NFL Draft

Here are the initial Top-5 on-field matchups on the Bears' 2019 schedule

Here are the initial Top-5 on-field matchups on the Bears' 2019 schedule

The Bears' 2019 schedule is officially out, though we've known for a while now which teams the Bears would play this season.

Now that we know the order of things, it's time for some #Sweet, #Sweet #Schedule #Content. Up first? We're going to take a look at the 5 juciest on-field matchups of the Bears' 2019 campaign. 

It's the NFL, so things are destined to change; Khalil Mack was traded on Labor Day Weekend, after all. It's possible -- even probable, knowing our luck -- that some of these make no sense when the season kicks off from Soldier Field on September 5th. 

1. Eddie Jackson vs. Aaron Rodgers (Week 1/Week 15)

Rodgers fractured a bone in his leg during the first half of their Week 1 matchup and still threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson had the game-sealing, division-clinching interception when they played in Week 15, and then promptly ended his season (and the Bears, tbf) by spraining his ankle on the play. Rodgers doesn't need to defend his abilities to anyone, and coming off an All-Pro season, Jackson's quickly become widely-regarded as one of the top safeties in football. Jackson won't be blitzing Rodgers as much as running mate HaHa Clinton-Dix will, but watching him play centerfield against Rodgers in passing situations is worth the price of admission. 

2. Pat Mahomes vs. Khalil Mack (Week 16)

This might be the best individual, on-field matchup of any game, on anyone's schedule? Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP, vs Mack, the reigning guy-who-can-beat-the-NFL's-best-linemen-with-one-arm. Picture it now: Leonard Floyd gets around the edge, forcing Mahomes out of the pocket. Mahomes scrambles wildly as we all lean forward on our couches, anticipating the next cool sidearm throw. He tucks the ball, and 6 yards plus Khalil Mack are in between him and a first down. Football!!!!!!! 

3. Roquan Smith vs. Saquon Barkley (Week 12)

This will be the 2nd time in two years that the 2018 NFL Draft classmates will face off, with the first coming in that wonky Week 13 game last season. In that 30-27 OT loss, Smith lead the Bears in total tackles (8) while splitting his snaps pretty evenly between run defense (29) and pass coverage (34). Barkley took round 1, however, racking up 125 yards on 24 rushes. Plus it's the battle of 'Qu(a/o)n's! 

4. Ezekiel Elliott vs Akiem Hicks (Week 14) 

Almost 1/3rd of Elliott's rushes in 2018 went through the A-gaps (5.4 YPA on the right, 3.8 YPA on the left), so Hicks should have his hands full come Week 14. Luckily for the Bears, Hicks is a monster against the run. He was Pro Football Focus' 3rd best DL vs the run game, posting a 92.9 rating. He also had the most stops in the NFL last year (34) while being the only player in the Top-10 for Stop % that played in all 16 games. 

5. Mitch Trubisky vs. Derwin James (Week 8) 

It's the infamous Year 2 for Mitch Trubisky, who will be expected to make a sizeable jump now that he's familiar with Matt Nagy's system. He was *bad* on long throws down the middle of the field last year, posting a 34.0 pass rating on throws of 20+ yards between the numbers last year. The good news is that he was much, much better to the left (97.5 passer rating) and right (98.1). He'll be going up against James, who in only one year has established himself as one of the league's premier safeties. James, who finished (a very disputable) 2nd in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race, ended the year with 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 2 defensive TDs (among other stellar numbers), good for a 87.8 grade from PFF. 

NFL Draft analysts split on best options for Bears

NFL Draft analysts split on best options for Bears

It’s impossible to predict how the NFL Draft will play out each year, but draft analysts are much better at identifying hypothetical options that would suit each team.

A few different outlets took a crack at pairing the Bears with their best prospect fits, and they’ve come out quite differently. analysts Chad Reuter and Lance Zierlein projected the ideal first two picks for each team this year, and they gave Chicago outside linebacker Ben Banogu from TCU in the third round and Boise State running back Alexander Mattison in the fourth.

