With their final selection of Charles Leno, Jr. on Saturday afternoon, the Chicago Bears wrapped up a hectic weekend at the NFL Draft, and they have a boatload of new players to show for it.
None of these players have so much as participated in a practice yet, but we still thought it would be fun to give out grades on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as GM Phil Emery has wrapped up his third draft with the team.
The Bears weren’t exactly hurting at any positions going into the draft, but they certainly bolstered themselves in a couple of key areas with their picks this weekend. The most notable addition on the offensive side of the ball was running back Ka’Deem Carey, whom the Bears snapped up in the fourth round. Graded as the top overall running back by several draft experts, Carey is a bruising back that is going to provide a great goal line and short yardage option for the Bears, and his soft hands will also make him a tremendous weapon out of the backfield.
Not content to stop there, the Bears also drafted quarterback David Fales out of San Jose State during the sixth round of the draft. The quarterback started out as Colin Kaepernick’s back-up at Nevada, and he is appealing to the Bears because of his ability to throw the ball with excellent timing and control. His style is very similar to that of Josh McCown, and if Trestman can have the kind of success in molding Fales as he did in resurrecting McCown’s career, then the Bears could have an excellent back-up quarterback on their roster.
Leno, the Bears’ seventh round selection, has some definitely upside because of his quick lateral movement and his athleticism, but he was docked points on some draft boards because of a lack of lower body strength, a critical component on rushing downs especially. He will need some work, but with a great amount of talent already on the offensive line, he will have time to develop if he makes the cut after training camp.
Overall, the Bears addressed several needs on the team in the appropriate rounds, and getting a guy like Carey in the fourth round might end up being the best value pick that the team made in this year’s draft.
The Bears were coming into the draft focused largely on their defense, and rightfully so. After arguably the worst defensive season in Bears history last year, Emery was forced to spend his first three picks on improving various segments of the team. Kyle Fuller will step in right away as a nickel cornerback, and could also see time as a regular corner if Charles Tillman continues to experience injury issues.
Will Sutton, a defensive tackle out of Arizona State, was a great pick-up by the Bears in the third round. With serious athleticism and comparisons to Cincinnati Bengals terror Geno Atkins, Sutton could end up wreaking havoc in the middle for the Bears for years, and opposing defenses are going to have a tough time bottling him up with guys like Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to contend with as well.
Emery also made the interesting decision to trade back into the fourth round in order to snag Brock Vereen off the board to bolster the safety spot. He may not have the big-hitting ability of a guy like Calvin Pryor, but Vereen has good speed and is good in pass coverage, and the Bears were sorely deficient in both of those qualities last season.
The only real question mark among the Bears’ defensive picks was their decision to take Ego Ferguson in the second round. The LSU product has good raw skills, but it isn’t too often than NFL teams are willing to take on project players in the second round of the draft. As many astute draft experts have pointed out, no one would be complaining about using a pick on Ferguson if he and Sutton had been swapped in the draft order, but it still seems interesting that Emery would pass on guys like Louis Nix III for a player that is less established and more in need of coaching.
Special Teams: B+
It’s rare that we get to bust out our red pens for a special teams selection, and Emery made history on Saturday when he selected a kicker for the first time in his career as an executive. Pat O’Donnell, a punter out of the University of Miami (FL), is a massive guy at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and brings all kinds of athleticism and strength to the table for the Bears. He can absolutely blast the ball, as he did on a 71-yard punt earlier this year, and he is a dedicated student of the game, per scouting reports.
There are a few complaints about his skillset, including some deficiencies in directional punting, but when you look at the raw talent and the sheer power with which he can kick the ball, it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a significant upgrade over Adam Podlesh in the punting department.