The constant around-Chicago question of the past week - “So, whaddya think of the Bears’ draft?” – starts getting a meaningful answer on Friday with the advent of the rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. But with no pads and three of the Bears’ six picks being linemen, the truly meaningful answers will have to wait until July 29 when the Bears open training camp in Bourbonnais.
In the meantime, however, orientation for the draft picks and undrafted free agents is the real job of coaches as they introduce individuals who were college football players seven days ago into the ways of not only the NFL, but the coaching staff of John Fox.
“Our expectations are high for these guys,” said GM Ryan Pace coming out of one draft day. “There’s a lot of opportunities in front of them.”
More for some than others, and not just for the draft choices. Undrafted free agent quarterback Shane Carden from East Carolina will be taking his first NFL steps in a competition for a roster spot with David Fales, a sixth-rounder in Phil Emery’s final draft (2014) as Bears GM.
No. 1 pick Kevin White was drafted to replace traded-away Brandon Marshall at wide receiver. No. 2 Eddie Goldman is ticketed for nose tackle, where the Bears have no one at his size (6-4, 335 pounds) anywhere on the defensive line, nose or otherwise.
Center Hroniss Grasu at No. 3 begins his center career behind Will Montgomery, brought in from Denver where he played for Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, albeit just for the 2014 Broncos season, plus his rookie season (2006) with Fox in Carolina. But Montgomery is 32 and has not sufficiently established himself as a linchpin of offensive lines with the Broncos, Washington Redskins and New York Jets.
After the top three, the expectation for the remaining picks as well as the undrafted free agents is for them to be factors on special teams as depth. Given the recent litany of injuries in all three phases, there will indeed be the opportunities of which Pace spoke.
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Running back Jeremy Langford (fourth round) rates as the favorite to secure the No. 2 running back job. Since Langford has played defensive back during his time at Michigan State, “there’s flexibility there positionally,” Fox said.
“He’s played on defense before. Sometimes that comes into a factor as far as fourth down or special teams. The guy’s tackled somebody before. He’s been in that kind of environment.”
Fifth-rounder Adrian Amos comes in behind veterans Ryan Mundy and Antrel Rolle at safety and into competition with Brock Vereen from the 2014 draft. Offensive lineman Tayo Fabuluje will be looked at as a guard and tackle, with a chance to unseat right tackle Jordan Mills.
It would not be the first time an unheralded late-round pick emerged as a first-year starter on the offensive line. J’Marcus Webb was a 2010 seventh-rounder and the starting right tackle by game five of that season. Webb in turn lost his job (and roster spot) to Mills, a fifth rounder in 2013.
“When [Fabuluje] is at the right weight, we feel really good about him,” Pace said, “and there’s a lot of upside potential as well.”