Judging by their first two selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, it’s clear the Bears had an imperative to continue adding young weapons to their deep offensive arsenal. After standing pat, the Bears have drafted former Georgia wideout Riley Ridley at No. 126 overall in the fourth round. Someone who can turn into a long-term standout if taken care of well.
From the ground to the air!— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 27, 2019
Welcome to Chicago, Riley Ridley. ⬇ pic.twitter.com/kxZEyR2qhi
Let’s grade the Bears’ selection of another offensive position player.
The only reason I don’t give Ridley’s addition flying colors is because he doesn’t address any more pressing needs. The Bears could still use cornerback and edge depth in their pipelines. To be fair to them, at this point in the draft, their options at those positions were slim pickings.
Otherwise, taking a player like Ridley in the fourth-round — someone many considered to be a second-round talent, yours truly included — is a great forward-thinking move. From bullying smaller cornerbacks and natural body control with the ball in the air, to sure hands — Ridley has every trait you seek in a bigger receiver at 6-foot-2, 199 pounds. It’s the smaller aspects of his game like an occasional lacking quickness off the line he’ll have to fix to become a major contributor at the next level. If the Bears stay patient with Ridley as he learns the nuances of the professional game, he should turn into a solid and reliable player down the line. It won’t easy to quickly integrate into a complicated offensive scheme like head coach Matt Nagy’s, but Ridley has plenty of time.
Standing pat and taking Ridley was the epitome of a “best player available” selection. You don’t pick a player in the fourth round if you don’t expect them to reach their potential.
A two-year starter for the Bulldogs, Ridley is the younger brother of second-year Falcons standout Calvin Ridley. An impeccable red zone threat and big play weapon (he averaged over 14.7 yards per catch) Ridley caught nine touchdowns for Georgia last season. The main difference between the Ridley brothers is that Riley is slightly worse coming out and won’t be a 45-year-old rookie. The main similarity between the brothers is that they both tested relatively poorly in pre-draft work. Other than those two notions, he’s a respectable fourth-round developmental value for general manager Ryan Pace and company.
After trading up for their running back of the future in David Montgomery on Friday night, the Bears add a young receiver to mold for the long-term in Ridley. He joins a deep Chicago offensive room, on paper, that features Montgomery, Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Taylor Gabriel, Mike Davis, Marvin Hall, and Javon Wims. Talk about competition and depth at every skill position. Excuse me while I exhale.
What’s intriguing about Ridley’s pick is what it potentially spells out for some of the Bears’ pricier active receivers.
28-year-old Taylor Gabriel has one more year of a sizable at cap hit at $6.5 million in 2019 on a deal signed last off-season. After next season’s conclusion, the Bears only incur $2 million in dead cap if they were to cut the smaller veteran wideout. To a lesser extent, Allen Robinson also has his dead cap drop to $2 million if cut after the 2019 season. He carries a $15 million cap hit next year on a soon-to-be cap-strapped roster with extensions like Cody Whitehair and Eddie Jackson on the way. Sometimes the writing on the wall is more obvious than it seems.
In my mind, the Bears are more likely to move on from Gabriel after next year and stick with Robinson for another two years given that the latter is their No. 1 wideout. Gabriel doesn’t play special teams and has more of an ancillary role. But, crucially, you can never rule out any scenario in the NFL. They don’t call the league “Not. For. Long” for nothing. The Bears are likely already preparing for a cheaper potential life after Gabriel and Robinson. When they move on is something they’ll just have to let play out.
Until the Bears are forced to rectify with their pending difficult roster decisions, it’ll be fascinating to see how Nagy and his staff attempt to effectively integrate everyone on a Super Bowl contender. There’s but one ball for so many weapons on offense.
It’s a good problem to have.
How would you grade the Bears’ selection of Riley Ridley at No. 126 overall?
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