The first quarter of the year has passed, so I thought I would take a look at Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace’s first two drafts and subsequent undrafted free agent rookie hauls.
Yes, I know it’s far too early to REALLY grade these picks, we can’t accurately judge players until after their third season in many cases. By the end of the third year of a rookie’s contract, if he’s still around, we have an idea of whether he is a true starter, valuable backup / special teams guy, if he was a bad fit or just not NFL material.
My rankings are A-F, and these are based on where the the player is in his NFL journey. INC means incomplete, we just don’t have a full picture on whether the player will be solid or wash out, often due to injuries or just due to the fact they have other players in front of them at the depth chart.
I am including my takes on where each player is at.
1) WR Kevin White - INC
White’s career has been sidetracked by injuries last year and this. In the first four games this season, he showed that he was very rough around the edges, but he also showed improvement and a competitive fire. His latest injury doesn’t help. Too soon to tell whether White will be a valuable addition to the squad or a bust.
2) DL Eddie Goldman - A+
Goldman is, overall, just about the best player on the Bears defense this season, following up a rookie year where he was named to many all-rookie teams. He is the anchor of the Bears defense, the man in the middle of it all. Goldman was a steal in the second round.
3) OL Hroniss Grasu - INC but trending in the B- C+ area.
Grasu was drafted with the idea that he would "develop for a year", but an early injury forced him into the lineup and he ended up starting 8 games last year. A winter of adding mass and muscle and learning the playbook had the Bears organization and Bears fans looking forward to seeing his progress, but a torn ACL in practice ended his season. The emergence of Cody Whitehair at center puts Grasu’s place in the Bear’s future in question.
4) RB Jeremy Langford - B
Langford proved himself to be a valuable change of pace back in 2015 with 537 yards and 6 TD’s in a backup role to Matt Forte. Fans and media were critical of his 3.6 yards per carry average. This season, Langford was seen by many as the heir to Forte’s starting gig, but Langford and the Bears offense in general struggled to move the ball in limited running attempts. He gained 79 yard in 18 attempts (a 4.4 yard average) before being sidelined in game 3 against Dallas, opening the door for rookie Jordan Howard’s impressive week 4 debut. Langford looks to remain at least the main Bears change-of-pace back, which ranks a B due to his mid-round draft status.
5) S Adrian Amos - A+
Amos has been a solid day-one starter for the Bears, and made virtually every All-Rookie list. In his sophomore season, he has been wowing Bears fans with huge hits. Although Chicago does not use the name "Strong Safety" at all, that’s the role Amos plays, he’s much more a run-support player than cover man. Any time you get a solid day-one starter out of the fifth round, that’s an A grade. When you get a guy who may actually get Pro-Bowl recognition at some point in his career, that’s an A+
6) OL Tayo Fabuluje - F
Not much to say on this one, Pace and the Bears missed on the sixth rounder. Most 6’s don’t make it in the league.
2015 UDFA’s still around the team:
Jonathan Anderson - B
While some might think a grade of B is high for a guy currently on the practice squad, please keep in mind that I am considering his "draft position", which in Anderson’s case is UDFA. Anderson has had his moments, and he still may develop into an NFL player.
Bryce Callahan - A+
Bryce Callahan has developed from a UDFA into our best cover corner in just his second season. Fantastic pickup by Ryan Pace.
Jacoby Glenn - A
Another defensive back UDFA gem signed by Ryan Pace. Glenn is developing into a serviceable corner, and has played pretty well (with a few exceptions) when in the game.
Cameron Meredith - A
Meredith is yet another 2015 UDFA who has seen big playing time, mostly due to injury. He has performed well when he’s been in the game, and his playing time has been steadily increasing.
John Timu - B
John Timu and Jonathan Anderson’s career paths have been intertwined so far. Timu has physical limitations, but he also is a very instinctive and motivated player. The biggest knock I have is his tackling skills are lacking. The Bears are working on coaching him up on those, and we will see if he improves.
Rookie waiver wire pickup Harold Jones-Quartey - A
Jones-Quartey has been Chicago’s "other" safety since late last season, and is a big hitter much like Amos. The biggest problem with these two in the secondary is that both of them are "strong safeties" with very similar skill sets, where it would be good to have one a hitter and one a cover guy. Still, for a rookie waiver wire pickup, HJQ has been a great addition to the Bears.
1 LB Leonard Floyd - INC
Wherever Floyd is going, he isn’t there yet. I could go on and on, but everybody here knows that Floyd is going to be one of those guys that it really may take 3 years to judge.
2 OL Cody Whitehair - A+
A day one starter who has already become an above-average center in the NFL. BOOM. Nuff said.
3 DL Jonathan Bullard - INC
I really like what I have seen in Bullard, but it’s just too soon to really put a grade on him. Early indications are that he’s going to work out well, but it’s just too early.
4 LB Nickolas Kwaitkoski - INC
Kwaitkoski (NOTE: There is no second w in his name) has looked like a rookie out there for the Bears, he’s made some plays and he’s made some rookie mistakes. So far, he looks like he’s going to be solid, and he’s really blown up some players in personal duels. I am expecting he will be a good one.
4 S Deon Bush - INC
I just haven’t seen enough of Bush to say much.
4 CB Deiondre’ Hall - B+
Hall has already made some nice plays, and while he certainly does have some holes in his games and some technique issues he REALLY needs to clean up, he can cover wideouts in the NFL. His grade probably will change, but he seems to have what it takes to be a corner in this league. (NOTE: Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton have been torching every DB under the sun this season, don’t be too hard on these kids if they give up a few to those guys if our defensive line isn’t getting any pressure on Luck).
5 RB Jordan Howard - INC
I know, I know, how can Howard not be given an A++++ already, right? Well, he had one very impressive game in pre-season against Cleveland’s backups, and one very impressive game against a bad Detroit defense. I am in NO WAY disrespecting him by saying "that’s not enough to give a grade". One game just isn’t. From all early indications, Howard may be the single biggest steal of the 2015 draft, but... we will have to give it some time to see.
6 S DeAndre Houston-Carson - INC
I just haven’t seen enough of Houston-Carson to say much.
7 WR Daniel Braverman - INC
Currently on the practice squad, the training camp sensation has time to work on his game. Will he be an NFL player? I don’t know, nor does anybody else.
Ben Braunecker - INC
He made it off of the practice squad and onto the roster, so that’s good. Obviously, we will have to see a lot more of him before he gets a grade.
So what do you think about the Ryan Pace Era of drafts? What are your grades? What do you agree with and disagree with?