The 2021 NFL Draft was over two weeks ago, and the excitement surrounding the Bears’ class remains strong.
From acquiring a potential franchise quarterback to a book-end along the offensive line to a quality Day 3 performance, the Bears checked most of the boxes that fans and draft analysts alike would have projected as a “dream haul”.
While the long-term prospects surrounding Chicago’s draft class seem high, how much of an impact will the group make in 2021? Varying factors could play into just how productive their rookies could be this year, but regardless, the future does seem bright for the Bears’ class.
Here are some statline predictions as to how the Bears’ rookies will perform in 2021.
Justin Fields, QB
It would be incredibly shocking if Justin Fields doesn’t end up as the Bears’ starting quarterback at some point in the 2021 season.
Andy Dalton isn’t necessarily a bad quarterback, but the upside with putting him under center as the Bears’ starter is much smaller than doing so with Fields. Should the rookie’s game translate to the NFL level, Fields would give Chicago a quarterback who would be able to stretch the field in a way that hasn’t been seen consistently in the organization for quite some time. His athletic profile indicates he could quickly become one of the more productive rushing quarterbacks in the league, too. It’s likely that Dalton starts off the year as the team’s starter, but Fields should be able to usurp the veteran early on in the year.
Prediction: 17 G, 12 GS, 3,241 yards, 23 TD, 6 INT, 66.1 completion percentage, 73 rushing attempts, 369 rushing yards, 3 rushing TD
Teven Jenkins, OT
With the release of Charles Leno Jr., expect Teven Jenkins to be the Bears’ starting left tackle from Day 1.
Jenkins’ nasty demeanor and his combination of straight-line quickness and power at the point of attack makes him an ideal fit in an outside-zone blocking scheme. It’s tough to predict a player to play and start in every single game — much less as a rookie — but assuming Jenkins wins out the starting left tackle job, there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t be a fixture in the starting lineup for every game he plays this year.
Prediction: 15 G, 15 GS
Larry Borom, OL
Assuming Germain Ifedi starts at right tackle for the Bears, Larry Borom likely projects as the team’s top backup offensive lineman.
His versatility starting at both tackle and guard spots during his time at Missouri indicates he could be slotted in whenever a starting offensive lineman gets injured. Injuries are unpredictable, but given the fact that there are five offensive linemen it seems likely that at least one of them will miss time to injury. Borom’s nasty edge and upside in an outside-zone blocking scheme should see him earn playing time as the team’s top backup lineman sooner rather than later. Plus, overcoming Ifedi for the starting right tackle spot would open up the opportunity for more starts as a rookie.
Prediction: 17 G, 4 GS
Khalil Herbert, RB
How often the Bears activate Khalil Herbert to their active roster likely depends on their usage of Tarik Cohen.
There’s a strong chance the Bears could utilize Cohen more as a wide receiver than they have in past year, which could be inferred from their lack of high-end investment at the position this offseason. If that is indeed their plan, then Herbert should be able to step in a competitor for the second-string running back job alongside Damien Williams. If not, then Cohen and Williams could see Herbert pushed into inactivity on gamedays. Regardless, Herbert’s athletic ability and ball-carrier vision projects him as a great fit in Matt Nagy’s system in the long haul.
Prediction: 9 G, 42 rushing attempts, 193 rushing yards, 1 TD, 5 kick returns, 87 return yards, 6 receptions, 49 receiving yards
Dazz Newsome, WR
Though it appears Anthony Miller will be starting in the slot for the Bears this year, don’t be surprised if Dazz Newsome pushes him for playing time.
Newsome’s lateral agility and vision after the catch makes him a dynamic threat in space. That, along with his experience on special teams, should likely see him active on gamedays for the Bears in 2021. Time will tell if he or Miller will be the receiver to gain more reps at the slot position, but Newsome should be able to carve out a niche for himself on the roster as a rookie.
Prediction: 16 G, 3 GS, 17 receptions, 214 yards, 1 TD
Thomas Graham Jr., CB
Of any of the Bears’ three sixth-round picks, Thomas Graham Jr. seems to stand the best chance of playing in a major role as a rookie.
Graham’s route-recognition abilities and his fluidity dropping back in coverage saw him intercept eight passes and deflect 32 in his three years with Oregon. His skill-set projects best in the nickelback role at the NFL level, and given the Bears’ open competition in the slot on their defense, Graham could break into the starting lineup with a strong training camp and preseason. Given Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor are both fairly unproven on defense — and the latter might end up as a backup cornerback on the outside — the starting nickel position figures to be wide open. Graham stands a strong chance of entering the lineup in due time.
Prediction: 17 G, 8 GS, 56 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU
Khyiris Tonga, DL
The Bears have a tendency to slowly bringing along late-round rookies, especially rookies at positions they already have some depth at.
Given that they already have Mario Edwards and Angelo Blackson along the defensive line, the Bears could end up putting Khyiris Tonga as a gameday inactive for a majority of the year. The seventh-round pick should be able to see some playing time this year, but he’s more of a long-term investment.
Prediction: 6 G, 1 GS, 9 tackles, 1 TFL