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The biggest risk the Bears will take in the 2017 season

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A to-be-named sports writer recently bumbled his attempt to answer this question, so I take a crack at it.

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears
Ryan Pace takes a moment to contemplate the meaning of risk as it pertains to opportunity cost during a 2015 preseason game.

What is the biggest risk the Bears are taking going into the 2017 season?

Let me frame the question. A Bleacher Report Article yesterday attempted to list the biggest risk for every NFL team, focusing on which roster players or position groups pose the highest potential for calamity. The best example of this in 2017 is probably the Jacksonville Jaguars’ lack of a reasonable alternative to Blake Bortles at quarterback. If I were to answer this question for the 2016 Bears with hindsight, I’d say it was the lack of quality secondary depth—a risk that did result in calamity for the 3 and 13 Bears.

The Bleacher report labeled the Bears’ quarterback room as their biggest risk, but I can’t buy that when the Bears signed the best quarterback available in free agency and then drafted the best—at least in their estimation—quarterback in the draft. One could argue that it was a risk to move on from a known quantity in Jay Cutler, but at least as many would argue that it was a risk every time you put the ball in that reckless gunslinger’s hands.

Ultimately, the Bleacher report’s Sean Tomlinson wasted a golden opportunity. Not the opportunity to discuss what the Bears’ actual biggest risk is but a much bigger failure to seize the moment. Tomlinson wrote an article about taking a risk involving Mitch “Mr. Biscuit” Trubisky and failed to quote Bruce Arians’ favorite go-for-gold slogan “no risk-it, no biscuit.”

In Tomlinson’s defense, it’s hard to pin down the biggest risk the Bears are taking in 2017. When the worst case scenario is a repeat of last year’s record, how much risk are you really taking? Additionally, after a season of injuries gone wrong, Pace made moves to shore up depth at cornerback, safety, receiver, and defensive line. If I were to pick one position where the depth scares me, it would be offensive tackle.

Instead, I have chosen to go with one player I believe the Bears are most likely to go all-in on, investing opportunity even at the cost of wins.

And that player is...

NFL Draft
The guy on the left.

Why did I post a picture of Kevin White being drafted and not one of him balling out on the field? I think you all know too well.

White was an elite college talent with remarkable size and speed—for those of us who’ve forgotten, he ran a 4.35 forty at 6’3” and 215 pounds. The Bears selected him 7th overall in the 2015 draft. He was Ryan Pace’s first draft pick, and high-fives abounded in the Bears’ draft room when White fell to their spot.

The story of White’s post-draft career has been dominated by injuries. A preseason stress fracture to the left tibia (the big bone between the knee and the ankle) required surgery and kept him off the field for the entire 2015 season. Then at the end of 2016’s week 4 win against the Detroit Lions, White’s left fibula (the small bone between the knee and ankle) was fractured during a tackle, and his 2016 campaign was over.

Despite this, I am not labeling White as an injury risk. My concern is what happened the three games prior to his 2016 injury.

In those three games, White played over 80% of offensive snaps and was thrown to 27 times (Alshon Jeffery had 20 targets over the same games). White only caught 13 of those passes (48%) for 132 yards. In no way do I believe this reflections White’s ceiling, but what worries me is the Bears were clearly committed to playing and targeting him often even though his performance was not deserving it.

In college, White ran a limited route tree and only lined up on one side of the field. It makes sense that he would need playing time to adjust to the NFL game, but a lot of the development he needs can likely be addressed in practice. I believe the Bears are hoping that game time will allow White to get comfortable and let his natural talents make up for his limitations. They may be right, and White did look much better in game 4 (catching 6 of 9 for 55 yards) before his season-ending injury.

If the Bears do choose to target White like a number one receiver in 2017, they will be taking a significant risk. The potential benefit is they accelerate his development to become the receiver we all hope he can be. The potential harm is the Bears lose games and lose the opportunity to find the potential in their other new receivers. If the Bears had continued the course they were on in 2016, Cameron Meredith might still be an afterthought.

So what did the original article say?

I’ll admit, It’s difficult to find something interesting to say about all 32 teams in the NFL. I’ll let you read and decide if Sean Tomlinson found something interesting to say about the Bears.

From his article:

It will be a long season if looking down your quarterback depth chart induces cold sweats.

That's where the Bears find themselves after signing one quarterback who has attempted 11 regular-season passes over the past two seasons and then swinging an ill-advised draft trade for another who made 13 starts in college.

The former is Mike Glennon, who became the annual poster boy for supply-and-demand economics. Any contract that gives Glennon $18.5 million in guaranteed cash is a bad idea.

In short, the Mike Glennon contract and the trade up for Trubisky were bad ideas. Here’s my feelings on these opinions, presented to you in bullet point format for emphasis.

  • These opinions are completely unoriginal, thoroughly uninspired, and entirely recycled.
  • These opinions were absolute garbage in the first place: Glennon’s contract is consistent with the market and should be judged on how much guaranteed money he was given in future years (about 3 million); despite what anyone else might have done, the trade up for Trubisky was a fair value and done for an understandable reason already addressed here and elsewhere ad nauseum.
  • As someone who loves the Bears, and loves bears, I definitely love polar bears. Consequently I know that literal garbage should not be recycled. Adding garbage to the recycle bin makes the entire recycling process less efficient and ultimately contributes to global warming and polar bear genocide.

So what do you guys think is the biggest risk the Bears are making in 2017?