The Chicago Bears are on their mid-season bye week, and half of 2016 is in the books. There's been a lot of bad to this season, and there's been some good as well.
I am taking a look at Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace's first two drafts and subsequent undrafted free agent rookie hauls, updating it after each quarter of a season has passed. This article is an update of the first quarter feature I did, and contains some of the same information, updated.
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.
I am not seriously proposing these are "REAL" rankings, instead please just consider them "snapshots" of where I see the team's rookies at. I am also adding in whether I see the course of these rookies careers ascending over the 2016, descending or level.
To explain my rankings, it is IMPORTANT to realize that I am grading each pick as the relative value of that pick relates to their draft status. In simple terms, a starter from round two is graded more harshly than a starter from round 5, because round 2 picks are generally considered to be players who will eventually be starters in the league, whereas most 5th rounders have short NFL careers as backups.
A guy like Adrian Amos has a much higher grade because he was taken at a slot where most guys fail than he would if he was a first rounder, for example.
I got a lot of comments that I was an easy grader when I did this in the first quarter, but again I go back to getting an effective starter or a player making big contributions in the late rounds will give a higher grade.
I realize and will try to take into account the fact that "starter" doesn't always translate into "effective". For example, Shea McClellin was a "starter" for much of his Bears career but that doesn't make him an A pick... we all know he wasn't effective.
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. I think if there is one pick that Ryan Pace could have as a "do over", the White pick is it. For half of his rookie contract, his career has been pretty much missing-in-inaction. Honestly, he's got to get healthy and stay healthy or the "B" word is going to start to really stick. Career path: descending.
2) DL Eddie Goldman - A
Goldman was, overall, just about the best player on the Bears defense this season until he got injured with a high ankle sprain that has kept him sidelined for weeks. This follows 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. Last time I had him as an A+. I still think he's a steal, but missing big time this year has hurt. Career path: Neutral
3) OL Hroniss Grasu - INC, but...
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, to say the least. Grasu, through no fault of his own, is looking at coming back next season as a backup. Still, he's a third rounder, so that's not the end of the world. Career path: Descending.
4) RB Jeremy Langford - C+
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, then he was hurt. Enter Jordan Howard, and Langford comes back from injury the #3 guy in the backfield. I'm moving him down from a B to a C+ because he is still a valuable guy to have on the team, and he was only a fourth rounder, but the arrow is definitely pointed in the wrong direction on him due to Howard's ascension. Career path: Descending
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+. Career path: Neutral
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 (again, I remind you these are graded against other UDFA's around the league, not high round draft picks, it's all about relative value):
Jonathan Anderson - C
While some might think a grade of C (down from a B earlier this year... he played the first 3 games but hasn't been on the 53 man since) 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. Then again, he hasn't been activated in weeks. Career path: Descending.
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. Career path: Ascending
Jacoby Glenn - B
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. Was shocked he was cut recently, but he is on the practice squad and I expect him to return to the 53 at some point in time. Career path: Desending (until he gets back on the 53-man)
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. Career path: Ascending
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. Career path: Neutral
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. Career path: Neutral
1 LB Leonard Floyd - INC... but DAMN these last two weeks he's been kicking ass
Wherever Floyd is going, he isn't there yet... but he's getting closer. 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... unless, of course, he keeps ripping teams apart like he has the last two weeks. This week he "only" had one sack, but he also caused chaos in an (admittedly bad) enemy offensive line. Floyd made Jake Long look 712-years-old, forcing a holding penalty on what would have otherwise have been his second sack. Also apparent is the guy's instincts and hustle. Floyd is a dude who would never, ever get a "loaf" from his coaches, he's 100 percent on go, all the time. Career path: Ascending like a rocket
2 OL Cody Whitehair - A+
A day one starter who has already become an above-average center in the NFL. BOOM. Regularly listed as a Top 10 Rookie in the NFL on various sites. Nuff said. Career path: Ascending like a rocket
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 he's not at all "there" yet. He made a really good play this week, and he's getting his snaps, but I would like to see him supplant Mitch Unrein and take over that defensive end position. Career path: Neutral
4 LB Nickolas Kwaitkoski - INC
Kwaitkoski 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. Having said that, he's not beating out Freeman or Trevathan any time soon. Career path: Neutral
4 S Deon Bush - INC
I just haven't seen enough of Bush to say much, but so far? One tackle in 8 games. Not where you want him to be, and there's opportunity to take some playing time from Jones-Quartey. Career path: Descending
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 wide outs in the NFL. His grade probably will change, but he seems to have what it takes to be a corner in this league. Career path: Neutral
5 RB Jordan Howard - A+
Here's what I wrote after the first quarter: "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." OK, that was then, this is now. A+. Our reining NFC Offensive Player Of The Week may indeed be the "steal of the draft" after running over Minnesota, Detroit and Indianapolis. He's had some games where he didn't gain much, and the Bears offense is very much a work in progress, but he's on path for a 1,000 yard season. Career path: Ascending like a rocket
6 S DeAndre Houston-Carson - INC
I just haven't seen enough of Houston-Carson to say much. Career path: Descending
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. Career path: Neutral
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. Had his first catch this week, so there's that. Career path: Ascending
So what do you think about the Ryan Pace Era of drafts? What are your grades? What do you agree with and disagree with?
Also Lester gives his take on the 2016 Bears' rookies right here.