The Chicago Bears are heading into the final quarter of the 2016 season. 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 two features 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 Jordan Howard 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 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.
There are many different takes on where we are at with some of these rookies. In a recent edition of Lester’s T-Formation Conversation podcast, Lester took a look at his views of the recent Bears rookies so click on that and give it a listen!
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. There was hope he might come off of IR for the last several games of the season, but that was dashed last week when Kyle Fuller was activated. 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+. Since returning from his injury this season, he has teamed up with Akiem Hicks to cause chaos and push on the DL. Career path: Ascending
3) OL Hroniss Grasu - INC... and I wonder...
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. The Bears will have options, they could move Whitehair out to guard, or Grasu (although Grasu isn’t a very good guard candidate physically). I suspect he may end up quality depth. 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. Langford was ineffective early this season, and then he got hurt. Enter Jordan Howard. I'm moving him down from a C+ to a C because he is still a valuable guy to have on the team but he’s been surpassed on the depth chart by both Howard and Kadeem Carey, a man Langford was drafted to replace. Langford, was only a fourth rounder, but the arrow is definitely pointed in the wrong direction on him. 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. Solid, but uninspiring. At worst, experienced quality depth, and you will take that out of the 5th round every single time. You guys know I am NOT a fan of Pro Football Focus, but I do find it interesting while many Bears fan consider Amos a failure, a bust or a “bad player”, PFF rates him as “Top 25” player at the position out of 89 players with enough snaps to be eligible. 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
Considering his "draft position", which in Anderson's case is UDFA, being on the team and contributing in special teams is a C. Anderson has had his moments, and he still may develop into an NFL player. Career path: Neutral, he may have reached his ceiling and floor.
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 - ?
I had to do some research to see whether Glenn was currently even on our practice squad. Honestly, I can’t find where he was cut, but he’s not listed on the Bears roster. This isn’t a good sign, either way. Career path: Descending
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 - C
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 and he doesn’t have NFL speed. He also had a bad game this week as well in a starting role. Career path: Descending
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 but is probably best suited for a depth guy. Still, a solid depth guy is darned good for a UDFA. Career path: Neutral
1 LB Leonard Floyd - A
Leonard Floyd being carted off the field was the single scariest moment of the NFL season for Bears fans. Thankfully, he was OK. I get that it’s too early to grade the guy, really, but c’mon, he’s leading the league’s rookies in sacks, and he’s scored more points than Alshon Jeffery & Kevin White COMBINED (that’s both a good thing and a hideously bad thing at the same time). Vic Fangio says he believes that Floyd’s pass rushing skills “haven’t even scratched the surface”. That may or may not be true, but they sure have made believers out of several quarterbacks & offensive linemen.
2 OL Cody Whitehair - A+
A day one starter who has already become an above-average center in the NFL. BOOM. Consistently listed as a top rookie on many sites. Nuff said. Career path: Ascending like a rocket
3 DL Jonathan Bullard - INC, but...
DANGER, Will Robinson, DANGER! Following several weeks of ineffective play, Bullard was benched by John Fox and Vic Fangio, a healthy scratch in this week’s game against the Niners. That’s what we in the blogging business call “a bad thing.” Hopefully Bullard will see it as a wake up call and start fixing whatever the problem is that needs fixed. This is the first serious sign of weakness of any member in the Pace 2016 draft class. Career path: Descending
4 LB Nickolas Kwaitkoski - INC
Kwaitkoski’s got his shot, with Danny Trevathan out for the season and Jerrell Freeman suspended for two more games. So far, results have been mostly positive. 44’s made some rookie mistakes, and blown a couple of plays, but he’s also showing outstanding instincts and as Lester pointed out in his “Which Bears backups are in line for extended playing time” podcast, Kwaitkoski got the chance to do what Lester was hoping for, playing three downs and was on the field during nickle. It looks a whole lot that Pace may have hit another one out of the park, but it’s too soon to tell. We’ll know more after the next four games. Career path: Ascending
4 S Deon Bush - INC
Well, we’ve seen a lot more of Deon Bush over the last four weeks, and he’s now up to 13 tackles after totaling two each in our last two games. He’s started 3 games, and has been aggressive in his run support. The Bears are using a lot of substitutions, so he’s in and out a lot, but he is starting to build some playing time. Honestly don’t have an opinion at all on him yet. Career path: Ascending if for no other reason than he’s playing now.
4 CB Deiondre' Hall -
Hall’s first four games showed him making 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. Having said that, he’s been out for half the season now. That’s an INC and descending until he gets back on the field. Career path: Descending
5 RB Jordan Howard - A++++
I’m going to save everybody’s time here on this one. Howard needs to improve his hands, his routes and his blocking, but other than that, the kid is the bomb. 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
Finally made the roster this last week. We will see how that goes. Career path: Neutral
Ben Braunecker - INC
These next for games are critical for him, as Braunecker fights for playing time and looks with WR turned TE Daniel Brown. Career path: Neutral
So what do you think about the Ryan Pace Era of drafts? What are your grades? What do you agree with and disagree with?