Chicago Bears: Stuck Between A Rock And A Hard Spot

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

When you have a top ten pick, you hope to get a multi-Pro Bowl player.  You also hope that that player plays a position of need so as to make the biggest impact.  So today we’ll look at some potential impact players for the Chicago Bears.

This week has been one where I have yet again been reminded of a very important truth in the NFL draft season.  Especially with the Chicago Bears and the ever evasive Ryan Pace.  Every statement made, including player projections, should end with, “unless they don’t.”  That also expands to, “unless he doesn’t” or “unless they can’t.”

The Bears could take Quinton Nelson, unless they don’t.  The Bears should trade down, unless they can’t.  Tremaine Edmunds will develop into the next star defensive player, unless he doesn’t.

The draft as a whole has about a 26% success rate in finding starters, and only 49% in the first round.  Also, 44% of those who do start at some point never make it to years 7-10 .  That means that half of the people whose name gets called on Thursday night won’t regularly make a starting lineup in the NFL.  16 out of 32 players who teams get excited about on Thursday will “bust.”  That’s what the statistics tell us anyway.

So since it’s a gamble anyway, the goal should be to try to find the player who will make the greatest impact.  That is, which of the available players will put more wins into the W-L columns?  So let’s take a look at some of the players who could be available.  Are any of them truly difference makers for the Bears?

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The Players In The 2018 Draft:

This is just a tough year for the Bears to be picking eighth.  It’s too high to really project a trade down with a quarterback seeking team.  It’s also too low to get the one game changing talent that plays a position of immediate need (Bradley Chubb).  So instead, the Bears must make some tough choices as none of the players projected to be available are either playing a position of dire need or are so transcendent that they will change them game by themselves.

Quenton Nelson:

Quenton Nelson is a guard.  The explanation should stop there, but since many disagree I’ll continue.  Nelson as a rookie is not going to be better than Josh Sitton.  Sitton was (and arguably still is) a top five NFL guard.  Even if Nelson lives up to the hype, he’ll simply be a replacement for Sitton,  a top five guard.  That fact should give you pause Bears fans, it really should.

Sitton wasn’t able to keep Charles Leno from being used as a turnstile from time to time.  He also couldn’t help Bobby Massie anchor the outside edge and keep from getting burned by speed rushers.  Nelson won’t be able to do any of those either.  Will his holes be larger than Sitton’s?  That’s Hard to imagine, but even if it is, it doesn’t help if the rest of the line doesn’t do their job.  The worst thing here is that there is no impact on the team, and with Nelson, that’s the ceiling impact.  That he plays as well as Sitton, but does it for many more years.

It’s hard to say that there will be a serious drop off in team play between Nelson, Will Hernandez, or Isaiah Wynn.  Any of the three could come and reasonably win the starting left guard job this off-season.

That is not a real impact, the way you’d want, at number eight.  It won’t move the W-L needle.

Tremaine Edmunds:

Tremaine Edmunds could end up being the steal of the draft.  He’s a young kid with almost limitless athletic potential.  He’s fast, tackles well, and his athleticism makes up for his lack of experience and instincts.  That said, his inexperience and youth could also lead to the need for a red-shirt year. That has to be factored in.

Edmunds also plays inside linebacker, so he’ll have limited pass rushing opportunities with which he can make an impact.  He needs time to develop his skills, and knowledge, as well as to hone his instincts.

He is a great pick for a team drafting later or with a lot of defensive talent that could help him learn while he sits for a while.  The problem is that the Bears will ask him to come in and start right away after taking him at number eight.  That might be a tall order for a younger player, but that’s today’s NFL.  Early draft picks don’t sit and learn.  If they do, they risk being labeled as busts.  It’s not fair, but that’s the game today.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpartick, is he a corner?  Is he a safety?  Would he play nickel?  Is nickel worth a number eight pick if they’re on the field 70% of the snaps per game?  These are all questions that surround the best defensive back in the draft.  Would he replace Adrian Amos?  Is Amos worth replacing after having his best season as a professional?  There are just so many variables with this choice.

The one thing that does stand out is Fitzpatrick’s ability to play everywhere.  He offers Vic Fangio a Swiss Army knife with which he can shut down opposing offenses.  The biggest question however is once again, how much of an impact will trading out either Bryce Callahan or Adrian Amos make?

If he gets 5+ interceptions in his first season, then he’s worth it.  Given the Bears inability to generate turnovers regularly, that is needed.  However, if he simply plays a little better than the guy before him, is he really going to make the kind of impact that a 10+ sack pass rusher is going to make?  That’s the kind of player that Harold Landry has the potential to be if we trade down and target him.

I would say that the pass rusher is the far better bet to move the needle on the Bears success-o-meter this season.

Roquan Smith:

Roquan Smith is an intriguing option.  He’s the most NFL ready Inside Linebacker in the draft.  Yes he needs work on his technique taking on blocks.  It’s also true that he needs to work on being a more fundamentally sound tackler.  However the fact remains that if you had to hang your defensive hat on any player in the draft not named Chubb or Fitzpatrick to make an immediate impact for your team, this is the guy.

The question for the Bears is, will he truly make more of an impact than a trade down to grab additional players for a roster in desperate need of a broad infusion of talent?  Yet, you can’t always trade down. If we are stuck at eight this is the guy I most likely pull the trigger on.

Denzel Ward:

Here again, the question is why a cornerback?  Denzel Ward is unlikely to overtake Prince Amukamara or Kyle Fuller as a rookie, and while he could probably win the starting nickel spot, will that really tilt the field?  Will he splash as big as a fast receiver with great route running skills who frees Allen Robinson from the constant double teams that he will face?

In a year or two Ward could replace Amukamara.  Again, however, we do not have the luxury of drafting for two years from now.  If the Bears want a player who will change the complexion of the game on Sundays, then they’re going to have to look outside of the defensive backfield.

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Chicago Bears

The Conclusion:

The number eight spot in this year’s draft simply does not line up well for the Bears.  In just about any other year I would champion a top player at number eight, but not this year.  The biggest impact that Pace can make this year is to trade down, acquire more picks and then target either an Edge Rusher (first choice) or a Wide Receiver (if we trade down farther) as well as get additional talent throughout the draft.

Since the statistics show that the majority of players picked don’t hit, the best way to increase your odds is to pick more players.  The more draft picks you have, the more likely you are to find the “right” players.  Also, if you trade back a bit, the best players available match up better with the teams most immediate needs.  A one two punch of Harold Landry and Will Hernandez with an additional second or third round pick would be a God send for this roster.

You could then target Michael Gallup in the late second or early third round to hit the trifecta.  If Pace could walk away with Landry, Hernandez, and Gallup in the first three rounds, then he deserves a medal.  All three could potentially be starters for the Bears this year, especially if Kevin White gets injured again.

One way or another, it will all be over this weekend.  Then the real fun can begin.  The fun of trying to figure out how the new players will fit.  How will Matt Nagy and Vic Fangio use them?  What impact will they have?  Until then, fellow Bears fans, Bear Down and enjoy the ride.

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