Bears

Bears draft picks a positive during tough season

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Bears draft picks a positive during tough season

Very, very few meaningful positives are to be found in a five-game collapse that cost the Bears a virtual playoff lock. But there actually have been a couple, beyond the odd Kahlil Bell or Josh McCown.

An issue plaguing the Bears for the past decade has been failed draft choices. A combination of indicators suggests that this may be changing, at least slightly.

Of the five Bears selected to this seasons Pro Bowl, four were Jerry Angelo draft choices (Lance Briggs 03, Matt Forte 08, Corey Graham 07, Charles Tillman 03). It is the highest number of Angelo picks ever selected to one Pro Bowl, and Forte is the first Angelo offensive draftee to make a Pro Bowl.

Returner Devin Hester (06) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (09) were among the alternates. Of the combined 11 Bears selected for some level of Pro Bowl honor (five voted, six alternates), only Brian Urlacher was not acquired by Angelo, whether by draft, free agency or trade.

Of the starting offense for much of the offensive surge that contributed to the five-game run to the 7-3 record, seven of the starters were draft picks and that does not include right tackle Gabe Carimi.

Not anything to get particularly excited about, after the general draft malaise of the Angelo era.

But two of the Bears top three 2011 draft picks also were starters before injuries sent them to IR: Carimi and safety Chris Conte, besides defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

The draft choices have been great and our rookie free agents have been awesome too, said Urlacher. Since my 2000 class Mike Brown, myself, Paul Edinger this is one of the better classes Ive seen.

Paeas playing time has increased substantially after dealing with a knee injury in training camp and being inactive for the first five weeks of the season. He has 2 sacks on the season, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 tackles for loss.

Paeas production is notable in part because he has been tasked with playing both nose tackle and three-technique.

The only true difference is youve got to have patience on the nose and on the three youve got to go, Paea said. Ive got to have that mentality.

I hate waiting on the line and having patience. I can get to aggressive and not have patience to play my keys, which is perfect for the under-tackle.

The No. 2 tackler on special teams behind Pro Bowl starter Graham is Dom DeCicco, an undrafted rookie free agent.

I still feel a little like a rookie, DeCicco said, but like Ive learned so much and its night and day from preseason and even the first few games.

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.