A Chicago Bears draft full of projects and players from small schools may not have the most immediate impact on the roster, but it puts a bird’s eye view on many current people associated with the Bears and their future. It’s way too early to tell whether the Bears had a successful 2017 NFL Draft at first glance, but it’s not too early to wonder about players’ and coaches’ fates right now.
Here are the winners and losers from the Bears’ 2017 draft class:
Winner: Ryan Pace
Many in the national media didn’t appreciate Pace’s approach to this developmental class, but in taking so many guys that need refinement or weren’t necessarily on many people’s radars, it was a statement of how much time he has to finish Chicago’s rebuild.
Needless to say, the McCaskey’s as owners of the franchise are being very patient with their young general manager.
If you didn’t think he was in total control before or was somehow on the bubble with his job, then it’s time to adjust those sight markers and figure that his plan is being allowed to be set well in motion. The trade up for his quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky in that vain as his franchise quarterback - who will need time to acclimate to the NFL - signifies as much among other selections such as tight end Adam Shaheen.
Loser: John Fox
Reports that Fox was in the dark on the trade up to acquire Trubisky at No. 2 overall are bogus, but the overall draft mindset and players the Bears went for this past weekend also don’t bode well for the veteran coach, unlike for Pace. This is far from a win-now team with a coach who prefers veterans.
This class is going to take time. This team’s growth - whether it happens or not - is going to take time. That hardly looks like the track Fox is patient enough to stand on. He needs to win now and buy some brownie points for his sake. His general manager in Pace is safe, that’s for sure.
Meanwhile it looks like Fox will at least have to have the 2017 Bears perform at an average level to stay on solid ground. Not an easy task with no probable first-season starters from 2017.
Winner(s): Pernell McPhee, Willie Young
In case you didn’t notice, the Bears didn’t address their front seven whatsoever. Of the five selections in their 2017 draft, only one was a defensive player and that was a safety in Eddie Jackson. By my estimation, Chicago needed a youthful addition to an edge group with a healthy or not, McPhee, and an aging but serviceable, Young.
It’s a position group with plenty of upside if it can stay healthy, which feels exactly like what the Bears are banking on. All of that in addition to Leonard Floyd’s continued development into a potential franchise pass rusher, which is most important. I’m not sure what another project in Roy Robertson-Harris will offer on the field as a five-technique either in that light, but Chicago seems high on him.
In any event to not address the front seven on the outside is a statement from Pace and company that they’re more than comfortable with the pass rushing talent they possess. A clear win for their veteran outside linebackers.
Loser: Mike Glennon
The Bears do actually like Mike Glennon. They, however, also like Trubisky. Glennon’s position here is only maintained as long as he can’t seize the Bears’ starting quarterback job by storm - which we can’t know for sure yet. He might be quite good when he suits for the Bears this season. But you don’t draft a quarterback at No. 2 overall and give up the assets Chicago did, to not have plans for him to potentially and likely usurp your free agent acquisition. That’s not how it works.
So while the Bears aren’t giving up on Glennon and are still giving him every opportunity to prove himself, their ultimate contingency is the development of Trubisky while letting Glennon go (a trade perhaps?) after his guaranteed money from his essentially one-year deal runs out.
Glennon and his young counterpart are merely darts thrown at the board that Pace wants to make sure hit a bullseye and finally get this franchise set at quarterback in the modern era. For now, Glennon is closer than Trubisky to being that man, but should he falter in his essential tryout, his dart will fall to the floor. A bit of pressure and competition - even if the Bears don’t intend to start Trubisky unless he seizes the job by storm - never hurt anyone, though.
Winner(s): Cre’Von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan, Deiondre’ Hall
The final reward goes to an entire youthful position group as a whole. As mentioned, other than the addition of Jackson in the draft, the Bears didn’t address their defense or secondary in consequence.
That means that Pace and the Bears are more than comfortable with free agent additions Marcus Cooper, Prince Amukamara, and B.W. Webb. And it’s fair to infer they’re also still quite high on their undrafted free agent corner duo in Callahan and LeBlanc. For Hall, his versatility and chance move to safety that the team is discussed is also an obvious attractor.
For everything that people glossed about Chicago needing to load up in the secondary in this draft in one of the deepest defensive back classes in years, the Bears didn’t feel like they needed to. They instead went mostly offense because they’re comfortable with what’s on their roster. They’re comfortable with what some of their young talent can become.
In the end, no one understands their talent as much as the Bears and this confidence in their defensive back room by not adding any more youth speaks volumes.
Loser: Zach Miller
If there’s one guy that has the most writing on the wall in regards to his career with the Bears, it’s Miller.
In essence, with the addition of Shaheen as a potential future starter, and the acquisition of Dion Sims as an upside blocking tight end in free agency, Chicago is preparing for life without their 32-year-old oft-injured current starter in Miller.
The Bears know they have to get younger at tight end. They know how crucial a full-time weapon at tight end is in the modern NFL (very). And they know they can’t wholly rely on Miller should another injury happen or should he not perform up to par (he’s never caught more than 50 passes or 500 yards in a single season).
An investment in a developing player such as Shaheen with a high second-round pick tells you all you need to know about how comfortable the Bears feel with Miller going forward. The answer is that they’re a bit anxious and have laid the foundation for their future with their “Y” weapon at tight end.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.