The Bears wrapped up the 2020 NFL Draft on Saturday with seven picks: TE Cole Kmet, CB Jaylon Johnson, EDGE Trevis Gipson, CB Kindle Vildor, WR Darnell Mooney, OL Arlington Hambright and OL Lachavious Simmons.
Five thoughts on the haul, and how the Bears’ draft played out:
1. No quarterback, huh?
The Bears had the opportunity to draft Jalen Hurts in the second round and Jake Fromm in the fifth round, for what it’s worth. Hurts was picked 53rd, three picks after the Bears took Johnson; Fromm slipped all the way to the 167th pick, with the Bears picking Gipson 155th and Vildor 163rd.
So for the fifth time in six years as Bears GM, Ryan Pace did not draft a quarterback. I didn’t think drafting one in the second round made sense (even Hurts) given the team's needs elsewhere. Taking a guy late in the draft might have made sense with the thought of stashing him on the practice squad for a year.
But I don’t mind that Anthony Gordon or some other quarterback who slipped didn’t wind up being picked by the Bears late. It’s pointless to get frustrated with a seventh-round pick. But using those fifth-round picks on important depth players feels more important than taking Fromm, just as grabbing Kmet and Johnson was more important than picking Hurts on Friday.
This means the Bears are kicking their quarterback question down the road (again). But in this year’s draft, it wasn’t a fit.
"It just has to align for us," Pace said. "Every draft, different positions, there are strengths and weaknesses. But for us to take any position, it just has to align for us the right way. So, sometimes there's players we like at that position and the board doesn't fall that way for us. That's what happened for this draft, and we're OK with it because we came away with seven players that we're really excited about."
2. The Bears filled a major need at tight end.
Kmet is not Adam Shaheen, the last tight end the Bears picked in the second round. Shaheen was a boom-or-bust risk coming from Division II Ashland. Kmet played well at college football’s highest level in three years at Notre Dame and has the tape to back it up.
Rookie tight ends often don’t have a ton of success in Year 1. But Kmet’s athletic profile is awesome, and he already has the size, strength and mentality to do some good things as a blocker this year. Whether or not he was a “reach” to go at 43 won’t matter if he pans out the way the Bears expect him to.
"When you see a player of Cole's magnitude and what he's done in his career at Notre Dame and where he's at growth-wise, growing as a run blocker, as a pass protector, and then also you see the highlights of what he can do with the football in his hand, he's the total package," Matt Nagy said.
The other option here would’ve been to have Demetrius Harris (who set career highs with 18 catches and 224 yards in 2017 with the Chiefs) be the primary “Y” tight end, with guys like J.P. Holtz and Ben Braunecker still chipping in. Kmet gives the Bears a better option.
3. Ryan Pace didn’t do anything crazy.
The trades Pace made on Day 3 of the draft were not a problem. Moving a 2021 fourth-rounder for a 2020 fifth-rounder is about an even trade, and sending two sixth-rounders for a fifth and a seventh to get Mooney is fine.
The big takeaway, though, is that for the third time in six drafts, Pace did not trade up to make his first pick. That’s a good thing. The last thing the Bears needed to do in 2020 was burn current or future draft picks to move up, not with a deep crop of second-round talent, and a large gap between those picks and the middle of the fifth round.
4. Position battles at guard and safety come into focus.
The Bears didn’t draft a safety, meaning that unless they sign a veteran free agent at some point in the coming weeks, the battle to start next to Eddie Jackson will come down to Deon Bush, Jordan Lucas, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Sherrick McManis.
Bush, likely, has the inside track to start. It doesn’t feel too likely that the Bears go get Eric Reid, Tony Jefferson or one of the safeties left in free agency.
And at right guard, you’ll see Rashaad Coward and Germain Ifedi compete for the start. Hambright could be in the mix, too, as the Bears see his athleticism and size fitting there (he played tackle in college). The Bears like Coward’s upside and Ifedi’s fit, and clearly liked them enough to not use a high or highish pick on an interior guy.
5. This class should help the Bears win now.
More than anything else, it felt like Pace made relatively safe picks that help the Bears win in 2020 and beyond. He didn’t go hunting for that high-ceiling, low-floor guy with a range of outcomes from All-Pro to complete bust.
With only two top-100 picks, navigating this draft was never going to be an easy task for Pace, Nagy and the Bears’ brain trust. But I like what they did, and the results of it should pay off as soon as the 2020 season gets underway.