Bears

How much better did the Bears' NFC North opponents get in the first round of the NFL Draft?

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USA Today

How much better did the Bears' NFC North opponents get in the first round of the NFL Draft?

The Bears collectively kicked their feet up Thursday night, watching the NFL Draft unfold with a few Khalil Mack highlight clips thrown in there to remind them why they didn’t have anything to do. 

The Bears’ competition in the NFC North, though, made four picks Thursday night, infusing significant talent into the division. A look at who Bears players on offense and defense will have to deal with twice a year starting in 2019:

Detroit Lions: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa (No. 8 overall pick)

Where he’s ranked: 6th (Dane Brugler/The Athletic), 12th (Danny Kelly/The Ringer), 13th (Josh Norris/Rotoworld), 21st (Pro Football Focus)

Why it makes sense: Hockenson is one of the best tight end prospects to be drafted in recent history. He’s a true combo in-line tight end, someone who can create mismatches against any defense with his ability to both block and catch. He’s regarded as a high-character player, too, someone who the Lions may believe can help change a deteriorating culture inside their locker room

Why it doesn’t: Hockenson is only the third tight end in the last 20 years to be dated with a top-10 pick, and the last one was…Eric Ebron, who flopped with the Lions after being the 10th overall pick in 2014. The big question for how this pick is viewed may not be how good Hockenson is, but how the guy drafted one pick after him — defensive tackle Ed Oliver — winds up being. 

Green Bay Packers: EDGE Rashan Gary, Michigan (No. 12), S Darnell Savage, Maryland (No. 21)

Where Gary ranks: No. 13 (Brugler), No. 13 (Kelly), No. 15 (Norris), No. 48 (PFF)

Where Savage ranks: No. 28 (PFF), No. 33 (Norris), No. 39 (Kelly), No. 58 (Brugler)

Why it makes sense: Gary and Savage inject loads of talent into a Green Bay defense that underwent a massive overhaul during free agency. Gary will join a pass rush featuring Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Kyler Fackrell, giving defensive coordinator Mike Pettine excellent depth to pressure opposing quarterbacks. The super-athletic Gary has tremendous upside, even if his college production never matched former ranking as the nation’s No. 1 recruit. If the Packers can harness that raw talent, he could be a menace in the division for years to come. 

Savage, meanwhile, looks like a solid partner to pair with Adrian Amos in the back end of the Packers’ defense. He picked off four passes in 2018 and possesses the kind of traits — physicality, speed, ball skills — that teams desire in safeties. Perhaps the Packers see him as a version of Eddie Jackson, who paired well with Amos in 2017 and 2018 with the Bears. 

Why it doesn’t: A couple of instant reactions to the Gary pick didn’t paint it in a positive light:

Gary finished his three-year college career with only 9 1/2 sacks, two fewer than Bears 2018 sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts had in his three years at Utah. He also had a labrum injury pop up that could be of some concern. Further back: Gary, perhaps, could remind you of Alonzo Spellman — the Bears’ 22nd overall pick in 1992 who had nine sacks in three years at Ohio State and took a few years to get off the ground in Chicago (he had 32 sacks in six seasons with the Bears). 

There’s less to not like with Savage — he was a late riser and is a little undersized, but pairing him with Amos seems to make all the sense in the world on paper. 

Minnesota Vikings: C Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State (No. 18)

Where he ranks: No. 17 (Brugler), No. 18 (Norris), No. 23 (Kelly), No. 41 (PFF)

Why it makes sense: The Vikings desperately need offensive line help, and likely felt fortunate that there wasn’t a run on offensive linemen prior to their pick. Bradbury can immediately step in and improve the interior of Minnesota’s offensive line, keeping pressure out of Kirk Cousins’ face and opening holes for Dalvin Cook. His bi-annual battles against Eddie Goldman should be fun to watch. 

Why it doesn’t: A few analysts noted Bradbury being undersized and not having ideal length, though his athleticism and technique should overcome whatever those deficiencies may be. This feels like a smart pick by the Vikings. 

Briefly

— The Oakland Raiders were the only team to pick a running back in the first round, and used the pick the Bears sent them — No. 24 overall — to grab Alabama’s Josh Jacobs. 

— If you’re looking for a position that could see some talented players fall to the Bears’ No. 87 pick: Wide receiver and cornerback. Only Hollywood Brown (No. 23, Baltimore Ravens) and N'Keal Harry (No. 32, New England Patriots) went among receivers; the first cornerback didn't go off the board until the New York Giants traded back into the first round and picked Georgia's Deandre Baker 30th overall. If the Bears have a few players with high grades at either of those positions, there's a chance of those guys slipping deep into the third round and giving Ryan Pace an opportunity to take a clear-cut best player available.

Kindle Vildor dubbed Bears' rookie who could be surprise gem in 2020

Kindle Vildor dubbed Bears' rookie who could be surprise gem in 2020

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has a good eye for talent in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. He nailed picks like Eddie Jackson (fourth round), Jordan Howard (fifth round) and Adrian Amos (fifth round) over the years, and the hope is that one of his Day 3 picks in 2020 will continue that trend.

One player who has a chance to exceed his draft slot is Georgia Southern cornerback, Kindle Vildor, who Pace selected in the fifth round of April's draft. He was recently named the Bears' rookie who could be a surprise gem in 2020.

"We stress confidence when we talk about the corner position," general manager Ryan Pace told reporters. "And [Vildor] definitely has that confidence and that playing demeanor that we look for. A skill set that also translates well to special teams, which is going to be important especially in the early part of his development."

The two-time first-team All-Sun Belt performer will have to beat out a few veterans for reps, but his man-coverage and ball skills should fit favorably in the Bears' defensive scheme.

While most of the post-draft attention has been paid to another Bears rookie cornerback, second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, Vildor has a chance to earn significant playing time as a rookie. Only Kyle Fuller is assured a starting job at this point, and while Vildor faces an uphill battle to unseat Buster Skrine for reps, there's no reason to bet against him. Pace has always been a proponent of competition breeding the best results and if Vildor rises to the occasion, the Bears will waste little time inserting him into the lineup.

Vildor ended his college career with 94 tackles, nine interceptions and 25 passes defended.

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    NFL, players union agree on 5 year extension for 'Madden' video game

    NFL, players union agree on 5 year extension for 'Madden' video game

    Good news, Madden fans: you can officially continue spending $80 to complain about how the game hasn't been good in years. 

    According to Darren Rovell, the NFL and EA Sports have agreed to a 5-year extension: 

    Rovell says his sources have told him that, 'the deal is worth at least $1 billion to the NFL and $500 million to the players. The deal also includes at least $500 million in marketing commitments over the years.' 

    Congrats to everyone involved! Now more than ever, football fans need some good news. There's no tradition as timeless as throwing controllers through TVs and against walls when your friend runs four verticals with a Y skinny post over and over and over again. Madden exists solely to allow people cover to yell at the TV without the presence of, like, a real reason. What would we do without it?