By now, everyone knows who the Bears “selected” with their first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. You can do much worse than First-Team All-Pro Khalil Mack at
for No. 24 overall. Mack’s all-encompassing, Thanos-like presence meant the Bears weren’t going to be major players on the first day of the draft barring something unprecedented.
While they have to wait a bit into the third round tonight, you can expect some typical fireworks. It’s been hammered home endlessly, but the Bears don’t have any pressing needs for 2019. Yet they do have positions that could and should be proactively addressed before they become major needs next year. Cornerback, safety, tight end, edge rusher, and offensive tackle all come to mind. Fortunately for Chicago’s sake — after the blue chip pieces of the first round are off the board — it remains a relatively deep prospect pool to choose from.
SB Nation’s lead draft analyst Dan Kadar put together his top 234 players left after the madness of the first round reached its conclusion. Here are my thoughts on several of the names left in regards to their fits with the Bears for their third-round pick at No. 87 overall.
Keep this in mind: Barring the Bears pulling off a trade into the second round, most of the top of Kadar’s list likely aren’t options. (I’ll mention some anyway.)
Note: All rankings are based on Kadar’s remaining board.
35. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
It’s no secret Adam Shaheen has been a quiet disappointment thus far in his professional career. The former 2017 second-round pick once affectionately nicknamed “Baby Gronk” has just 17 receptions in 19 appearances over two years. He’s missed significant time due to respective chest and ankle injuries, and most recently had concussion issues. While the Bears should be satisfied with what versatile 2018 free agent signing Trey Burton brings to the table, his moderate production isn’t enough on its own.
If the Bears do elect to bring in some competition into their tight end room, Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. would slide right in in Matt Nagy’s offense.
The 2018 first-year starter caught 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns in a Crimson Tide campaign that ended with a defeat in the National Championship Game. Smith is a raw player, mainly due to inexperience, but has enough of a mold after playing against some of college football’s best to carve out a solid NFL career. The 6-foot-2, 242 pounded understands the nuances of run blocking in aspects like hand placement and footwork. More importantly, he has the speed and route-running ability to become a matchup nightmare at the next level.
Making a move for Smith would mean the Bears would have to likely trade up from No. 87 overall to nab him. There are worse scenarios than taking a stab at immediate impact talent for a title contender.
41. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
In terms of their starting boundary guys, most NFL teams would envy what the Bears possess at cornerback. A 2018 First-Team All-Pro in Kyle Fuller who is entering the prime of his career at 27-years-old. A solid — albeit injury prone — No. 2 boundary cornerback in Prince Amukamara opposite Fuller. But what happens if one of this pair goes down for any period of time next season? Or, what happens when the Bears don’t have a solid developmental guy in the pipeline for 2020?
Where Chicago actively sits at cornerback is a precarious slope.
He’s unlikely to be there by the time the Bears pick well into the third round, as a typical run on cornerbacks hasn’t yet started. But if fortune were to smile on defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and company, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin would shine with the Bears.
Besides having by far the coolest name in this draft, Ya-Sin is as polished a cornerback as they come. The 6-foot, 192 pounder has the ideal length to profile on the outside as a press and man player. He’s light on his feet and doesn’t panic while moving backwards or when a receiver has broken his bubble. The two biggest traits a cornerback needs to have to thrive in the NFL is ball skills and a willing physicality in run support. Ya-Sin has both in spades, even with only two interceptions last season as a one-year starter. Having ball skills means more than getting picks, it’s being able to find the ball and make a play on it altogether. A willing physicality in run support speaks for itself.
Getting a player like Ya-Sin in the building would be a tall order for the Bears. They would indeed need Charles Tillman around to announce a second-round pick. But he’d be worth it a man capable of taking a starting job opposite Fuller.
71. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
We enter the realm of more realistic possibilities for a No. 87 overall selection. Many will want Bears general manager Ryan Pace and company to address a major hole in the backfield with their first selection. If the Bears elect to go that route, it’s difficult to find many faults with snatching a player such as Henderson: A future superstar in the making if he finds the right offense.
