Bears

After trade flirtations, Bears invest No. 7 pick in WVU WR Kevin White

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After trade flirtations, Bears invest No. 7 pick in WVU WR Kevin White

Ryan Pace took the next major step in his young tenure as Bears general manager on Thursday, using the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft to select West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, expected to start opposite Alshon Jeffery as well as replace the production traded to the New York Jets in the person of Brandon Marshall.

Pace and the Bears had options. The first six picks saw teams take two quarterbacks, a wide receiver, an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman, plus valued pass rusher Dante Fowler.

So when the Bears’ turn came, they had the options of White and edge rushers Vic Beasley from West Virginia and Kentucky’s Bud Dupree.

[NFL DRAFT PROFILE: Bears WR Kevin White]

White is 6-3, 210 pounds, and caught 109 passes for the Mountaineers last year for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I’ve been through so much,” White said. “I’m ready to turn this city around.”

The process was not without some drama, real or imagined.

The Bears were a big part of the pre-draft blizzard of rumors and speculation. General manager Ryan Pace had said on Wednesday that he and the Bears had talked to all of the teams above them and some of those below No. 7, so it was not a complete surprise that the Bears were reported to be one of the teams talking to the Tennessee Titans and their No. 2 overall pick.

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One scenario had the Bears looking to deal quarterback Jay Cutler as part of a package to move up in order to pick Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, whom the Bears had brought to Halas Hall as one of their pre-draft visits. The Titans reportedly did not want Cutler in the deal, although Tennessee GM Ruston Webster denied the reports.

Multiple options

The Bears’ pick at No. 7 could have been used justifiably on either side of the football.

The Bears finished 30th in yardage allowed last season and 31st in points given up, coming on the heels of a dismal 2013 in which they also were 30th in both points and yardage allowed. They ranked no higher than 16th in any of the main defensive categories last season and the problems were both deep and consistent: 11 Bears opponents scored 20 or more points, including three with more than 40.

The offense failed to average 20 points per game for the first time since Kyle Orton and the 2005 playoff season. Over the final five games the Bears scored 17-15-14-9 points, with the lone exception being 28 against the Dallas Cowboys when the Bears trailed 38-7 before scoring 21 points in a throwaway fourth quarter.

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL Draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.

Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.

If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.

Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.

Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.

Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.

But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Bears checked-in at eighth.

The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.

It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class — essentially, Montgomery — garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.

Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.

Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.