The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone and the feeling emanating around Chicago is that Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s third draft class with the team was a bit … questionable.
First, there was the seemingly odd move on Thursday night when Pace traded four draft picks to the San Francisco 49ers in order to move up one slot from Pick 3 to 2 and select North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Pace made up for the loss of picks to some degree on the following day when he traded down in the second round from the fourth pick to the 13th pick and also received a sixth-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick from the Arizona Cardinals.
After the move down, though, three safeties were selected ahead of the Bears, which clearly was a position of interest for them entering the draft. The Bears instead nabbed a former college basketball player turned tight end out of Division II Ashland University.
Then, Pace made another aggressive move on the third day of the draft, moving up five slots in the fourth round to select Alabama safety Eddie Jackson. The Bears traded their fourth- and sixth-round picks, to move up to the 5th pick in Round 4 to select Jackson.
Jackson, a promising safety and punt returner, has had two major injuries and is currently recovering from a season-ending broken leg.
With their other fourth-round pick, the Bears selected 5-foot-6 running back Tarik Cohen out of North Carolina A&T. Cohen became an all-time leading rusher in college … of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
And with their final pick, the Bears selected guard Jordan Morgan out of Kutztown, PA, with the third pick in Round 5. Kutztown is another small school and although Morgan dominated Division II competition — really had no competition, for that matter — some will question how his skills will translate to the NFL level.
The five players that the Bears selected were the fewest the team has drafted since the 2011 draft. For a team filled with plenty of holes, one has to wonder why Pace didn’t accumulate more picks to add more talent.
Pace was focusing on a “quality over quantity” mindset, but again Bears fans are questioning the “quality” of the five Pace selected.
Glass is Half-Full Analysis
The Bears have a variety of needs and in some way, each of their picks addresses a need.
The talk of Chicago since Ryan Pace has gotten here is that they are going to fix the quarterback position. But due to a restrictive contract, the Bears were still married to Jay Cutler in Pace’s first two years with the club. Now that Cutler is gone, the Bears were aggressive this offseason in fixing the position. They gave a front-loaded contract to free agent Mike Glennon in order to be the “bridge” quarterback to the future. And they selected with the second-overall pick a young quarterback who they strongly feel can be the leader waiting on the other side of the bridge.
In Shaheen, the Bears got the biggest tight end in the draft and one who has decent speed, too. He is a converted basketball player who has good hands, body control, and can go up and snag the ball in traffic. The NFL has a recent history of successful tight ends who were former college basketball players.
The Bears badly need to upgrade their secondary, especially at the safety position, and they got one in Jackson who comes from the best program in college football. Jackson is a playmaker who has a nose for the football and can make things happen when he gets his hands on the ball. Jackson is also a skilled punt returner, so the Bears killed two birds with one stone with this selection.
Cohen is a shifty running back in the mold of Darren Sproles, who, despite his size, has had a pretty successful career in the NFL. Cohen was very productive in college and left as the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards. Cohen’s nickname is “The Human Joystick”, which should make video gamers giddy. He’s said to have good field vision, which is necessary for someone of his size. And his greatest asset is ability to stop and start, making him difficult to catch for big, angry tacklers who want to sit on his head.
Morgan is your prototypical mauler. He’s got good size for a guard and packs a punch. He plays with a mean demeanor and is said to always be looking to finish plays rather than loaf after the ball carrier is out of the backfield.
With this haul, the Bears addressed their long-term quarterback outlook, added a versatile dimension to the backfield to complement Jordan Howard, found another tight end to compete with — and supplement — Zach Miller, beefed up their offensive line, and helped shore up a weakened secondary.
Glass is Half-Empty Analysis
The Bears have holes in many positions all over the field and because of two trades up the draft board, they only came away with five draft picks.
While many teams look to acquire players from big-time college football programs, three of the Bears’ five selections came from smaller schools with a low level of competition.
Trubisky is raw and needs a lot of work. He only started 13 games in college and is relatively unproven. He operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation, so little is known on his ability to read the field while taking snaps from under center. He played some of his worst football toward the end of the season when players ideally should be getting better and gaining momentum.
Shaheen has been said to look like “a man amongst boys” when you watch game film of him at Ashland. And it’s easy to outrun, outjump, and outplay smaller, slower defenders. But what will happen when he faces NFL linebackers with his same speed and NFL safeties with less size difference?
Although Jackson played big-boy football at Alabama, he was on the field with several other NFL-caliber teammates. Can he still make plays when the guys in front of him don’t dominate the same way his college teammates did? Also, will his ACL injury and his broken leg cause him to lose a few steps? Are those two injuries a sign that he is brittle and injury-prone?
Cohen was able to outrun players whose speed could not compare to his. He could run sideline to sideline and force defenders to take bad angles. His ability to stop, cause an out-of-control, poorly-disciplined defender to run past him and miss on arm tackles might not translate to the NFL level where players are more disciplined and a lot faster.
Morgan, meanwhile, dominated at the college level, but he did it on the outside as a tackle. He does not have the ideal size to be an NFL tackle so he will move inside to guard. Unfortunately, the Bears’ current strength is along the interior of the offensive line. They needed extra help at tackle.
The glass is in your hand. View its contents however you want. I always err on the side of optimism, in part because I choose not to live in negativity, and in part because I prefer letting the play on the field do the talking, not the know-nothing, know-it-alls in the media.
Let’s be honest, scouts have a very high miss rate. Team presidents and general managers whiff on picks far more than they hit on them. It’s an NFL fact. More players fail than succeed.
Even the supposed “brightest football minds” are wrong about players, so why should any of us fans and analysts cry foul about draft picks before they even step on the field?
Don’t get me wrong, you have every right to have your opinion on the players the Bears drafted. You have every right to whine and complain and voice your displeasure. And yes, you could be correct about any player’s future outcome. There’s a 50-50 chance he’s going to succeed or he is going to fail, despite the shades of gray between those two options.
But I’m of the mindset to let the play on the field do the talking. I’m of the mindset that you can’t properly grade a draft for 2-3 years. And I’m of the mindset that we’ve all been wrong before and we all can be wrong again.
The Bears got better this weekend. They added skilled players to positions of need. But how much better did they get?
We won’t find that out until they suit up.