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Chicago Bears 2018 Mock Draft

2018 Draft Picks held by the Chicago Bears:

  • Round 1: Pick 8
  • Round 2: Pick 39
  • Round 3: None
  • Round 4: Pick 101
  • Round 4: Pick 111
  • Round 5: Pick 136
  • Round 6: Pick 167
  • Round 7: Pick 198

There is quite the laundry list of “needs” for this Chicago Bears team but when you finish a season 5-11, there are obviously weak spots peppered throughout the depth chart.  Last season, the Bears were 10th in total defense, and 30th in total offense.  Although defensively they were top 10 in passing yards allowed,  they also allowed a completion percentage of 64.8% and only had eight total interceptions for the year, which basically put them in the bottom of the league for that category. Offensively, the Bears were completely one dimensional, which led them to having the worst passing offense in the NFL last year.  If that was due to the inability to go vertical or the lack of trust in last year’s coaching regime in rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky — that’ll be a debate for another time. . .

Here is my 2018 Chicago Bears Mock Draft:

Round 1, Pick 8:

Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame:

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This has been the overall consensus pick among Bears fans and draft “gurus.”  The Bears would be filling a need with arguably one of the better players in this entire draft.  He’s everything you want in an NFL guard with the power, intellect, strength and equal over achieving ability in the run and pass blocking game.  A lot of folks like this match-up not only because of the huge need but because the Bears hired Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to do the same job in Chicago. Nelson is one of the highest rated players in this draft though, and the Bears may have to worry about teams ahead of them snatching up Nelson.  The New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts could all benefit from drafting Nelson in the top ten.

Round 2, Pick 39:

Lorenzo Carter, Line Backer, Georgia:

Carter showed off his freakish ability and build at this year’s combine as the  six-foot-five, two-hundred and fifty pound line-backer ran a forty-time of 4.5.  In his senior year at Georgia, Carter had 4.5 sacks, 62 total tackles, forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles.  The Bears have had some luck with their other Bulldog linebacker, Leonard Floyd after they drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft.  As talented as Floyd is though, the Bears need another presence on the other side of this defense.  Carter would fit perfectly there.  (As a side note, since he and I both had these first two picks identical, I wanted to share a link to Mike Brez’ mock draft on twitter )

 (Photo by Perry McIntyre Jr.)

Round 4, Pick 101:

Tegray Scales, Line Backer, Indiana

The only reason why Scales may slip to the fourth is because he is undersized as an inside middle line backer.  Even at 6’0″, 230lbs – he might  find himself pushed around in the NFL. . . at least at first.  Scales was the first Indiana player in 30 years to be All Big Ten First Team – and in the last two years has racked up over 200 tackles for the Hoosiers.  He’s a very instinctive and fluid line backer, who can be a starter in this league.  In the fourth round if you don’t get a “star” but a “starter” that’s a win – especially one with a high football I.Q.

Round 4, Pick 111:

Nyheim Hines, Running Back, N.C. State

In this off-season, the relationship between the Bears and running back Jordan Howard has been “shaky” to put it lightly.  Howard is a top 10 running back in the league and in some circles top 5. . . the Bears may not be looking to sign him to a long term deal though once the contract is up.  They might wait in later rounds to take a shot on a running back, but in this spot, N.C. State’s Nyheim Hines should be available.  This is a back that I watched a lot of last year and he is a well-tooled running back who – if he adds some more muscle, has three-down-back potential.  He has more of an upside than Tarik Cohen and can be a more valuable X-Factor type of player if he doesn’t end up being an every-down guy.

Round 5, Pick 136:

Tony Brown, Corner Back, Alabama

Tony is more of a physical corner than a ‘lock-down’ guy – but what do you expect in the fifth round?  He’s got size and speed, a good tackler in the open field, and exceptional in special teams.  He is a physical guy too, who isn’t afraid to take on running backs, no matter how big they are.

Round 6, Pick 167

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Wide Receiver, South Florida

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He might have more of a fifth round value than sixth, but for all that matters to Bears fans – he falls and the Bears get him.  He is a big target at  6’4″, 206 lbs and ran a forty time of 4.37.  He did nothing in college until blowing up in his senior year.  He is great at locating the ball in the air  – similar to former Bears wide-out Alshon Jeffrey.  He isn’t the most polished route runner, but is a big bodied guy who can be a red-zone target and who’s speed can help stretch the field.  If he is there in the sixth this is well worth the gamble.  If it doesn’t work out – the Bears are familiar with big, speedy wide outs who don’t contribute to the team. . .

Round 7: Pick 198

KJ Malone, Offensive Tackle, LSU or Bentley Spain, Offensive Tackle, UNC

Both of these players were put here because this isn’t a strong draft for offensive tackles, and these two guys have a possibility of going earlier than they should go.  Once again though, when speaking in “mock-draft” terms – they both could be available.  KJ Malone, is the son of NBA hall of famer Karl Malone (which does nothing for him in the NFL) who is a pretty solid, albeit at times overly-aggressive run blocker who falls somewhere between average and below average in pass blocking. . . Bentley Spain was once the left tackle for Bears quarterback Mitchel Trubisky, so there’s a relationship and trust there – but Spain may have to become stronger to be an every day starter instead of a rotation-type of player on an NFL roster.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC North Draft Needs

Minnesota Vikings:

Draft Day needs in the Draft: Defensive Tackle and Guard.

