After months of hypothesizing and speculation, we have finally come to the conclusion of the Bears' 2017 NFL Draft. History was made, rumors were aplenty, and opinions have ranged widely among fans both young and old.Through all the stories published, Ryan Pace's mission has remained the same: find more playmakers for the Chicago Bears. He vowed to leave no stones un-turned, and to continue being aggressive in addressing needs on his roster.
Boy, he wasn't kidding, in regards to turning every stone in his quest.
In perhaps the most unusual and unprecedented draft in recent memory, Ryan Pace came away with five total selections. Three of the five total players selected were from non-FBS level schools. That headliner pails in comparison to when the Bears traded up for this year's top QB prospect, Mitchell Trubisky. Of course, Ryan Pace has alluded to the concept of having a draft that compliments his free agency haul.
To summarize said haul, and to utilize this as a perspective headed into the initial grading, Pace and Co. signed quite a large number of low-to-medium risk/high reward players. Most of his cap space was spent on QBs, WRs, and DBs, in an effort to both solving the long-term issue at QB, and to add skilled playmakers on offense and defense. Some of his notable signings include QB Mike Glennon, WR Kendall Wright, WR Markus Wheaton, CB Marcus Cooper, S Quintin Demps, CB Prince Amukamara, and TE Dion Sims. Where none of those players are perennial Pro Bowlers in their respective rights, they all figure into this equation greatly. After he seemingly took care of the WR and DB positions, while adding a stop-gap at QB, Pace decided to swing for the fences with his draft picks.
Without further adieu, the draft picks and their respective grades are described below.
1st round, 2nd overall: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, University of North Carolina - People loved this move. People hated this move. And, there were plenty of thoughts/opinions in between. Initially, I was extremely perplexed at this move. Not because of the player himself, but the means utilized to acquire him. For the record, I have long stated that Trubisky is this year's top QB prospect, and it appears he was Pace's #1 "must have" player in this year's draft. Could he have been available at 3rd overall? Depends on who you ask, but needless to say, Trubisky is the guy moving forward. And, if everything pans out with this selection, then nobody will care about the relatively low cost the Bears paid to move up. As of right now, though, the Bears have paid a considerable amount to move just a single spot ahead in the first round. Furthermore, if all goes according to plan, then Trubisky won't even see the field during the regular season. I, personally, do expect to see him on the field at some point during his rookie season. The ultimate question with this pick, is when the Bears will find out what they have in this young QB. If you want further insight into this topic, then feel free to read my latest article about this subject.
Initial Grade - B
2nd Round, 45th overall: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland University - The first of the non-FBS trio, this pick came after the Bears traded down from the 36th overall pick. The deal was made with the Arizona Cardinals for their 2nd, 4th, and 6th round picks. Being from a D-2 school myself -- Go Argos! -- it's understandable if people didn't know where Ashland University actually is to begin with. Also, regardless of division, Shaheen is a baller. Having a nickname of "Baby Gronk" isn't something to sneeze at, he absolutely dominated the competition. Plus, he has elite size and solid speed, topped with elite production. He posted over 1,600 receiving yards and 26 receiving TDs in his last two seasons at Ashland, and a few solid TEs have emerged from D-2 programs as of late. Delanie Walker, for example, is from Central Michigan. Plus, Shaheen will be part of what is now a solid group at TE, with Zach Miller and Dion Sims currently listed as the top two players on this depth chart. Don't be surprised if Shaheen becomes the next 2nd round pick to burst onto the scene in his rookie year.
Initial Grade - B+
4th Round, 112th overall: Eddie Jackson, S, University of Alabama - Yet again, Ryan Pace makes a draft-day trade. This time, he trades up into the 4th round, parlaying two of the picks he gained in his deal with the Cardinals. In Jackson, Pace has himself a glass cannon, and a player that has incredible ball skills. When he was healthy in 2015, he was both the primary ballhawk on their top-ranked defense, and the top punt returner as well. He recorded 6 interceptions that season, with two of them returned for TDs. The Crimson Tide would eventually win the NCAA National Championship against Clemson, where Jackson was named Defensive MVP. In 2016, he recorded a pick-six, in addition to two punts returned for TDs. Unfortunately, he would break his left leg in Week 8 of the regular season, and missed the rest of the 2016 season as a result. The Crimson Tide would go on to lose their rematch with Clemson at the National Championship Game this past season. He will compete immediately at Punt Returner, and I also expect for him to eventually compete for playing time with the starters on defense. If -- and that's a BIG if -- he's able to stay healthy, the Bears may have pulled off another late round steal.
Initial Grade - A-
4th Round, 119th overall: Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T - This is the one pick I find to be questionable, for a couple of reasons. First, provided his limited skillset, where does he fit in with the Bears' RB position? In addition to Pro Bowl RB Jordan Howard, the Bears signed a respectable veteran in B.J. Cunningham, and currently have Ka'Deem Carey along with Jeremy Langford on the roster. All of those backs have shown versatility, and compliment one another exceptionally well. Also, was Cohen really that much better of a player than anyone else still on the board at the time? There was still plenty of talent available at the DB, WR, and DL positions when this selection was submitted. Now, the hype with this pick, is Cohen offers the Bears a Darren Sproles-type of player to add within the RB committee. I certainly wouldn't mind a "speed" package with Cohen lined up in the slot, and moved around as a complimentary chess piece with Howard lined up in the backfield. With all of that said, I strongly feel that better talent was available at this time, and he won't offer as great of an impact as one of the aforementioned position groups would.
Initial Grade - C
5th Round, 147th overall: Jordan Morgan, OL, Kutztown University - Like three of the other picks in this draft, the announcement of this pick was a bit of a surprise to plenty of fans. However, the Bears' coaching staff and front office are quite familiar with this prospect, as Morgan played for the North Team during the Senior Bowl. In case people need a reminder, John Fox was the head coach assigned to oversee the North squad, and his staff surely invested time getting to know Morgan as a person. During the Senior Bowl, Morgan performed rather well, as PFF (FWIW) awarded Morgan with the 3rd highest grade of any O-Lineman in the yearly showcase. His size, 6'3" 309+ pounds, translates better at Guard or Center. With Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, and Kyle Long as the starting interior, I do not expect to see Morgan receive much playing time in his rookie season. Instead, he should add some solid depth into the interior O-Line.
Initial Grade - B
As a whole, this draft can be best described as "high risk/high reward." Some of these players may play right away, and others might be held back to develop. However, not a single pick is more important than Mitchell Trubisky, as he has been marked the future face of the franchise. The entire success, or failure, of this draft depends on his development as a pro. If Trubisky's development is successful, then the Bears' eternal problem at the QB position will finally be solved. Otherwise, the entire front office will be blown up, and the Bears will have to start over.
Initial Cumulative Grade - B
As per my namesake, this is a rather optimistic outlook on what has been a strange draft class. Do you, any of you, agree with these assessments? Sound off in the comments below!