I’ve always assumed the best thing the Chicago Bears could do to escape perennial mediocrity would be to hire me as GM. This assumption continued to strengthen as I conquered season after season of Madden franchise mode, and it has been bolstered beyond reason over the last few years as I have captained multiple recreational flag football teams, successfully steering them in the general direction of success.
Naturally, when Lester asked us if anyone wanted to try out Fanspeak’s online ultimate GM software, I was first to raise my hands and roll up my sleeves to dig in.
The software itself was easy to use. You start out deciding if you want to trade any players, and then deciding which players to cut. The cap numbers reported for cutting players seemed generally accurate, but I didn’t fact check any of them. I cut all the players the Bears have already cut, then I traded Nick Foles to Jacksonville. Partly because I wanted a 7th round pick, but mostly because I like the idea of the Bears and Jaguars trading him back and forth for the rest of his career until he eventually retires as the mascot for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The software then predicted cuts from other teams. This feature (and the software in general) would probably be most fun at the beginning of free agency, when the actual cuts weren’t already known. The software has been updated as free agency has gone along, and is mostly up to date on which big free agents have been signed and which are available, but I had to manually sign Lucas Patrick and Byron Pringle to the Bears because those moves somehow flew below Fanspeak’s radar. I chose not to take advantage of any of the surprise cuts (although Jerry Jeudy was appealing). I wanted to do my best to approximate the actual situation the Bears are in.
My next opportunity was to sign free agents. This happened one simulated day at a time, and I was able to make as many day one offers as I could afford before advancing to the next day to see if they were accepted and find out which players had signed with other teams. I was definitely going to slay this given my extensive Franchise Mode experience. My goal was to secure depth at several positions so I could go into the draft not feeling desperate. At receiver specifically, I wanted to get a young player with potential to develop, and a veteran that Fields could use as a security blanket.
OT Tyrell Crosby - offered 2M/year for 2 years. 50% guaranteed. Accepted.
IOL JC Tretter - offered 7M/year for 4 years. 50% guaranteed. Declined. Signed with Packers for 9M/yr. EWWWW.
Receiver Keelan Cole - Offered 3M/year for 2 years. 50% guaranteed. Declined, but didn’t sign elsewhere.
Cornerback Kevin King - Offered 4M/year for 2 years. 40% guaranteed. Accepted.
IOL Trai Turner - Offered 3.2M/year for 2 years. 50% guaranteed. Accepted.
WR T.Y. Hilton - Offered 6M/year for 1 year. Fully guaranteed. Accepted.
WR Keelan Cole - Offered 4M/year for 3 years. 60% guaranteed. Declined, but didn’t sign elsewhere.
WR Dede Westbrook - Offered 1.6M/year for 2 years. 50% guaranteed. Accepted.
At this point I felt comfortable with the roster to head into the draft. I didn’t want to spend too much money, which caused me to lose out of Tretter and kept me from offering on the likes of Jarvis Landry.
Tyrell Crosby was a competent tackle for the Lions before being sidelined due to injury last year. His recent back surgery may be the reason he hasn’t been signed yet, but if he can play at a similar level to his pre-injury days, he’s a great value for a passable starter. Kevin King has had ups and downs with the Packers, but has averaged to above replacement level and wouldn’t be a disaster as CB2 heading into next season. Trai Turner as getting long in the tooth, but is a good value for a starting level guard with the experience to help train up the otherwise short-toothed Bears offensive line.
There weren’t a lot of young receivers with talent left to pick from, so after being rebuffed and honestly offended by Keelan Cole’s two time rejections, I had to turn to another Jaguar’s cast-off in Westbrook, who has shown some promise but never developed. T.Y. Hilton is still a crafty route runner who can be a reliable target for Fields. He was the best option left for the receiver safety net role I wanted to secure.
Being cheap and future-minded, I was done with Free Agency and ready to head to the draft. The website has a handful of draft settings. I kept them basic, using Fanspeak’s draft board for both the list provided me and the computer board. I didn’t put it on the “difficult” setting, which presumably would make trade offers less favorable and possibly force other teams to draft your needs. The joke would be on them for the latter because as you have seen, I had set this team up without any needs.
Trade: Round 2 Pick 7 to the Steelers for Round 2 Pick 20 and Round 3 Pick 20
Trade: Round 2 Pick 16 to the Bengals for Round 2 Pick 31 and Round 3 Pick 31
Round 2 Pick 20: George Pickens WR, Georgia
Round 2 Pick 31: Drake Jackson Edge, USC
Full disclosure, after noticing that the Fanspeak board differed quite about from my preferences (and my expectations of the NFLs) I decided that I could get could value trading back and assume players that I like more than Fanspeak would fall to me. In this case, nobody sent me trade offers, so I offered to teams about 15 picks back hoping they would offer me a 3rd for a 15 pick jump. I ended up finding takers for each of my original 3rd round picks.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised to see George Pickens here, and I was certainly pleased he was still available at the 20th second round pick (52 overall for those counting). Pickens is a physical deep threat with great hands and would be a wonderful complement to Mooney and great match for Fields. Drake Jackson is a fluid edge with a good first step and great flexibility. He could be a great fit as pass-rushing OLB in Eberflus’ scheme and felt like good value at what has become an underrated position of need after the Khalil Mack trade.