Picks in rounds 1, 2, 3, 5, (three in 6) and 7

Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

When you look pretty dominant all season long and then get embarrassed in the NFC Championship game, the disappointment will be pretty tough to brush off your shoulders for the coming months.  The Vikings showed no faith in any quarterback that was on their roster last year and let them all go in free agency.  Luckily for them, they won “the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes” so that is one less position to worry about in the draft. Having the 30th overall pick isn’t too sexy of a first round pick, but it also shows that you’re a good team that needs “just a little more” to push them to that next level.  There are some pretty good guards in this draft but they’d need a miracle to land  Quenton Nelson and some of luck for either Will Hernandez or Isaiah Wynn to fall to them at 30.  Texas tackle Connor Williams seems like someone who just may fall to them though.  In the second round, they may land a talent like USC Rasheem Green, who is  a versatile and athletic defensive linemen who can line up at defensive tackle but would probably be best suited attacking from the outsides.  When you’re a good team, you can also afford to be a little cute in the third round, like getting a wide-receiver/special teams threat like Dante Pettis or a guy who is a nice polished receiver like Daesean Hamilton out of Penn State.  Either one of these guys can go in the third or fourth, and with no fourth round pick, the Vikes would have to make up their mind quickly here.  Later in the draft, watch for another sleeper pick in the receiving core like South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling, or someone to add to their defensive rotation like Ohio State’s Chris Worling.

Detroit Lions:

Draft Day needs: Linebacker, Defensive tackle and Running back

Pick in every round except for the 6th:

Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Let’s just be honest when it comes to the Lions: they are mediocre at best.  Sure with a new head coach, comes a newfound optimism, but we all know what Matthew Stafford is (a stat filler, who is praised by the Fantasy Football geeks) and we all know the limitations of their roster.  With the twentieth pick in the first round, their best bet is to go “best player available.” If they are lucky they should be able to get one of tho Alabama alums on their front seven.  Linebacker Rashaan Evans or defensive tackle Da’ron Payne could fill right in and be a day one starter. In the second round they could find themselves an athletic linebacker in South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard.  Offensively they’ve needed a running back since Barry Sanders, and this draft has plenty of them.  The Lions, could maybe hold out until the third or fourth and get themselves a quality back.  Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage is a nice sleeper who could go in that third or fourth round area.  Ballage is a big back (6’2″, 228 lbs) with power, speed and good hands who can prove to be a sleeper for any team in need of a back.  With a defensive minded coach though, he may look at some sleepers on defense in the sixth and seventh rounds like Tre Flowers, safety out of Oklahoma State, Garret Dooley, linebacker out of Wisconsin or Troy Apke, a safety out of Penn State, projected to go late in the draft, but adds some top level speed to the position.

Green Bay Packers:

Draft Day needs: Corner back, guard and tight end

Packers have 12 overall picks (one in each of the first three rounds, two in the fourth, three in the fifth, two in the sixth and two in the seventh)

Source: David Becker/Getty Images North America

The NFL is just dying to help out Aaron Rodgers, so they gave them four compensatory draft picks this season.  Rodgers doesn’t like his organization or his coach much and at this point the two sides seem like a marriage who will stick it out “for the kids.”  With that being said they are, as of now, the second best team in the division and need to compete with top tier teams in this league.  Although the goal with the 14th overall pick should be to take a corner, it might be hard for them to pass up a pass rusher like Marcus Davenport if he is around – but luck may be on their side and they’ll be able to nab the corner out of UCF Mike Hughes or even the safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who’s versatility all over the secondary and tackling ability would help them from day one.  This is another team that can go running back crazy in the third, fourth or maybe even fifth rounds.  Jimmy Graham has been added to a list of targets for Aaron Rodgers which includes Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, but Cobb at this point is just an overpaid part of this puzzle and adding a wide-out.  The sleeper wide receiver that I see fitting in well with Green Bay is Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson.  He’s a hard worker, with good hands and route running ability.  He’s also a tall receiver with speed who can be a red zone guy AND a deep threat.  The Packers have so many picks, their scouting team must be looking at players like Wilson and even more players like him who are on an even smaller raider with a high upside. . .

Chicago Bears:

Draft Day needs: Offensive Line,  Linebacker, Corner back

Draft Picks: 1, 2, two in round 4, 5, 6 and 7

Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America

The Bears were the talk of last year’s draft who moved up to get “their guy,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky of UNC.  Mitch didn’t look like a franchise guy last year, but the Bears barely resembled much of a football team in general in 2017.  The Bears addressed their wide-receiver issue by signing Allen Robinson as their new number-one wide-out and they even added Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton for good measure.  The offensive line seems to always be an issue with the Bears, even when they get it right personnel wise – an injury or two wreck all kinds of havoc. The Bears are hoping and praying they land Quenton Nelson, the Notre Dame guard, who might not only be the best offensive lineman in the draft but one of the drafts best players, over all.  If the Bears don’t land him in the first, they may try to trade back to land either Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn or another Notre Dame talent, the tackle Mike McGlinchey.  Chicago kept themselves busy in the offseason and even signed linebacker Aaron Lynch from the 49ers, but that’s not the “umph” that will help to put this linebacker rotation into the next level.  Much like what was mentioned earlier with the Detroit Lions, Chicago may find themselves looking at South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard or maybe even the freakishly athletic linebacker out of Georgia, Lorenzo Carter.   The Bears will look to get some depth and hopefully some sleeper talent with the corner position, and they may be able to find that in  later rounds with Arizona’s Dane Cruikshank or they may look in their state, Illinois State product Davontae Harris to be more specific.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Who Will Get Mad in March?

March Madness is usually all about College Basketball.  The Bracket Challenge.  The hype, the dramatics, etc, etc. . .  March is also the time when NFL fan-bases get over-hyped or overly depressed because NFL free agency has begun.

