Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

The NFL Scouting Combine convening this week in Indianapolis isn't really the high point of pre-draft assessing being done by NFL teams. Those evaluations have been going on for many, many months — on college campuses, at bowl games — and will go on with Pro Days and selected visits to team headquarters.
 
But what it does represent is two things: a chance for teams to probe for detailed medical information on some 300 potential draftees, and a case study in savvy brand marketing by the NFL that has become its own hot-stove league on steroids (hopefully not literally for any of the participants).
 
Covering the event 25 years ago, representatives of the three Chicago-area newspapers comprised one of the two largest media contingents (the other being New York's) going about the business of football reporting after the sport had largely moved off the sports-front with the wrap-up of the Super Bowl. No TV, no internet, and the Combine operators really didn't want media around for what was set up as a purely team-centric.
 
Now the NFL has created a media event that keeps it in news prominence at what had always been a dormant calendar nadir for pro football, with not only some 1,000 media members and outlets welcome, but also with fans able to attend events like the 225-pound bench press and 40-yard dashes, whose results were once something that reporters dug around for as news scoops.
 
But beyond the observed events, including group media interviews for the majority of athletes, individual draft stocks will be affected by vertical jumps, cone drills and such. And by interviews with individual teams, which are still private. (For now. Somehow, it's not beyond imagination that someday even those will be televised, in an NFL guise of "transparency" or something, but that's for another time.)
 
Strengths, weaknesses and the QB conundrum
 
One annual refrain are the assessments of the overall draft class, what positions are its deepest, its weakest, an evaluation that carries some weight because invitees to the Combine include underclassmen, which the Senior Bowl does not.
 
But a danger within the process is exactly that — the "weight" assigned to results, particularly the on-field ones. On-field evaluations are the best indicators, but the right on-field ones were there on playing fields and now tape, not inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week.

[RELATED - Which direction will Bears go at pick No. 3?]
 
Combine performance has affected drafts rightly and wrongly over the years.
 
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio has made an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a player declining the test, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.
 
But some player or players will move up or slip down on draft boards because of drill work. That may be unfortunate for the player, and for the teams.
 
QB or not QB
 
It is at this point that the Combine becomes increasingly relevant to the Bears, or at least to those trying to discern what realistic chances exist for the Bears to address their well-documented areas of need (quarterback, tight end, cornerback, safety).
 
An inherent problem at this stage is the difficulty in arriving at a right decision, particularly at the paramount position. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock did some checking that illustrates the issue.
 
Between 2007-14, teams selected 21 quarterbacks in the first round. Nine of them are no longer even in the league, and only a handful have achieved something close to the coveted "franchise" distinction: Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Carolina's Cam Newton, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Only Flacco has won a Super Bowl.
 
"It gives a pretty good feel for the 'hit' rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round," Mayock said on Monday.
 
"My message to NFL teams is, 'you've got to keep trying, keep on swinging.'"
 
Whether the Bears take a swing at a franchise quarterback at No. 3 is still many weeks off. But Mayock didn't endorse making that swing at that point.
 
"I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10," Mayock said. "That doesn't mean I think there's no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial Top 5, it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games.
 
"I don't think any of them are ready to start Week 1."
 
More to come over the next week. Make that "weeks."

Madden 21 rating leaks: Chicago Bears Top-10 overall rated players

Madden 21 rating leaks: Chicago Bears Top-10 overall rated players

As Madden 21 ratings continue to leak out, one site claims to have gotten a hold of the Top-10 players for each team. According to Madden School, a website that says they’ve served the Madden community for 13 years, the Bears only have one player rated over 90-- Khalil Mack at 97. That’s one point lower than where Mack finished the season on Madden 20.

Here’s the full list for the Bears:

Khalil Mack: 97 overall

Eddie Jackson: 89 overall

Allen Robinson: 89 overall

Akiem Hicks: 88 overall

Kyle Fuller: 85 overall

Eddie Goldman: 84 overall

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Roquan Smith: 83 overall

Robert Quinn: 82 overall

Charles Leno Jr.: 81 overall

Cody Whitehair: 81 overall

It’s important to note that none of these numbers came with picture or video evidence from early copies of the game.

Unsurprisingly, only one offensive skill player cracked the Top-10 for the Bears, Allen Robinson. Equally unsurprising is the fact that seven of the Top-10 are on defense.

EA Sports began releasing the official Madden 21 ratings on Monday, and will continue to do so through Friday.


RELATED: Madden 21 rating leaks: Another source says Khalil Mack may have lost elite 99-overall status

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Here's where Maurice Jones-Drew ranks David Montgomery among NFL running backs

Here's where Maurice Jones-Drew ranks David Montgomery among NFL running backs

Former NFL running back and current NFL Network personality, Maurice Jones-Drew, published his ranking of the top-32 running backs in the NFL on Monday and, of course, the Bears didn't get much love. To be more specific, David Montgomery was downright disrespected.

To be fair, MJD's assessment (or ranking) of Montgomery wasn't entirely based on No. 32's talent. Instead, it appears the Bears' offense -- and Matt Nagy -- is why Jones-Drew isn't high on the former Iowa State star.

Montgomery checked-in at No. 27 on MJD's list.

Montgomery's success depends on whether or not Matt Nagy wants to run the ball. They abandoned the run game week after week in 2019, and it showed in the team's 8-8 record. I'm expecting Montgomery to get the bulk of the carries and Tarik Cohen to continue to be frequently used in certain packages. The second-year back can do a little bit of everything, but needs Nagy to commit to running the rock.

It's hard to tell whether or not MJD believes Montgomery has the talent to be a top-10 running back in the NFL. He describes him as a player who can do 'a little bit of everything,' but doesn't necessarily suggest he can do any one thing really well. There are a lot of running backs in the NFL who fit that description, and they're normally playing backup to starter with a stronger skill set.

Running backs who were ranked in the same range as Montgomery included James Conner (Steelers, No. 25) and Sony Michel (Patriots, No. 26). Detroit's Kerryon Johnson was 28th.

Whether you take MJD's list seriously or put any weight into it at all is your call. But keep this in mind: he said he'd rank himself similarly to Adrian Peterson (23rd) if he decided to come out of retirement in 2020. 

As for Montgomery, it's fair to question his long-term outlook considering the narrative around the running back position. It isn't all that difficult to find a quality starter, and with next offseason presenting a potentially historic class of available running backs, Montgomery is certainly on the hot seat. He ran for just 889 yards as a rookie in 2019.

Preseason rankings are fun exercises to evaluate the landscape of the league, but they're also extremely volatile. Montgomery can quickly become one of the most respected running backs in the NFL if he gets off to a hot start early in the 2020 season.