Akiem Hicks isn't the biggest fan of the NFL Draft for the reasons that plenty of veteran players across the NFL would offer.
"I don’t like the draft, dude," Hicks said earlier this month. "I always like to see the same faces. I’m superstitious, but I also like things to stay the same to an extent. So I like to see the same faces and have that camaraderie already built up with the guys and you just have to bring that together and do it even better. But it’s inevitable, there’s going to be change. Guys are going to come in and they have to assimilate and make our defense better.”
The Bears drafted at least three players (linebacker Roquan Smith, offensive lineman James Daniels and wide receiver Anthony Miller) who could be Week 1 starters. That means three veterans will lose their starting roles, though. So who will be impacted the most by the players drafted by Ryan Pace over the weekend?
WR Kevin White
The addition of Miller in the second round probably doesn’t change White’s position on the depth chart, which likely is behind Allen Robinson at the “X” outside receiver spot. But what adding Miller does for White is take even more pressure off the fourth-year receiver, at least as it relates to how badly the Bears need him to produce in 2018. The Bears can afford to bring White along slowly and don’t need him to be a focal point in their offense, as he would’ve been in 2017, and it feels like whatever the 2015 first-round pick produces will be a bonus.
As for White’s future, the expectation is the Bears will decline his fifth-year option this week, making him a free agent after the season. If he’s good, he’ll play — as was the case with Kyle Fuller a year ago — and can set himself up for a nice payday, either from the Bears or another team. If he’s injured or struggles to re-gain the form that made him a top-10 pick three years ago, then he won’t get much playing time and will face an uncertain future after the season.
OL Cody Whitehair
It was perhaps a little surprising that Pace, only a few hours after drafting Daniels 39th overall, said the Bears would begin working with their second-round pick as a guard, not a center — the position at which he played so well in college. But it was more of a nod to Whitehair’s play at center over the last two years than anything else and not immediately be bumped off that position by a draft pick.
The Bears, though, will cross-train Daniels at center, and Harry Hiestand could ultimately decide the best offensive line combination has Whitehair at left guard and Daniels at center. The versatility both Whitehair and Daniels have is a plus; the downside is the Whitehair got off to a slow start to 2017 after being shuffled around the offensive line quite a bit prior to the season. Perhaps the best practice here would be to settle on Whitehair and Daniels’ positions as early as possible in training camp.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio values Kwiatkoski, so even though the Bears drafted a pair of inside linebackers, he’ll still see playing time this fall. Perhaps Kwiatkoski becomes this year’s version of Christian Jones, as in a solid inside linebacker who can play outside. But with Danny Trevathan having not played a full 16-game season since 2013, having Kwiatkoski as a depth piece will carry plenty of value.
DL Jonathan Bullard
Presumably, the second defensive end spot in Fangio’s base 3-4 defense will be Bullard’s to lose heading into training camp. Roy Robertson-Harris could make a push for that spot, as could fifth-round pick Bilal Nichols. Competition will be good for this position, since Bullard deserves a shot to start in Year 3 but hasn’t shown enough in his first two seasons to be handed that prominent of a role.
"There’s no question in my mind that he has the talent," Hicks said of Bullard. "One thing that he’s picked up as of late and last year as well is just his work ethic. I think that he now knows what it means to be in the NFL. You can be here today and gone tomorrow. So you’ve got to be able to put your best foot forward at any moment and I think that he’s ready to take on that position.”
QB Mitch Trubisky
Barring a surprise, the Bears are done making significant additions to their offense, with everything else from here on out likely being undrafted free agent signings and players brought in for tryouts. In short: The pieces that are around Trubisky now are likely the ones that’ll be around him on at Lambeau Field the night of Sept. 9. While Pace said he won’t ever be satisfied with the players he’s brought in, consider who he’s added since the start of free agency, among others:
That’s five projected starters (Robinson, Gabriel, Burton, Daniels, Miller), a backup quarterback who knows Nagy’s offense (Daniel) and two depth pieces (Fowler, Watford). Now, it’s incumbent on Trubisky to take the next step in his development and make all these additions pay off for Pace and the Bears.