It’s usually fan-bases of bad teams that freak out.  If you’re a fan of the Jets, Bears, Browns, Giants or any other team that has a top-ten draft pick – it’s a nervous time.

But is it, really?

Source: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Every team enters the off-season with holes.  Whether it be because of lack of talent on the roster or someone is being paid too much.  Regardless of what it may be, free agency – in some people’s eyes – is the “quick-fix” to all their problems.  In truth free agency can be just what a team needs to get over a hump or take them to the promised land – for example, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012 (jeez, that was already SIX years ago. . .).  Or even in 2014 when the Patriots signed corner back DOn the other hand, free-agency can be the equivalent of a broken water pipe being fixed with some duct-tape.  For examples of bad free agent signings just look up any of these Redskins signings: Albert Haynesworth in 2009, Adam Archuletta in 2006 or even Jeremiah Trotter in 2004.  .  .Oh those Redskins. . .

This season, there were names that every bad franchise’s fan base wanted them to throw money at.  So far some players have agreed to terms with teams wanting their services.  This includes “house hold names” like Albert Wilson, who has agreed to go to Miami for three-year $24 million dollar contract and Trey Burton who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract.  Now, one isn’t saying that these men aren’t “good” and I could care less about the money they’re getting – BUT – fan bases all start to follow these type of guys on twitter and “all of a sudden” become experts on the “hidden talents” that players like these possess.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Come on, man. . .

Burton was the third best tight end in Philadelphia and Albert Wilson was probably a three or four guy in Kansas City.   If these are the caliber of players that will get fans in a frenzy because they “missed out” on these guys – then maybe, just maybe – you’ve lost it a little.

It’s easy for fans to say, get this guy – spend this money and fill that hole.  But the NFL is all about the right guys who fit in the right systems.  This is why an intelligent player like Richard Sherman, who’s only worked in one defensive system in his career, chose to sign with the 49ers who run a similar defensive scheme.   This is why teams like the Jets and Vikings are looking at Kirk Cousins to be their next quarterback.  Cousins just ran a west-coast style offense in Washington, and the Vikings and Jets (if we are to judge by their offensive coordinator hires) will be doing something of the same ilk.  Meanwhile, former Bears linebacker Christian Jones who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme is now going to play for the Lions who typically run a 4-3 defensive scheme, so if this signing turns out to be a bad one – there’s your first big clue as to why.

Listen, everyone loves free agency.  But when it comes to cursing out a general manager because he didn’t fill “a hole” with some over-priced shiny new object, there is no reason to throw a fit or curse your general manager’s family from now till eternity.  Oh, and it definitely doesn’t call for burning players’ jerseys.  That’s just stupid.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that winning teams are put together by smart people.  The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much get it.  They never want to over-pay for talent – they’d rather find those who can fit in their systems.

Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

So if you’re team is sitting on millions upon millions of dollars and not spending it like crazy in free agency, don’t flip out.  There’s a draft and there is also a coaching staff in place that is there to make players better – imagine that. . .

I mean, if you’re a Jets fan though.  Yeah, I’d be mad as all hell, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Patriots;Whenever, Wherever

New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders

(game to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico)

After the Patriots manhandled the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, they decided to stay in Denver before flying back home.  Why?  Because coach Bill Belichick decided to keep his team practicing in a high-altitude-enviornment like the one they’ll see at Mexico City.  Smart play by “the Hood,” but that’s no surprise.   Remember when the Patriots started the season 2-2 and people said that this defense was probably the worst in the NFL?   That was cute.  Since then, New England has won five straight with their opponents highest point total being 17.  Meanwhile, the L.A. Raiders were supposed to be a top contender in the AFC and they have fallen miserably short.  The Raiders are currently 4-5 and a loss this Sunday can pretty much wrap this season up.  The Marshawn Lynch experiment is turning out to be a bust, Derek Carr is looking like a shell of himself from last season (13 TD’s, 7 INT’s); and the leading receiver on a squad that has Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is tight-end Jared Cook.  The Oakland pass defense is gives up the highest completion percentage to it’s opponents (71%), has recorded no interceptions on the season and is tied with the Giants in sacks (13) which puts them dead last in that category as well.   Gross.  Did you even notice how we didn’t mention Tom Brady once in this article?  Yeah.  Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -6.5

 

Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears

It’s time for the hopeful and misguided Chicago Bears fan to realize the truth about their team.  They are below average. As a Bears fan myself, I knew this before the pre-season, but many others let their minds wander to a false state of grandeur.  Now, the Bears are looking to play out the season, but whether or not they do it respectfully is what really matters.  With head coach John Fox just waiting for this season to end so he can move on with his life in retirement, the Chicago Bears have a defense that is pretty-decent -but also a lot of smoke and mirrors.  The Bears pass defense is ranked in the top ten when it comes to passing yards allowed, but they are letting opponents complete 65.5% of their passes and at seven yards a clip. The Bears’ rush defense is better-than-average allowing 3.9 yards a rush but this should all work out in favor of the Detroit Lions, who can’t run the ball, so they abandon it early – and usually end up airing it out most of the game.  Detroit’s receivers are averaging 11.9 yards a catch.  At the end of the season, Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford may be responsible for having two 1000 yard receivers in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.   Detroit’s in the top 10 in rush defenses which will give Bears running back Jordan Howard some fits, as he is the only source of offensive power on this roster.  The Bears tendency on defense of either missing tackles or letting opponents break out of tackles will be something to watch out for with the speedy players like Golladay, Tate and Abdullah for the Lions.

