Bears

Grading Bears draft needs to include more than the six picks

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Grading Bears draft needs to include more than the six picks

A favorite pastime in the wake of draft weekend is to “grade” teams’ collections of selections. The grades reflect supposed evaluations of the players’ college performances, where they were drafted vs. their ratings, projections and how the picks matched up to perceived needs of the teams.

Good luck with that.

“You know what’s funny about that, is after the draft the scouts or coaches will sit back and we’ll look at the board and we’ll say over the years – and I’m sure it’s going on everywhere – we’ll say, ‘look at these guys draft or look at these…,’ GM Ryan Pace said. “You don’t know, two or three years from now, somebody you could be saying that about and it ends up being a great draft. So it’s hard to say that. You respect everybody’s process, and honestly you don’t know about a draft class until two years, two or three years, down the road.”

(Perhaps; but it did not take two or three years to know that Alshon Jeffery was a superb selection or that Shea McClellin wasn’t)

But grading the work of Pace and staff this weekend based on the actual draft picks and undrafted free agents to miss the far bigger point. To analyze the Bears’ 2015 draft requires looking far beyond just the six names the Bears turned in during the course of the rounds.

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The Bears added two rush linebackers, a speed No. 1 receiver, a starting safety, a starting nose tackle and possibly two other starting defensive linemen.

They just didn’t get them all in the draft.

The Bears’ “draft” started, not Thursday evening, but on Mar. 11. That was the day they addressed their needs for a pass-rushing linebacker (Pernell McPhee), playmaking safety (Antrel Rolle) and No. 3 receiver (Eddie Royal). Put another way, if Pace and the Bears had used their No. 1 pick for a 3-4 edge fit who had 7.5 sacks on the NFL level (McPhee did), the draft would rate a near “A” on that pick alone.

The second “round” came Mar. 24 when they added two defensive linemen (Jarvis Jenkins, Ray McDonald).

They went on the clock for the third “round” on Apr. 1 for another rush linebacker (Sam Acho), who projects to return to the outside as the other bookend opposite McPhee.

[MORE DRAFT: A Bears tradition that Ryan Pace must end]

All of which meant that when the Bears’ turn on the actual draft clock Thursday, they did not have rush-linebacker on the “need” list to the point of being pressured to go for Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley, whom the Bears had graded below Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes (to Minnesota) and well below West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White.

Pace has not divulged his entire thought process for the offseason. But it was an integrated process, and best guess is that some of the motivation in landing Acho and McPhee lay in an assessment of the first seven picks of the draft that said only Florida’s Dante Fowler and USC’s Leonard Williams were worth the No. 7 pick and that neither of those would be there for the Bears (they weren’t).

“I personally think it’s the way the board fell,” Pace said. “If there had been certain guys there that fit kind of our Bears box as far as all the ramifications of that, they would have gone just like we did the whole draft, the next best player.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do any Chicago athletes deserve a 10-year deal?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do any Chicago athletes deserve a 10-year deal?

Pat Boyle, David Haugh and Mark Carman join Kap on a Wednesday edition of STL.

0:00 - MLB teams continue to get ready for Opening Day. Should players feel any more confident in the league’s testing practices?

4:00 - Patrick Mahomes got a 10-year contract extension from the Chiefs. Are any current Chicago athletes worthy of a 10-year extension?

9:30 - KC Johnson joins Kap to look back at “The Decision” on its 10th anniversary. Just how close were the Bulls to landing LeBron, Bosh and Wade?

19:00 - The panel remembers where they were when LeBron made “The Decision”. Plus, they give their Blackhawks playoff odds.

Listen here or below.

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Bears offensive line ranked 22nd in NFL by Pro Football Focus

Bears offensive line ranked 22nd in NFL by Pro Football Focus

It wasn't long ago that the Chicago Bears offensive line was considered a strength of the team. They were one of the best in the NFL in 2018. The Bears' starting five was a big reason why the team went 12-4 and won the NFC North that year, but that wasn't the case in 2019. Chicago's offensive line had a lot to do with the team's underwhelming 8-8 season.

As a result, the Bears' starting group isn't getting much respect entering the 2020 season. According to Pro Football Focus' recent ranking of all 32 offensive lines, Chicago checks in at No. 22.

The Bears regressed from a fringe top-10 offensive line in 2018 to the 25th-ranked unit last season despite most of the group remaining intact. Left tackle Charles Leno saw the biggest drop-off in play, as he had four straight seasons grading in the 70s from 2015 to 2018 but finished at just 58.6 overall last season, good for just 64th out of 82 qualifiers. Leno earned his worst pass-blocking grade since 2015 while posting the lowest run-blocking grade of his career, at 47.5.

While PFF's ranking isn't great, there was a bit of optimism baked in. The analytics powerhouse still believes in the o-line's potential.

The Bears have the pieces to rank among the top 10-15 offensive lines in the league, but they need the tackles to get back to their 2018 form to go with progression from at least two players on the interior.

One of the big reasons why the Bears' offensive line struggled last year was the aftermath of Kyle Long's injury. Rashaad Coward was elevated to the first team; Cody Whitehair and James Daniels swapped positions. The best offensive lines have continuity, and that was lost in 2019.

With Germain Ifedi stepping into the right guard spot in 2020, and both Whitehair and Daniels settled in at center and left guard, the Bears will begin this season in much better shape and with a much better chance to return to the level of play we saw in 2018.