ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr went through the 2016 NFL Draft for every team and adjusted his initial grades based on how those players performed during the 2016 season. The Bears already had a good grade from Kiper, with a solid “A-” after the draft, but upon further review Kiper bumped the Bears grade up to a firm “A”.
It’s an ESPN Insider article, so I won’t include too much of the content, but here is a quote from Kiper that gives the gist of his reasons for the higher grade:
"“The Bears have to get a really good grade so far,” Kiper wrote, “because at two spots they got guys who are already really good NFL players-among everybody, not just rookies-and they got exceptional value. I’ll start there: Cody Whitehair is already one of the top handful of centers in the NFL, and the Bears got him late in Round 2. Jordan Howard is already one of the top five or six running backs in the NFL, and the Bears got him in Round 5. On a per-snap basis, he was every bit as good and arguably better than Ezekiel Elliott.“I expressed concern at the time about Leonard Floyd’s frame and how well he could hold up, but he had 12 starts, seven sacks, made my All-Rookie Team and showed he can be a disruptive force. With guys like that, you have to ask those questions, but so far he’s showing he has what it takes. Jonathan Bullard also saw almost 300 snaps and could be useful going forward. I said then I thought Nick Kwiatkoski could start early, and that could be the case in Year 2. From there, the only question is if the Bears can develop some of the secondary talent they added. If so, it’s a bonus on a solid class.”"
ESPN’s other primary draft analyst, Todd McShay, is also high on the Bears 2016 draft, naming both RB Jordan Howard and OL Cody Whitehair as two of his top value draft picks. In Howard, Whitehair, and OLB Leonard Floyd, the Bears found three core pieces for the future of their team.
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ILB Kwiatkoski, DL Bullard, and undrafted free agent CB Cre’Von LeBlanc all flashed the ability to be core players as well, which would give the Bears an impressive six future starters from one draft.
The Bears haven’t gotten any contributions yet from defensive backs Deiondre Hall, Deon Bush, and DeAndre Houston-Carson, but none of them have been written off yet either.
Kiper also gave the Bears 2015 draft a “B+” as part of last years regrade series, which gives GM Ryan Pace two successful drafts in a row. Pace and the Bears will need to draft well again this year and probably next as well to build a core of affordable talent that can lead the team out of the NFC North cellar.