The Pick: Detroit -3

Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns

This is a big number for the Jaguars to cover.  It doesn’t matter who they’re playing.  Eh, they’re playing the Browns. . . The Jaguars are toting around the number one pass defense in the NFL  which is mostly due to cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.  Offensively, they try to manage the game around their quarterback rather than let their quarterback manage the game.  Blake Bortles is on thin-ice to be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville next year – but that’s next year.  This season, Bortles is the man under center, but it’s more about the guys in the backfield.  Rookie running back Leonard Fournette  has been as good as advertised (albeit he did get benched one week for violating team rules) but the Jaguars must be feeling cautious of not over-using him, as head coach Doug Marrone has hinted at spreading the ball among all three backs including Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon.    As a team the Jaguars are averaging 4.8 yards a rush and because it is what they want to do, the Browns actually pose a threat to their success on the ground.  The Browns have consistently been in the top five of the NFL when it comes to rush defense, allowing only 3.1 yards a rush.  The Browns are getting back wide receiver Corey Coleman this week, which will be good to see considering Duke Johnson, the number two running back on the depth chart, is the team’s leading receiver.  At the end of the day, who cares?  DeShone Kizer is still there throwing to the wide-outs with his 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Beardown

Green Bay Packers +5.5 at Chicago Bears

As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I entered this season with very minimal hopes and realistic expectations.  At the mid-point of this season, all isn’t awful for the Bears, but they sure do have a lot more work to do.  Currently the Bears offense is – predictable, to say the least.  With rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being handcuffed by play-calling and a lack of options to throw the ball to, the Bears are attacking via the rushing game. Running back Jordan Howard is third in the NFL in total carries (behind Zeke Elliot and LeVeon Bell) and is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (662).  He is the bell cow for this offense and with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for less than 50% of his completions, expect this trend to continue.  The strength of this Bears team lies in their top ten defense.  This is a great thing for fans of the Bears to see as they know the key to any success this franchise has ever had – stems from a strong defense.  This week the Monsters of the Midway face their hated rival, the Green Bay Packers.  Quarterback Brett Hundley has been more underwhelming than Trubisky and although his completion percentage is 1.2 points below sixty-percent – don’t be fooled.  He’s averaging five yards a pass and has a touchdown/interception ratio of 1:4.  Yikes.  Defensively, the Packers are allowing 357 yards a game, which puts them in the bottom twenty-five percent of the NFL.  Both teams will run very vanilla offenses, the Bears may try to open things up more than the Packers actually.  Regardless, this is the first time since 2008 that the Bears are actually favored to win over the Packers.  Five and half points (with the trending arrow moving upwards) is just a weird number, but 38 as the over and under is a good one.  This game will see a lot of three and outs and a lot of kicks.  Bears may pull it off, modestly.

The Pick: The Under 38.5

Houston Texans +11 at Los Angeles Rams

One thing we all can agree on is this:  The Houston Texans are pathetic without Deshaun Watson under center.  The Texans options are quarterback are Tom Savage, who’s awful; Josh Johnson, who we vaguely remember as awful and TJ Yates, who is “eh.” It’s not even about the Texans losing their quarterback, the whole organization seems to have lost any inspiration, and that is not ALL on coach Bill O’ Brien.  O’Brien is in the middle of a firestorm that involves his players not being happy with remarks made by the team’s owner.  This is the total opposite of what’s going on in L.A. with the Rams.  For years, the Rams have pretty much been a door-mat in the NFL.  First year coach Sean McVay has transformed this team into the league’s number one scoring offense, averaging 32.9 points per contest.  Houston’s defense may struggle with the Rams’ aerial attack and their run defense will get their best challenge of the season going up against running back Todd Gurley.  Gurley has the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL with 686.  The total balance on offense will be too much for Houston to keep up with for four quarters especially because the Texans offense will most likely throw up uneventful three-and-out drives and turn over the ball at least twice.

The Pick: Rams -11

New Orleans Saints -3 at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo at home is always a tough sell on the sharpest of betters.  The weather is miserable and visiting teams are bored because there is nothing to do there.  This year’s Bills team is in the middle of the debate of “contenders or pretenders” especially after getting smacked up by the Jets on national television last week.  The Bills don’t run the ball exceptionally well but they also don’t throw the ball exceptionally well – but they force the issue with the run as their 250 attempts, with an average of 3.7 yards a carry, prove.  NFL pundits have been drooling over the defense of the New Orleans Saints, saying that this defense is the reason why they have a record of 6-2.  When you look at the numbers though, you ask yourself: Really?  A defense that gives up 4.7 yards a rush and a completion percentage of 60% sounds pretty average. . .even to some below-average. For the Saints though, it’s all about one defensive stat: Points Per Game.  This defense is only allowing teams to average 19 points per contest which goes really well when you have an offense that is constructed so perfectly.  Head coach Sean Payton has leaned on a two-running-back attack where Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are relied on heavily throughout the game.  The Saints have an offense that is top ten in rushing and passing and going against the Bills defense on the road will be one of their tougher test this year.  A final score of 27-18 is totally believable in the favor of the Saints.

The Pick: Saints -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Chicago Bears: Mid-Season Report Card

The “Monsters of the Midway” entered the 2017 season knowing it is in the middle of a rebuild.  This isn’t a team that was looking to “tank” though.  The Bears’ rebuild consist of trying to be competitive throughout the season.  It’s a way of “filtering out the excess fat” from their roster.

