What drafting Georgia WR Riley Ridley proves about the 2019 Bears

What drafting Georgia WR Riley Ridley proves about the 2019 Bears

Did the Bears need another wide receiver? Not really. 

But after addressing running back by trading up and drafting David Montgomery in the third round on Friday, did the Bears really have any other truly glaring needs?

An argument could be made for a few positions: Tight end, edge rusher, cornerback and safety all come to mind. But whoever else the Bears were going to draft after landing Montgomery was always going to be a depth piece, one or two spots removed from the top of the depth chart. So why not take the best player available?

That’s precisely what Ryan Pace did with pick No. 126, landing Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley. 

“It's a great example of us taking the best player on our board,” Pace said. 

For what it’s worth, the Athletic’s Dane Brugler had Ridley No. 59 on his top 100 rankings. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris had him in his top 75. The Ringer’s Danny Kelly had Ridley in his top 100. By a number of accounts outside the favorable walls of Halas Hall, the Bears got themselves a good player with the 126th pick. 

But being able to pick Ridley while not worrying about filling a true need with a fourth-round pick was yet another signal of how strong this Bears roster is heading into the 2019 season. 

“The roster is at a point that we don't have to force anything,” Pace said. “And that's our mindset every draft, but to have a player of that caliber there and comfortably be able to take him was really a no-brainer because he was so high on our board.”

Pace has never been one to outwardly force picks based on need — perhaps trading up to draft Mitch Trubisky could be a counter-argument, though good quarterbacks on rookie contracts are the most valuable commodity in the NFL today. Previously, though, everything could’ve been considered a need on a roster with a dearth of talent. 

But drafting a player like Ridley is what good teams are able to do. They may not need Ridley to be an important contributor now, but what if a year from now they’re in a cap crunch and have to make a difficult decision to cut a highly-paid receiver? Or what if an injury occurs? 

Or, to put it another way: If Ridley develops like the Bears believe he can, it’ll hardly be a bad thing for the team to have another good player on its roster. 

Ridley comes to the Bears with an important trait: His route running ability. That’s an increasingly difficult skill to find in the ranks of college receivers, who so often run simple route concepts and have limited route trees and are able to win on pure strength or athleticism. 

Ridley is strong, no doubt, but the first thing Pace mentioned when rattling off his strengths was his route running ability. That matters. 

“He has a savviness to him to know how to set guys up,” Pace said. “… So when you're watching him, you consistently see him separating from man coverage and I think it's because of his physical skillset but also because he's a very good route runner. So that's one of the first things that jumps out — just how how defined his routes are, how crisp his routes are and how he knows how to set guys up.”

Nagy, too, praised the route running acumen Ridley will bring with him to Halas Hall, as well as a good grasp of some of the finer points of playing the receiver position. 

“He does win a lot more than 50-50 balls,” Nagy said. “He wins a lot of those, in the routes that he runs. He’s always extending his arms. He’s catching the ball away from his chest. He has very, very, extremely natural hands, which is friendly to a quarterback. And he has the route running. He has confidence and when he was in here with us just talking to him, with where he’s at and what he believes in himself and what he can do, we like that. And as Ryan said, he was sitting at a great spot for us and he does nothing but create competition and all of our guys are going to be ready for it.”

It’s far too early to say Ridley will absolutely work out in the NFL, of course. He’s not particularly fast and didn’t have much in the way of college production: 44 catches, 570 yards, nine touchdowns — numbers similar to what 2018 seventh-round pick Javon Wims did his final year at Georgia (45 catches, 720 yards, 7 TDs). 

But he represented something larger for the Bears as a franchise: The best player available, and the team’s ability to confidently take that player without sacrificing a glaring need for it. 

“Truly, by far, (he was) the best player on our board,” Pace said. “And (we’re) very excited to select him.”

Bears could use a quarterback like the XFL's standout passer

Bears could use a quarterback like the XFL's standout passer

The XFL is two weeks into its inaugural season, and there's one player who's standing head and shoulders above the rest as a viable NFL prospect at the game's most important position.

Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker has taken the league by storm. His three touchdown passes in Week 1 set the table for another impressive performance in Houston's Week 2 victory over the St. Louis Battlehawks, and looked every bit the part of a dual-threat playmaker that's quickly become the modern-era prototype.

Take a look:

Walker tossed another three touchdowns while looking like the best player on the field (and in the entire XFL) for the second week in a row. Whether his game can translate to success on the NFL level is a big unknown at this point. He spent two seasons on the Colts practice squad without seeing any regular-season action.

Walker's early-season success is a great example of how developmental leagues like the XFL can serve as a feeder for the NFL at positions of need. Quarterback is no exception, especially in Chicago where Mitch Trubisky is in the most uncertain offseason of his career. 

This isn't to suggest that a player like Walker is appealing enough to be the guy GM Ryan Pace adds to the roster as potential competition for Trubisky. But as a possible QB3 behind Trubisky and an established veteran added in free agency? It isn't the worst idea in the world, especially after seeing the kind of playmaking ability he has when given a chance to get on the field.

XFL players can make the jump to the NFL after the 2020 season concludes. The championship game Is scheduled for April 26.

New mock draft has Bears making trade in 2nd round

New mock draft has Bears making trade in 2nd round

The 2020 NFL draft will be a challenge for Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace. He won't be armed with a first-round pick and has just two selections before the fifth round. Chicago is expected to receive a fourth-round compensatory pick after losing safety Adrian Amos in free agency last year, but that's merely an assumption at this point.

It would come as no surprise if Pace makes a move or two in the second round to acquire more draft capital. It's more likely the Bears will trade down in the 2020 draft as opposed to recent drafts that saw Pace make aggressive moves up the board for WR Anthony Miller (2018) and RB David Montgomery (2019). 

In the latest mock draft from The Draft Network, Pace slides back from No. 43 to No. 48 (originally held by the Jets) and adds an additional fifth-rounder to his toolbox. And the Bears still end up with a player who fans would be happy with at their original pick in tight end Brycen Hopkins (Purdue).

The Bears' trade down was a good one, as they grab a target from earlier in the round while grabbing a fifth in return. Doesn't feel like much, but their cupboards are bare this year, and they need more weapons on offense to survive with Mitch Trubisky at QB

There aren't any trades at No. 50 overall, Chicago's second of two second-rounders. Instead, this mock draft sends the Bears LSU offensive tackle Saadiq Charles.

Saahdiq Charles is one of my favorite developmental tackles that. nobody talks about. He's not ready to step in and start in Year 1, but the Bears can keep Bobby Massie and Charles Leno installed as starters through this year and re-evaluate after Charles bulks up.

Charles will go through the rest of the draft process with some red flags after serving a six-game suspension for the Tigers in 2019. Still, with the premium placed on offensive tackles in today's NFL, landing a player at the position who has starter's upside is a big win, especially with the Bears having more flexibility to get out of Bobby Massie's contract at the end of 2020. While offensive tackle doesn't appear like Chicago's most pressing need, it quickly could become one next year if they don't add a developmental starter early in the 2020 draft.

It's hard to argue with a draft haul that brings the Bears a tight end and an offensive tackle in the second round, as well as an additional fifth-round pick along the way.