Since becoming the Bears’ general manager in 2015, Ryan Pace has made some magic in the middle of the draft. He’ll have to rely solely on that history with his 2019 draft class.
The Bears didn’t pick until the No. 73 selection—a spot they had to move up 14 slots to get to—but they still came away with some quality talent. A handful of their picks could end up making an immediate impact, even with their having one of the most talented rosters in the league.
A lot can change between now and the end of the 2019 season, and injuries to players are almost impossible to predict. However, snap counts, individual workloads and overall production can be estimated to varying degrees of success. Let’s take a look at how the Bears’ draft picks could end up doing in their rookie seasons.
Though the depth chart for the Bears’ running back position is unknown, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that David Montgomery will play a big role in their offense pretty quickly.
A near-perfect fit in Chicago’s West Coast, zone-blocking offense, the rookie was one of the best collegiate running backs in the nation last year for his intelligence, contact balance, lateral agility and pass-catching skills out of the backfield. Whether he starts the year as the team’s starter remains to be seen, but at the very least, he figures to take over the role early in the season.
Prediction: 16 games and 13 starts, 198 carries for 913 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, 37 catches for 286 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns
A luxury pick for a team that didn’t have any pressing needs, Riley Ridley gives the Bears a potential starter at the ‘Z’ receiver position down the line. This year, though, it might be tough for him to get signicant snaps.
With Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller on the roster, Chicago’s starting receivers are essentially locked into place. They also have the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and Emanuel Hall on the roster. That said, though, Ridley is a fantastic route runner with good size, so he should have some role in 2019. He could end up starting a few games this season if Robinson or Gabriel get hurt, but don’t expect him to have a fantastic rookie year.
Prediction: 14 games and three starts, 21 catches for 227 receiving yards and one touchdown
Duke Shelley may have been an under-the-radar pick in the sixth round, but he could end up being a contributor pretty quickly for the Bears.
Though they signed Buster Skrine in free agency, he’s 30 years old and has had some penalty issues in recent years. He will presumably start the year as the Bears’ starting nickelback, but Shelley has the athleticism and ball-hawking instincts to be a playmaker at the position. If Skrine ends up getting hurt this year, don’t be surprised if the rookie uses his time in the limelight to steal a starting role.
Prediction: 15 games and seven starts, 29 total tackles, one sack, one interception, five pass deflections
Kerrith Whyte Jr.
The Bears added some more depth to their backfield in Kerrith Whyte Jr., and while he faces tall odds to be a regular contributor, he could still see some time on the field in his rookie year.
Whyte is a speedy and powerful runner whose explosiveness will be helpful in the Bears’ offense. Expect him to play a role similar to that of Taquan Mizzell last season, in that he sees a few snaps on offense and special teams, but is used sparingly for the most part. The rookie projects to be better than Mizzell, so he could be in for a few more touches than his veteran counterpart got in 2018.
Prediction: 10 games, 22 carries for 98 yards, four catches for 39 yards, five kick returns for 114 yards
Using a seventh-round pick on a player like Stephen Denmark is a low-risk, high-reward move. Though he’s incredibly raw and won’t be able to make an impact right away, he has the physical tools that coaches love at the defensive back position.
The Bears could use some depth in their secondary, but Denmark is unlikely to provide it in his rookie year. Since his size and speed would make him a hot commodity for other teams if he were placed onto the Bears’ practice squad, expect them to keep him on their 53-man roster but keep him inactive on most game days.
Prediction: Three games, two tackles