Quarterback:

Entering the season, the Bears faithful knew they’d be in for some nonsense.  Signing Mike Glennon in free agency and moving up in the first round to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was a recipe for disaster from day one.  Glennon was never going to get a fair shake, as the fans wanted to see the younger player and the media made Glennon’s spot on the team seem useless.  Glennon’s play on the field didn’t help to quiet that noise either.   Mike Glennon had a completion percentage of 66.4% but that was because he seemed to scared to throw it downfield and basically dumped it off to running backs and tight ends all day.   Ultimately his 8 total turnovers did him in and got him benched, which of course led to the starting of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.  Things didn’t get much better.  Trubisky’s completion percentage is under 50% and in four games he has two touchdown passes and four turnovers.  Glennon and Trubisky don’t have a lot to work with in terms of coaching or talent (keep reading) but in just looking at production from the position a solid D minus even seems generous.

Running Back:

If it wasn’t for Jordan Howard, the Bears wouldn’t have much of an offense this season.  With that being said, it’s not as if he’s putting up “elite-RB” numbers.  His 83 yards a game coupled with his 4.1 yards per average is consistent work at least and you can’t knock him considering he’s being run into the ground.  In the eight games he’s played, he’s already carried the ball for 162 times.  Bears fans fell in love with Tarik Cohen and his 5’6″ frame in week one. Then after that, there hasn’t been much to applaud him for.  He seems to try to do too much when he has the ball now and the Bears just aren’t creative enough on offense to devise schemes for him.  The Bears should look passed Cohen on the depth chart and start handing the ball off to Benny Cunningham more.  Cunningham is more of the traditional back, who can take some of the pounding off of Jordan Howard.  Because of Howard’s toughness alone, and him alone in this backfield, you have to give it a grade of a B.

Wide Receiver/Tight End:

Nothing to see here folks.  Even if Kevin White and Cameron Merdith didn’t suffer season ending injuries, it’s hard to believe it would be a much better group of wide-outs than the one that’s currently presented.  Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if they aren’t getting opportunities because the play calling is so bad, or if they’re just not that good.  The loss of Zach Miller was not only horrific to watch but also took away the most reliable target on the team.  Rookie Adam Shaheen was supposed to be one of those “sleeper picks” in the draft, and so far he has one catch which was a two-yard touchdown reception. . .yay.  Hopefully the acquisition of Dontrelle Inman will help boast this group but it’s pretty pitiful.  Easy grade of an F.

Offensive Line:

Glennon and Trubisky have combined for 19 sacks this season but when watching the tape, the blame isn’t all on the offensive line.  This is a tough group led by Kyle Long and Josh Sitton.  Cody Whitehair slips up once in a while but all in all he’s continuing to be a solid contributor.  The Bears have the third most rushing yards in the league and the backs are averaging a respectable 4.3 yards a carry.  If healthy this is a good offensive line who’s grade is a B.

Defensive Line:

If there is a mid-season MVP for this Bears team, I’d have to go with Akiem Hicks.  Hicks leads the team with 7 sacks, demands attention and is the player on this defensive front who offensive coordinators must plan around.  His All-Pro-Like play has opened up more opportunities for Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman.  The Bears are allowing on 3.9 yards a rush this season and most of it is due to this defensive front that finds itself in the opposition’s back field more times than not. Grade A.

Linebackers/Secondary:

A healthy Danny Trevathan is a welcomed sight to this defense.  He leads the team with 52 total tackles and definitely has added that “aggressive nature” the Bears defense has been lacking in recent history.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson came out of Alabama with a lot of talent but also a history including injuries so many were wary of him.  He could prove to be the safety the Bears have been needing for years if he keeps playing at the level he’s been playing at.  Even if you take away that game when he had two pick-sixes he’s still been playing like one of the steals of this year’s draft.  His pairing with Adrian Amos can be the building blocks for rebuilding a secondary.  Fans want Kyle Fuller to be “the guy” – but I don’t see it.  Ever.  Regardless, this is a physical group of players from the linebackers to the secondary who will get a grade of B plus.

Coaching:

First the good:

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell both get an A for their efforts this year.  Donatell has really got the young guys in the secondary playing with confidence and as mentioned above they seem to be developing quickly into legit NFL talents.  Fangio has been one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators for years and it’s his defense that has kept the Bears in games, even when the offense is trying to give them away.

Now the bad:

Head coach John Fox, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains all get a D at the midpoint of the 2017 season. The offensive play calling is as predictable as a New Year’s hangover.   “Run, Run, Pass, Punt,” appears to be the offensive call to arms, especially since the team made the switch to Mitchell Trubisky.  Trubiksy has displayed some arm strength and the ability to throw on the run, but the Bears refuse to open the playbook for the struggling rookie.  This all falls on John Fox, and seriously nobody even knows if he’s mentally checked out already or not.  Rumors have been floating around since the draft that he’s a lame duck coach this season and they’ll be looking to change the culture next season.  Bears fans everywhere hope so.

After calculating the grades, the Bears get an overall mid-season grade of a C.  That is both a surprising and “not-so-bad” grade for a team with a 3-5 record who at the beginning of the season was looked at as an NFL “doormat.”  The last 2-3 years saw a Bears team that would quit, especially defensively.  The re-emergence of the Monster of the Midway can give the fan-base hope.  Just imagine if this team had a decent offense what they could look like. . . They’ll be lucky to finish the season with seven wins, but if they keep playing like they are, there is definitely a core here to build on.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Chicago Bears 2017 Outlook

It’s that time of year for Bears fans.  You know, the premature-Doomsday talk for the Bears’ up-coming season.  The annual and agonizing punchlines about the Bears weak front office, past draft mishaps and the whole “Jay Cutler” era.  And in 2017, lets not fail to mention the touch of awful comedy bestowed upon the Bears: how a team who won three games last year ended up with one of the toughest schedules (on paper) this year.   It’s business as usual for Chicago as it appears they will once again be expected to be bringing-up-the-rear of the NFC North.