Trade: Round 3 Pick 7 to the Eagles Round 3 picks 19 and 37
Round 3 Pick 19: Perrion Winfrey IDL, Oklahama
Round 3 Pick 20: David Bell WR, Purdue
Round 3 Pick 31: Kellen Diesch OT, Arizona State
Round 3 Pick 37: Cam Jurgens C, Nebraska
This was the reward-reaping round for my draft. I was happy with my bounty of two extra thirds from my round two trade-backs, but when the Bears original 3rd round pick came up, the Eagles made an offer I was happy to accept to net an additional 3rd rounder.
I also wasn’t expecting to double dip on defense on day two, but Perrion Winfrey is an explosive three technique that Eberflus would be thrilled to get his hands on. In my opinion, it would be great luck for him to fall this far, but these things happen and I didn’t ask questions. David Bell is a great route-runner who will only fall to round 3 because of poor athletic testing. I’m more than willing to bet on someone with better tape than testing. Kellen Diesch is an athletic tackle who’s a little lacking in girth. My personal preference for Bears is the same that nature rewards: amble fat to survive a long winter. But Diesch would make a good developmental tackle for a zone blocking scheme and the value was right. Cam Jurgens is an aggressive center with good play strength who was the best interior lineman on the board and I didn’t want to wait until the 5th to see what was left.
Maybe I should have traded for a 4th round pick. Whoopsie.
Round 5 Pick 5: Jojo Domann LB, Nebraska
Round 5: Pick 7: Matt Araiza Punt God, San Diego State
Jojo is an athletic linebacker with great coverage ability and excellent ball skills. Eberflus will love him, and he shares a name with a 2000s pop star. There’s a terrific Jojo (the singer) song where a background singer says “Jojo do that dance, hey Jojo do that dance.” As GM, I would make Jojo come up with a celebration dance and play that clip on the loudspeaker any time he makes a play in a home game. Matt Araiza is someone every person doing a 7 round mock draft for every team will use a late pick on. I have no idea when he’ll actually go. If he plays up to his potential, he’s worth much more than a 5th rounder. Teams may be scared to reach for promising special teamers after Aguayo, but I think it’s well worth the risk. Certainly, if the Bears end up trading back for as many picks as they did in my scenario, I’d welcome the pick.
Round 6 Pick 7: Montaric Brown CB, Arkansas
Brown is a hard tackler who thrives in zone and has good ball skills. He could end up being a great value and will fit well in Eberflus’ system.
Round 7 Pick 1: Sterling Weatherford S, Miami of Ohio
Remember when I traded Nick Foles to the Jaguars as a joke? Turns out that 7th round pick was worth an extremely athletic raw safety who will definitely be valuable on special teams and could potential develop into a versatile, hard-hitting strong safety to pair with a resurgent Edward Jackson.
So how do you think I did? It wouldn’t be fair to compare me to Ryan Poles, since he hasn’t had a draft to compare to mine. So let’s compare me to a random Bears GM; let’s say Phil Emery?
For reference, here’s the Bears lineup after my off-season. Remember, there will still be more opportunities to add late free agents and pick up roster cuts before the season starts to help the thinner positions.
QB - Justin Fields
OT - Tevin Jenkins, Tyrell Crosby (Competition: Larry Borom, Kellen Diesch)
IOL - Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Trai Turner (Competition: Cam Jurgens)
WR - Darnell Mooney, T.Y. Hilton, George Pickens (Competition: Byron Pringle, Dede Westbrook, David Bell)
TE - Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin
RB - David Montgomery (rotational: Daryrnton Evans, Khalil Herbert)
Edge - Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Mohammed (competition/rotation: Trevis Gipson, Drake Jackson)
IDL - Angelo Blackson, Perrion Winfrey, Justin Jones
LB - Roquan Smith, Nicholas Morrow (competition: Jojo Dormann)
Outside CB: Jaylon Johnson, Kevin King (competition: Montaric Brown, Thomas Graham)
Nickle CB: Tayvon Young (competition: Thomas Graham)
Safety: Eddie Jackson (competition for #2 safety, DHC, Dane Cruikshank, Sterling Weatherford)
And here’s screenshots of my Fanspeak results: