The 2016 NFL Draft is in the books and the Chicago Bears made good use of their nine draft picks to address a variety of needs. The Bears focused their attention mainly on defense, using six of their nine picks on that side of the ball. They also found good value in the three offensive players they selected.
Here’s a look at the 2016 Chicago Bears draft picks, with a brief assessment on how they might fit into the team’s plans.
Leonard Floyd, outside linebacker, Georgia
A lot of fuss was made over the Bears’ selection of Floyd. Some are trying to compare him to Shea McClellin, a speed rusher lacking the size necessary to excel at the NFL level. Others are thinking he fits the mold of Aldon Smith, a former pass rush stud of the San Francisco 49ers, where current Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio found ways to make him excel. The Bears hope to add bulk to Floyd to help him take the next step, but there is not as much pressure on Floyd as there was on McClellin when the Bears drafted him. Floyd has Pernell McPhee rushing the quarterback opposite him, with two pretty solid inside linebackers in Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman anchoring the middle. Floyd should be able to slide into a rotation of pass rushers on the defense and keep the opposing offense on its heels.
Cody Whitehair, offensive guard, Kansas State
The Bears wanted to get younger and stronger along the offensive line and the team brought in a bunch of new weapons this offseason to compete. After signing guards Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen in free agency, the team drafted Whitehair in the second round and released veteran Matt Slauson the day after the draft. Whitehair played left tackle at Kansas State, thus has the versatility and know-how to be a pass protector. But his shorter arm length makes him better suited to play inside, and he’ll compete at the left guard spot.
Jonathan Bullard, defensive tackle, Florida
After drafting Floyd in Round 1, general manager Ryan Pace met the media and discussed how intent he was at finding pass rushers to improve the defense. The Bears found another good one in Jonathan Bullard. And although Bullard is listed as a tackle, Pace said he envisioned him more as a 3-4 end, which would give him the inside track to start alongside nose tackle Eddie Goldman and end Akiem Hicks. The Bears badly needed help along the defensive line and Bullard fills a definite need.
Nick Kwiatkoski, inside linebacker, West Virginia
The Bears had three fourth-round picks and they used the first of them to select Kwiatkoski. In fact, the Bears even traded up four slots to take him, making him the second linebacker selection of their draft class. Kwiatkoski is considered a tough, active player who plays hard-nosed football, exactly the type of player that head coach John Fox loves to have on his roster. Kwiatkoski will backup Trevathan and Freeman but will likely have a huge role on special teams.
Deon Bush, safety, Miami
The Bears used the second of their three fourth-round picks to address their defensive backfield. In Bush, the Bears have a high-character guy with a great work ethic. He had four interceptions and 13 pass breakups in his career and forced five fumbles in the 2014 season. He’ll likely compete for playing time opposite last year’s rookie starter, Adrian Amos, but also find his way on the special teams.
Deiondre’ Hall, cornerback, Northern Iowa
The Bears addressed the secondary with their second-straight pick in Round 4, nabbing Northern Iowa cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, who is considered extremely versatile and can line up all over the field, including in the box — sounds like a Vic Fangio guy. Hall has great length — his NFL.com draft profile says he has the arm length of a left tackle — which is good not only in deflecting passes at the last second but also shedding blockers in run support. Scouts are unsure whether he has the top-line speed needed to play corner at the NFL level and whether his thin frame could prevent him from switching to safety. But I feel Fangio and Fox can find a spot for him.
Jordan Howard, running back, Indiana
The Bears found great value in Howard in the fifth round. According to NFL.com, one AFC running backs coach called Howard “the best pure running back in the draft” and “the best runner in this year’s draft,” which is high praise considering Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott went fourth overall to the Cowboys. The big concern about Howard is his health and durability, but Howard will have a role immediately with the Bears, likely as the team’s short-yardage back, and he’ll give Jeremy Langford, the presumed starter, a run for his money.
DeAndre Houston-Carson, free safety, William & Mary
In the sixth round, the Bears picked up their third defensive back of the draft. Houston-Carson may be a free safety, but that doesn’t prohibit him from attacking the line of scrimmage in run support. Houston-Carson was a team captain for William & Mary, has a high motor and he plays with swagger, all traits that impressed Pace and Fox. Houston-Carson was a consensus first-team FCS All-American last year and will compete with the Bears’ fourth-round choice, Deon Bush, for playing time, and competition only makes everyone better.
Daniel Braverman, wide receiver, Western Michigan
The Bears used their final draft pick on offense, selecting wide receiver Daniel Braverman out of Western Michigan. Here’s the good on Braverman: he was second in the NCAA in receptions last year. Here’s the concern: he’s only 5-10 and 177 pounds. That kind of size doesn’t usually translate well to the NFL level unless that player becomes a shifty slot receiver in the mold of Wes Welker or Julian Edelman — not coincidentally both New England Patriots receivers. Braverman could have a role on the team but he has a lot of competition ahead of him.