Vegas is giving Chicago a chance to be better than last year, which isn’t saying much after a 3-13 season.  The over/under for total wins is set at 5.5, which seems just about right considering this team’s secondary and wide out group.  Something that the Bears do have in their favor this season is that they are only traveling an estimated 8300 miles this season, which is the fifth lowest in the NFL this year (in some kind of Chicago Bears luck, they play all four teams who travel less than they do this year).  With a young team, this should work out in their favor more than not.

But aside from ridiculous positives this writer is trying to find, let’s look at this offense.   The Bears did some pretty confusing things in the off-season but when you sit back and think about it, they did it right. . . at least you’d hope.  They signed free agent QB Mike Glennon to a three year $45 million dollar contract, consequently outbidding nobody for his services and then months later they moved up in the draft to take QB Mitch Trubisky out of UNC.  A one year starter who the Bears say won’t see the time of day this season.  And let’s not forget they went and signed everyone’s favorite klutz, Mark Sanchez.  Aye.  Best case scenario is that Glennon puts up decent enough numbers and doesn’t get hurt all year.  The Bears signed Sanchez for two reasons: to not have Glennon worry about his starting job and to help mentor (yes mentor, look at how good he was as a cheerleader for Dak Prescott in Dallas last year) the young Trubiksy.

The issue here is, if Glennon struggles – and there’s a good chance he might – the Bears fans will be screaming for Trubisky or head coach John Fox’s head.  Fox is saying Trubisky will remain number three on the depth chart but Fox is also coaching for his job this time around so if Glennon struggles, he’ll likely put his future in the hands of Trubisky rather than Sanchez.

The Bears offensive line, if healthy, can prove to be one of the better surprises of the 2017 season.   As of right now Cody Whitehair remains at center for the Bears, but Hroniss Grasu is healthy now and he was slated to be the starter in 2016 before he got hurt.  Whitehair is versatile enough to move around the line and the Bears have shown that they will put Kyle Long, and his intensity, pretty much anywhere along that O-Line.  Anything can happen here, and the depth is the most legit that it’s been in a long time.

Jordan Howard enters his sophomore season behind this offensive line and he is looking to prove that his rookie season of over 1300 rushing yards at 5.2 yards a clip, was no fluke.  The depth at running back is interesting – Jeremy Langford who not too long ago was thought to be their guy moving forward took a step back last season.  Kadeem Carey who writer Kevin Fishbain  of the Athletic pointed out “has never rushed for 160 yards in a season” may struggle to be anything more than a special teams coverage guy, and rookie Tarik Cohen, all five foot, six inches of him – is a fan and camp favorite.

The wide outs on the Bears are a collection of under achievers looking for one more shot.  Kevin White, Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright all had promising careers at one point but either due to injury or just “not being as good as advertised” – things haven’t worked out their way.  Folks love Cameron Meredith, but I’d be careful to fall in love with an undrafted rookie out of Illinois State who probably wouldn’t get a chance to play wide receiver on just about any other roster than this one in the NFL.  The Bears know their wide outs are more boom than bust which is why they signed free agent tight end Dion Sims who. . . oh yeah that’s right, he’s a bust too.  Zach Miller has been okay at the tight end spot, but everyone expects the Bears to showcase rookie Adam Shaheen early and often.

Defensively, it’s all about what this front seven can do.  General manager Ryan Pace didn’t think too hard in the first round of last years draft and went with the obvious choice in Leonard Floyd who should – excuse me – will be a defensive star for years to come in this league. Veteran Willie Young has kept himself in Floyd’s ear, pushing him all through camp, apparently.  Young is a versatile defensive OLB who should probably get a lot more credit than he gets. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is primed to have a big season this year, which should do wonders for the likes of Jonathan Bullard who needs to come on strong early this year.  Jerrell Freeman is in his second year in this defense and will find his footing in it as well.  Injuries to Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan bring Bears fans close to tears because if those guys were added onto this front seven, it becomes one of the most formidable in the league.

The secondary though. . .

Can we just stop waiting on Kyle Fuller?  The corner back had two good games in his rookie year and people treat him as if he’s the next Charles Tillman. Enough. The Bears signed veteran safety Quintin Demps to a three year $13 million dollar contract, with five million guaranteed.  It took Demps 8 years to have his best season and he did it with a great defense last year (Texans) – he doesn’t create for himself but is opportunistic.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson from Alabama could be a legit steal in the draft if he can stay healthy.  He has all the tools to be a starter in the NFL but injuries in college made his draft stock plummet.  There is really nothing to get excited about at the moment with this Bears secondary.  There is a lot of youth fighting to get on this squad.  Hopefully, at least one of these kids can be like catching lightning in a bottle.  The front seven can help make this secondary look a lot better than they actually are.

At the end of it all, Bears fans have got to stay focused on what’s really important here.  Developing the youth, and looking toward the future.  This season is tough, Minnesota’s a good team and Green Bay is Green Bay. . . The Bears have to focus on the win-able games and build from there.  Six wins – maybe even seven are not out of the realm of possibility for this team. Expect a stronger second half of the season from this team and a positive look into 2018.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

New Niners Era

When John Lynch was introduced to the world as the new general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, most of the world kind of shook their collective heads, or just let out a collective “huh?”  There was good reason for that at the time.  When he retired from the game that saw him as a nine-time Pro-Bowler in 2008, we saw him for just about the next nine years being a color commentator for FOX.   Last time we saw somebody do something similar to this was the disastrous Matt Millen to the Lions ordeal.   Matt Millen was viewed much like Lynch is – a smart player on and off the field, has an eye for talent, so on and so forth. . .