Henderson, a 2018 First-Team All-American, is a touchdown machine. Over the course of three years with Memphis, he scored an astonishing 44 touchdowns — including 25 total in 2018. Scoring was such a common occurrence for Henderson that any time he didn’t find the end zone, you were left scratching your head with confusion.
Another proponent of the “Memphis Grind” his former college teammate Anthony Miller often speaks about, Henderson shows out as one of this draft class’s preeminent sleepers. He’s a home-run hitter of the highest order thanks to fantastic breakaway speed and acceleration. Seriously, saying Henderson is electric would be an understatement. He’s useful out of the backfield as a receiver — a big catch-22 for these Bears. And he knows how to work in a complementary role given his explosive rushing style.
In a pending back-by-committee in Chicago, Henderson would have no issue slotting in beside Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis. If he can last long enough to No. 87 overall, he’s the missing “Third Element” the Bears have been seeking at running back since trading Jordan Howard. If he’s within a stone’s throw, don’t be surprised if Pace pulls off a slight trade-up.
81. David Long, CB, Michigan
While a stud like Ya-Sin should be long gone by the time the Bears even think of addressing their secondary, someone like Long is in their late Day 2 wheelhouse.
A star on a stacked Michigan defense, Long is another third-round player with the ability to shine right away in the NFL. The Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh originally recruited as both a cornerback and receiver out of high school in California, and that versatility was on display consistently in his college career.
While undersized (in terms of length, anyway) for a boundary man at 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, Long doesn’t let his shortcomings get in the way of punishing receivers and making them regret having to try getting open against him. He’s one of the most physical cornerbacks in this draft as someone who clearly takes pleasure in demoralizing his opponents. Long has fluid hips, is always balanced and composed on his feet, and is a premier competitor. Given his press style, one ideal pro comparison for Long is ironically Amukamara. Who would’ve ever thought?
The 2018 First-Team All-Big Ten player in Long is someone that could be an early second-round pick, and I’m not sure many would blink. No one should blink if the Bears find themselves adding this complete cornerback at any stage.
86. Christian Miller, Edge, Alabama
The Bears’ edge rush story doesn’t need much rehashing. Mack consistently eats planets against whoever has the misfortune of attempting to block him. Leonard Floyd, while inconsistent to start his career, carved out a solid role in the second half of the 2018 season. And Aaron Lynch, injuries and all, is a great No. 3 — especially on another cheap deal.
But much like with cornerback, what happens if any of this trio goes down? It’s difficult to confidently say the Bears can withstand another major edge rushing injury. They certainly didn’t in 2018 when Mack dealt with a nagging ankle as they lost two straight games to the Dolphins and Patriots. They definitely missed Lynch’s services in a Wild Card Game defeat to the Eagles after injuring his elbow late in the season. To put all your eggs in Floyd’s talented basket — who played most of the first half of 2018 with a broken hand — would be misguided. The Bears are no longer playing for 16-game seasons. They want to be playing well into January, and eventually February. To do so, they need a full complement of reliable edge rushers at all times.
Another Alabama product in Christian Miller would be the answer to the Bears’ underlying woes on the edge. A four-year player but first-year starter in 2018, Miller shined in the first full-time opportunity handed to him. Eight sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss on a loaded Crimson Tide defense is nothing to scoff at. Miller accomplishes his work with a lanky and still-growing 6-foot-3, 247 pound frame. He has a fantastic pass rushing get-off, and almost always closes well with an opportunity to take down a quarterback. The best part of Miller’s game is the variance he presents. You can stand him up or have his hand in the ground and there isn’t much of a difference in production. In a veiled defensive scheme the Bears are likely to run under Pagano, Miller’s well-roundedness should be music to their ears.
When you take note of his special, raw athletic traits, it’s a wonder many think Miller will be available by the time the Bears pick in the third round. If he is, as prognosticated, he should be considered one of the steals of this draft. He’s someone, as a likely Day 2 pick, that will make a name for himself from the get-go. If he gets to do it with a dominant Bears defense, watch out.
Honorable mentions and third-round possibilities: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson. Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M. Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network, the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times. Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.