The Chicago Bears went into this weekend’s NFL Draft in desperate need of improvement at countless positions on the field, and they’ve certainly cast a very wide net in terms of grabbing a slew of talented players.
While all of the hallmarks of Ryan Pace’s approach are on display, including arm length, explosiveness, and high production at the collegiate level, he’s also made some interesting decisions that could have a serious impact on the team’s roster for 2016 and beyond.
With that in mind, we’ve graded each of the Bears’ 2016 draft picks, and explained what they’re going to bring to the table as they begin their NFL careers.
Round 1, Pick 9: Leonard Floyd, Linebacker – Georgia
Giving Floyd a lower grade than any other pick the Bears have made may seem harsh, but when a team trades up to grab a player, you have to anticipate that he’s going to be an instant difference maker on the field, and there are arguments to be made that Floyd doesn’t fit that profile for the Bears.
Sure, he’s a very athletic, long player that can close out space and make plays, but he also has limited potential in terms of getting stronger or becoming an elite linebacker. He doesn’t profile as a three-down linebacker right away, and although he could develop into one, that’s not the kind of thing that you want from a top-10 pick in the draft.
With all of that being said, Pace did a very nice job last season of evaluating draft talent, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt, especially with the rest of the draft class in mind.
Round 2, Pick 56: Cody Whitehair, Offensive Guard – Kansas State
The Bears’ offensive line already seemed pretty well set, with the addition of guys like Manny Ramirez and Bobby Massie to the roster, but they still used a very high draft pick to address an issue, as they bring Whitehair aboard.
The question isn’t necessarily what he’ll bring to the table (where he’ll likely play as a guard), but what the selection means for the future of both Matt Slauson and Hroniss Grasu. Will the Bears trade Slauson, or are they anticipating moving him to center and giving Grasu more time to gain strength and improve his technique at the position?
They could also move Kyle Long back out to tackle and have Whitehair play the guard position, but that doesn’t seem like an ideal scenario for Chicago.
Round 3, Pick 72: Jonathan Bullard, Defensive End – Florida
Watching game film of Bullard indicates that he should have probably been a second round pick for the Bears. He is a remarkable athlete with a lot of versatility on the defensive line, and he’ll certainly be able to add an athletic element to the Bears as they try to solidify the ends of their line up.
Pro Football Focus named him the best pick of the second day of the draft, praising the Bears for selecting him. He isn’t the most explosive player, but he is quick around the line of scrimmage and has a knack for slapping away hands and shedding blocks.
Round 4, Pick 113: Nick Kwiatkoski, Linebacker – West Virginia
The Bears have focused a lot of resources on improving at the middle linebacker position during this offseason, adding Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan at the position. Kwiatkoski gives them another young option at the position, and he’ll come in from the Mountaineers’ defense looking to make an impact on defense and on special teams.
He is a very solid tackler, and while he isn’t the most athletically-gifted player in the draft, he’s a hard worker that should fit in very well with the team’s culture in Chicago.
Round 4, Pick 124: Deon Bush, Safety – Miami
If Bears fans wanted a hard hitter, then they certainly found one in Bush. In highlight packages on YouTube, Bush routinely makes monstrous hits over the middle of the field, and even though he isn’t the most sure-handed tackler in the draft, the Bears certainly view him as a similar talent to Adrian Amos at the safety spot.
According to scouting reports, Bush will need to work hard on his ability to diagnose plays off the snap. Fortunately for him, he works out in the offseason with Bears safety Antrel Rolle, and he’s looking forward to working with his fellow Hurricanes alum at the next level.
Round 4, Pick 127: Deiondre’ Hall, Safety – Northern Iowa
Pace and company love players with long arms, and Hall’s are incredibly long, measuring in at 34 and 3/8ths inches. That is one inch longer than Kyle Long’s arms, and that length gives him the unique ability to force turnovers and wrap up tackles in space at the safety position.
In his post-draft interview, Hall said that he models his game after Charles Tillman, and if he can provide that style of production, then Vic Fangio is absolutely going to love him. The Bears have been looking for playmakers in space, and adding a player that can take reps along with Adrian Amos could be a huge boost to a secondary in desperate need of one.
Round 5, Pick 150: Jordan Howard, Running Back – Indiana
The Bears already have a lot of running backs on their roster, with Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and Jacquizz Rodgers all already in the mix, but Howard gives the Bears something they were sorely lacking last year: a really good third down and short yardage option out of the backfield.
Watching film of Howard reveals exactly what the Bears are hoping for out of him: a vicious runner that hits opponents hard, gets extra yards with his strength and nose for gaps in the line of scrimmage, and, most notably, a guy that can actually catch the ball out of the backfield.
He is a third or fourth round talent that the Bears managed to grab in the fifth round, and fans should be thrilled with his selection.
Round 6, Pick 185: DeAndre Houston-Carson, Safety – William & Mary
When picking this late in the draft, teams are looking for two things: versatility and an ability to play special teams. Houston-Carson fills both of those roles, and he has the game that the Bears are looking for in their players. He has long arms, an insatiable work ethic, and is willing to do the nitty-gritty work involved with playing on the special teams unit.
With the way this team has struggled in that area the last several seasons, adding a good player like Houston-Carson is certainly the way to go.
Round 7, Pick 230: Daniel Braverman, Wide Receiver - Western Michigan
The Bears already have a really solid slot receiver type in Marc Mariani, but Braverman could give them another option there if they choose to utilize him in that fashion. He's got decent speed, but he doesn't have much size and isn't exactly a downfield threat. Should be interested to see what Dowell Loggains has in mind for him.