Lynch is different though.  For the 49ers sake, he must be. 

Lynch knows what it takes to build a Super Bowl team because he was on one in 2002 with the Bucs.  He knows what kind of personalities will work with each other, the necessity of comradery in the locker room and of course, the kind of coach needed.  This is why the hiring of Kyle Shanahan should have come as no surprise.  Much like John Gruden, Lynch’s head coach during his day’s in Tampa Bay – Gruden is an offensive minded coach, who is a “quarterback – whisperer” of sorts – much like Shanahan.  Shanahan’s demeanor can at times remind folks of Gruden as many have mentioned how Shanahan’s ego is a bit, well – out there.

The “Great Heist of the 2017 Draft” was a perfectly drawn up by Lynch and his associates, who pretty much “hood-winked” the Chicago Bears into trading then two third round picks (one of which is for 2018) and a fourth round pick – and only moved down one spot.  Lynch was able to get the player he wanted originally in Stamford defensive linemen Solomon Thomas.  They also traded back into the first round to select Alabama line backer Reuben Foster.  His initial draft was a success with a focus on the defense – Ahkello Witherspoon is an athletic 6’3″ cornerback out of Colorado and in the seventh round they may have found a steal in safety Adrian Colbert, who ran a 4.38 in the combine.  If Colbert, may be a steal, Lynch’s fourth-round pick, running back Joe Williams out of Utah is definitely a steal. 

Remember, this is only the draft.

Lynch, decided to keep a focus on the side of the ball he’s most familiar with. .  Lynch, 45, years old isn’t too far removed from a “rougher” NFL but has also seen the transition of, let’s just say a “different” NFL.  Shanahan has developed successful offenses in this NFL and truth be known, it’s easier to get an offensive system in put then it is for defense.  Sure, this season is pretty much a wash for San Francisco – you’ll see a lot of Carlos Hyde and you should see a lot of the rookie Williams as well.

Let’s look at the rest of this division for a second.

The Cardinals: They have talent, but last year was a bit scary to see if you’re a Cardinals fan.  Things just weren’t working out well for them and it’s apparent Carson Palmer is on the wrong side of 37. . .

The Rams: Are terrible.

The Seahawks: Let’s be honest.  Aren’t they just a ‘tad-bit’ over-rated these days.  Nobody is scared of the Legion of Boom like they used to be, and with rumors circulating that Richard Sherman was on the trading block, it seems Seattle isn’t too fond of it either.  All of their young talent that helped build that team up under Pete Carroll (including coordinators) have gone off for bigger paychecks.  The NFC West is their division by default.

Okay, back to the Niners.

Looking ahead to 2018, the 49ers will have money to spend and there are free agents who might find it intriguing to land in San Francisco.  It’s already been mentioned that Kirk Cousins will run to San Fran once his time is done in Washington, but another option might be New England’s Jimmy Garappolo.  Wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Terrelle Pryor are both playing on one-year “prove you’re real” deals and they could both be pleasant options as well.  There are a couple of veteran offensive linemen available in 2018 who might want to play in a Shanahan offense  – Johnathan Cooper, Nate Solder and Greg Robinson to name a few.

Remember, in the NFL, fortunes can flip within a year in any given division.  Seeing already how the 49ers are positioning themselves, it would not be hard to believe, if in three years – maybe even two – the NFC West belongs to the gold-diggers out of San Fran.

G.W. Gras

@GeeSteelio

Chicago Bears 2017 Mock Draft

When you finish 3-13 on the season, everyone on the roster and upper management is expendable.  Even though this is a situation where the Bears should have patience and let general manager Adam Pace have some time to do his job – the fan-base has just about had it.  And why not?  The Bears have seen the Packers dominate the division, and even seen the Vikings and Lions do things “the right way” to find themselves in a positive light.  The Bears do everything in a mediocre fashion – at best.

All is not lost though, they seem pretty formidable on both sides of the line of scrimmage and if last year wasn’t a hoax, running back Jordan Howard could be the back this franchise has been clamoring for, for decades. . .

Round 1: Pick 3:

Jamal Adams – Safety – LSU

Before the signing of Mike Glennon, many believed the Bears would take a quarterback here.  Namely Mitchell Trubisky or DeShone Kizer.  It’s apparent that management wasn’t comfortable with naming either of those guys the “future” of the franchise, so instead they outbid – well no one, really – and signed Mike Glennon.  The Bears secondary is one of the worst in the league – and has been for a few years now. Jamal Adams may be one of the best complete players in this year’s draft.  He can cover one on one, has great reaction to the ball and is a fearless tackler as well who can play in the box to combat the run.  He was the leader of one of the best defensive units in college and leadership is something this secondary needs.  He can change the tone of this defense from day-one.

Round 2:  Pick 36

Evan Engram – Tight End – Ole’ Miss

If the Bears get luck and Engram is there, they HAVE to snatch him up.  Besides being a great receiving tight end, this is a position (tight end) that the Bears need to rectify this off-season.  Engram is a game-changer at tight end – great receiving skills and route runner.  He’s not the most polished blocker, but at least he tries – that already makes him potentially better than, let’s say, a Jimmy Graham. . .

Round 3: Pick 67

Taylor Moton – Offensive Tackle – Western Michigan

Although offensive line isn’t a huge need, it’s a need none-the-less and it’s always good to gain versatile big men upfront.  The Bears caught lightning in a bottle last season with the versatility of Cody Whitehair, and Moton offers that versatility in a bigger package.  Moton is 6’5″ 330 and started at guard but then moved into right tackle for the Broncos.  It’s always a gamble when taking a lineman out of the MAC as they don’t see the defensive line talent seen at the Big 10 or SEC, but his versatility is key.