“Depth behind Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd is an issue, even with Aaron Lynch signing a one-year deal to return. Banogu could be a real value in the top 100 because he's not only very athletic but plays with strength that you might not expect given his lean frame,” they wrote. “Mattison's powerful but elusive running style and ability as a receiver makes him a nice fit for a team that just traded Jordan Howard.”

Meanwhile, Mike Renner from Pro Football Focus looked at dream scenarios for all 32 teams, and he had the Bears addressing the secondary with Michigan cornerback David Long in the third round.

“Yes, they signed Buster Skrine, but that’s not going to stop me from adding to the position,” Renner wrote. “With few other needs on the roster, Long adds press-man skills with potential to develop into the long-term solution across from Kyle Fuller.”

It goes to show the Bears don’t have any one position they’re desperate to address, and general manager Ryan Pace should have flexibility at all five of his current picks.

Monster Bears draft (including HOF’ers) still possible despite shortage of picks

USA Today

Monster Bears draft (including HOF’ers) still possible despite shortage of picks

The Bears are expected to start Draft Weekend with a total of five selections and none before late-third round. Expectations for additions of impact individuals are modest when the first scheduled turn on the clock doesn’t come until sometime late Friday evening, No. 87 overall.

But maybe the expectations shouldn’t be so modest.

After all, 22 members of the NFL’s Hall of Fame were third-round selections. Nine were from fourth rounds, seven from fifths (the Bears netted one of those), and nine from sevenths, not counting dozens from later rounds when the draft went eight, 12 and as many as 30 picks, and undrafted free agents.

The obvious key is “upside,” which teams crave in every pick regardless of round. To land those prospects requires leaps of varying degrees of faith.

Former GM Jerry Angelo commonly made high picks operating from a “floor” philosophy – a player who projected to be “at least” this good or that good. But the grand slams in the mid rounds are the ones who go far, far, far beyond their draft grades: Joe Montana (3), Steve Largent (4), Kevin Greene (5), Shannon Sharpe (7).

Or, putting it in more relevant Bears-position contexts: RB Curtis Martin (3); DE/LB Charles Haley (4); CB Dick LeBeau (5); T Rayfield Wright (7).

The Bears have not acquitted themselves well in truncated drafts. They finished with five picks in three of their last nine drafts, but only 2017’s produced difference-makers (Mitchell Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen). The 2010 and 2011 drafts gave them starting safeties (Chris Conte, Major Wright) but virtually nothing of true impact.

Still, it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and Bears scouts and personnel chiefs have made franchise-altering picks. Accordingly, NBC Sports Chicago has ID’d the three-example templates for major draft successes for those 3-4-5-7-7 picks, expanding the realm of the possible, as it were:

Third round

Player                                  Comment

Lance Briggs LB, ’03        7 Pro Bowls for Urlacher running mate
Dave Duerson S, ’83        Super Bowl rings with Bears, Giants
Olin Kreutz C, ’98              6 Pro Bowls for franchise’s best C

Honorable mention:         WR Marty Booker, C Jerry Fontenot

Fourth round

Player                                  Comment

Erich Barnes CB, ’58        6x Pro Bowl’er, (but only 1 with Bears)
Doug Buffone LB, ’66       1,200+ tkl, 24 INT 
Jim Nance RB, ’65            2x AFL All-Pro, AFL (chose AFL over Bears)

Honorable mention:   Alex Brown ’02, Kevin Butler K, ’85, Eddie Jackson S, Tarik Cohen RB, ‘17

Fifth round

Player                                  Comment

Allen Ellis CB, ’73             1-2 with Charles Tillman as best-ever Bears CB
Jordan Howard RB, ’16    2x 1,000-yard rusher now an Eagle
Stan Jones G, ’53             HOF, weight-training pioneer

Honorable mention:      Revie Sorey G, ‘75

Seventh round

Player                                  Comment

Charles Leno T, ’14          Starting LT still improving
Joe Fortunato LB, ’52       5 Pro Bowls, 3x All-Pro for ’63’s best LB
Ed O’Bradovich DE, ’62   Anchored side opposite Doug Atkins
Honorable mention:        Jim Osborne DT, 72

And after those…

8th round  1983 Mark Bortz G, Richard Dent DE (HOF)
9th round  1936 Danny Fortman G (HOF)

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