was the first pick for the Bears on defense and they received a ton of value. 6th round, 7th round, and undrafted rookies are depth picks that you hope pop. The Bears just let go of one of the most solid late-round picks in their history in Charles Leno. He wasn’t spectacular and the last few years he wasn’t good, but he was a seven-year starter drafted in the seventh round. Some guys hit.
I think Graham has that potential. Graham sat out all of 2020 due to COVID-19 and his stock took a hit. This is a guy that started 38 games at Oregon in three years. He has a nose for the football and makes plays not the ball. He doesn’t have great measurable but he has a solid technique where he can play inside or outside. He has NFL started potential. He will provide much-needed depth for the Bears who suddenly are weak at the cornerback position. Graham will be another special team player that will look to develop into a starter by 2022 or 2023.
Seventh Round (Pick 250) – Khyris Tonga, Defensive Tackle, BYU (6’2, 325lbs)
The last of the Bears picks came with pick 250 provided by the Seahawks. Tonga is another potential depth piece that will compete to win the backup nose tackle job behind Eddie Goldman. Tonga is an athletic plugger that is older at age 25. You never know how these seventh-round picks will pan out but he looks like he is a big dude (6’2, 325lbs) that can play. With the Bears needing youth on defense I say he sticks around as a solid rotational piece.
What it Means
In the end, this draft will be graded on Justin Fields’ career. In 2017 the Bears actually had a solid class. They drafted Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen, two very good football players that had an impact on the league at one time. But none of it mattered because the Bears drafted Mitch over Mahomes. 2021 will be the same, although Fields is walking into a completely different situation. This time around the Bears did the smart thing by going up to land Justin Fields. They just don’t make guys like this very often. There was legitimate talk going into the 2020 season that Fields may be better than Trevor Lawrence. I never believe that but I do believe Fields was the second-best quarterback in this class and I think he will dominate the NFC North for the next 12 years.
In my eyes, the Bears finally landed their franchise quarterback, if he hits it will be the greatest draft class in Bears history. If he flames out we will barely remember the other names of the players taken. I do love the Bears taking an absolute first-round talent in Teven Jenkins. He was someone I was eyeing for the Bears at pick 20. The Bears very well may have found their Quarterback and left tackle of the future. The reaming picks are talented potential depth players that were all undervalued. Thomas Graham could be the biggest surprise of this draft and may find himself starting in the near future.
I loved what the Bears came away with and I don’t say that often. But I am a Justin Fields truther. I think he has a chip on his shoulder, like Rodgers, like Tom, and like Mahomes. Fields had tape, production, and athleticism to go number two in this draft, I’m happy he fell into the Bear’s lap. The Bears did a great job this year. Celebrate Bears fans, good things are coming.