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Bears mailbag: More draft questions, Trubisky predictions for 2019 and possible regression on the way? That and more in this week’s mailbag

The draft is just over a week away, so we’ll tackle your draft questions along with feelings on the upcoming season. All in this week’s mailbag.

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Florida International v Florida Atlantic Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

We are exactly eight days away from opening night in the 2019 NFL draft. Despite the Chicago Bears not picking until No. 87, there’s plenty to be intrigued about as the draft process plays out.

Not only are the Bears slated to have five picks next weekend, but they should be very active in the undrafted free agent market with a roster currently set with 66 players. That means between the draft, undrafted players, plus more tryouts expected in rookie mini-camp at the start of May, they’ll need to add at least 24 players over the next few weeks.

The roster currently sits at 66 after tight end Zach Miller announced his retirement, due to his serious knee injury that he suffered in the middle of the 2017 season that required a total of 10 surgeries.

It’s also worth mentioning that the 2019 schedule release is scheduled for 7pm central time tonight and will be televised on both ESPN and the NFL Network.

With all of that in mind, there’s always plenty to talk about when it relates to the Bears, so let’s get to it.

The Bears have met with 17 different running backs in some way, shape or form. Of those meetings, there’s only been a handful that I would count as players that won’t be around if they stay at 87.

There’s also quiet a few that are projected to go in rounds four through six, so it’s quite possible that general manager Ryan Pace could wait an extra round to grab arguably his “biggest” need.

Of the three you mentioned, I think it’s very likely that both David Montgomery and Miles Sanders are gone if the Bears stay at 87. Devin Singletary is going to be interesting because people either love him as a top 80-90 talent or they have him grouped in with about 10 players with fourth and fifth round grades. For me, Singletary has a late third or early fourth, so I expect him to be around. They’ve also met with him on four different occasions including a private visit and workout.

My gut still tells me they go running back in the third, but if they hold off until the fourth or fifth round here’s a few guys I like:

  • Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)
  • Justice Hill (Oklahoma State)
  • Bruce Anderson (North Dakota State)
  • Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma)
  • James Williams (Washington State)

I feel like too many people make a big deal about the Bears schedule this year. I’ve seen an argument made that the Bears are playing a “first place schedule” this season, but fail to realize that only means 2 different teams from the rest of the NFC North.

I’m not going to get too deep into this because predicting strength of schedules based on the previous year’s record, rarely equates to much of anything. If you’re looking for a better reason why none of this actually matter, Jonathan Wood’s piece on this exact topic is a must read.

As far as the Bears roster turnover, I think when you compare it to other teams across the league, you’ll see that there has been a ton of change. Yes, they lost Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos among others, but that’s only two starters on a defense loaded with Pro Bowlers and very good talent.

An argument can be made that they may have gotten worse in those positions, but I think when you look at their overall additions plus the age of their team, there’s plenty of reason to believe this is still an ascending team. Keep in mind good teams lose talent all of the time, but are able to get by with lesser players or develop draft picks into better replacements. Keep in mind, the Bears defense gave up an average of 10.5 points-per-game over their final four games. That included missing Callahan, Eddie Jackson and even Aaron Lynch for portions of that.

Good teams develop talent and most importantly, good teams have quality depth. That was something the Bears had last year and I expect that to continue in 2019, so I would not expect regression from a team that is built to not only win, but continue to get better in their current window.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is going into Year 3 in his NFL career, but this will only be his second year in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense. It will also only be his third year of starting since high school. I think that’s important to keep in mind when comparing his progress to that of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

Trubisky was well on his way to a 3,600 yard season before his shoulder injury that forced him to miss two games in the second half of the season. When you combine those numbers with the context of him being in first year of a very complex offense, I don’t think it’s overly difficult to see him not only breaking the single-season passing yards mark, but possibly breaking the 4,000 yard marker as well.

As long as he stays healthy and builds off his progress from the second half of the season, I see no reason why he can’t land right around that marker. I’ve gone back and re-watched Trubisky in the first three weeks of last year, versus where he ended up and the progression he made was actually pretty remarkable. I’m not sure I’d label it a make or break year for Trubisky, but in order for this team to take the next step, he’s going to play a large part.

When looking at the team’s current “needs”, I think that term should be used lightly, at least in the short-term. I’d rank them like this:

  • Running Back
  • Kicker
  • Defensive Back
  • Offensive Guard
  • Tight End
  • Edge Rusher
  • Receiver

Obviously running back is a position they will attack and I expect it to be addressed early. I’d also assume they’ll add another kicker, whether that’s a late-round pick or a priority undrafted free agent, we’ll have to wait and see. Defensive back is somewhat broad because cornerback depth is question and the Bears currently have just one safety under contract past this season.

When looking at guard, that’s a position that I could see them pushing back another year. They have Rashaad Coward that will be taking work at both tackle and guard, so he could be a future replacement for Kyle Long. But this is a position where I see them maybe kicking the can down the road another year, as well as edge rusher. You can never have enough pass rushers, but the frequency of hitting on edge talent after the third round becomes very scarce. With the amount of future needs they have, it may make more sense to wait on edge and roll with what they have.

It seemed like an eternity between years in which the Bears had a Pro Bowler before this past year. Then it seemed like the flood gates opened and Oprah was handing out Pro Bowl invitations in the team’s locker room like candy.

This year, I’d like to a few key players to take the next step:

  • Roquan Smith
  • James Daniels
  • Allen Robinson

This is a team with a lot of talent and a lot of young talent. Smith was last year’s eighth overall pick and seemed to get better every week. You don’t normally take inside linebackers in the top 10 unless you believe they are game changers. That’s exactly what I expect Smith to form into.

With Daniels, I think he finished the year strong, after starting the season on the bench. Harry Hiestand is one of the top offensive line coaches in the league and it appears that Daniels is moving back to his more natural position at center. The combination of the move and him going into his second year, makes him another player that could take a sizable step and become a top center in 2019.

Finally, Robinson is someone that signed for big money last offseason, but didn’t really impress in the box score. With that in mind, it was Year 1 of his rehabilitation coming off an ACL tear and usually players are back to normal, if not better in Year 2. He’s also just 25-years-old and flashed a lot of dominant potential down the stretch. It would not shock me at all to see him become the team’s best receiver since Alshon Jeffery left for Philadelphia a few years ago.