Round 4: Pick 111

K.D. Cannon – Wide Receiver – Baylor

His draft grades have been everywhere from the second round to the sixth round.  Draft expert Justin Higdon predicts that he’ll be available in the 5th or 6th round, but in terms of “wishful thinking” let’s just say he’s around in the fourth. . . the Bears have a need at receiver which is why they went and signed two in the off-season.  They lost Alshon Jeffrey to free agency (which will turn out being a blessing in disguise) and are relying on Kevin White to finally be healthy.  Cannon is explosive and loves the spotlight.  He hasn’t shown much of the route-running ability due to the way Baylor football is run, but he is definitely a gamer and has “big-play” ability, something the Bears desperately lack.

Round 4: Pick 117

Damonte Kazee – Corner Back – San Diego State

Is this a reach?  Probably but the Bears are limited with draft picks and Kazee has an “upside” that is very promising.  He went back to college for his senior year because he wasn’t impressed with his draft grade after being the Mountain West defensive player of the year but even with all his stats, it seems he’s destined to be slotted in the 4th – 6th rounds. He’s  5’10” 180 and is a decent tackler, but a great cover guy, who also works his way to force some fumbles.

Round 5: Pick 147

Chad Kelly – Quarterback – Ole Miss

Not too many guys beat Alabama.  He did.  He can make all the passes, great arm strength and above average mobility.  Unfortunately character concerns and a leg injury last season have folks very wary of the gunslinger out of Ole Miss.  After the Johnny Manziel fiasco the NFL had to deal with, having a young headache at the quarterback position is something no team wants to deal with.  For a team like the Bears though, it’s worth the gamble.  Pound for pound, if given the chance he can surpass the likes of Mike Glennon – it’s all about how focused the young Rebel is. . .

Round 7: Pick 221

Krishawn Hogan – Wide Receiver – Marian University

One of my favorite prospects in the draft, Krishawn Hogan.  At 6’3″ 220 pounds, he brings the physicality corners fear to the position of wide out.  Not many people see football games played by Marian University, and he was the first player from his university to be invited to the NFL combine.  It was there where the naked eye revealed that he belonged.  Good hands, good speed for his size (4.6 at the 40) and showed  nice cutting ability.  He could be a steal if there ever was one in the NFL Draft.

It would be nice to see the Bears maybe trade for a few more late round picks, which may very well happen.  Maybe draft a running back to push Jeremy Langford at the two spot behind Jordan Howard. Maybe Baylor’s Shock Linwood or Utah’s Joe Williams deserve a look from Chicago.  Of course they can also look for a sleeper pass rusher like Steven Taylor of Houston or even Illinois product Hardy Nickerson, whose father of the same name,  played in the NFL.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

NFC North: First Round Mock

This is a division that just tears at my soul. . . as a Chicago Bears fan, it hurts to see all other three teams in this division have some kind of potential or hope.  All the while, the Bears fumble through their seasons as if they have just learned the sport. . .

Green Bay Packers

Finished with a 10-6 record

Def Yards:22nd    Off Yards: 8th

The Packers pass defense ranked 28th in the league giving up 248 yards a game, but that stat is misleading because the Packers rush defense was so good, teams usually had no other option but to throw the ball against them.  Their 17 interceptions on the year proves that their defense was up to the challenge and their 40 sacks last season were the sixth highest total by any team in the league.  Green Bay might just fine tune this defense up a bit and do it with some home good cooking.  Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt is another one of these athletic linebackers who can play in or out.  He has his brother’s knack for swatting passes if he can’t get to the quarterback and is playing to make a name for himself.  The in-state talent would fit in great here and there is no “becoming accustomed to the weather” type of scenario for this former Badger.

Minnesota Vikings

Finished With an 8-8 Record

Def Yards: 3rd   Off Yards:28th

No team was smacked back down to reality faster than the Minnesota Vikings last season (eh, maybe the Eagles too. . .).  They started the season 5-0 and only managed to win 3 more games after their bye-week.  Adrian Peterson is gone so they signed Latavius Murray to the squad, who is mediocre at best.  Unfortunately, the Vikings traded their first-round pick for quarterback Sam Bradford last season.  It looked like a thing of genius early, but then it just looked like Sam Bradford. . .

Detroit Lions

Finished With a 9-7 Record

Def Yards:18th    Off Yards: 21st

For quarterback Matthew Stafford, he had his first taste of life without Calvin Johnson.  He threw 8 fewer touchdowns, but he made the playoffs – so it depends on what you’re looking for, I guess.  Maybe a running game would’ve helped out – because the two-headed monster of Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah is more like a sleeping dragon. . .that sleeps. . . and sleeps. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey may be exactly what this team needs to get a ground game going. McCaffrey is a true dual-threat back, who has the ability to break a big play from anywhere on the field.  He is a smart player, who is patient in waiting for his blocks.  He should amount up to what Abdullah was supposed to be. . .

Chicago Bears

Finished With a 3-13 Record

Def Yards: 15th   Off Yards:  15th

The Bears did a good job drafting last year.  They scooped up Leonard Floyd in the first round and he showed flashes of his pass rushing ability frequently last year.  Cody Whitehair proved to be a starting offensive lineman in this league, drafted to be a guard and became the day one center for the Bears; and Jordan Howard, the fifth round running back out of Indiana ran for over 1300 yards in his rookie campaign.  The Bears won 3 games though. . . if the Bears enter next season healthy they actually do have some skill and size on both sides of the line of scrimmage – receivers and secondary players though . . .they might be the worst in the league at both of those positions.   The Bears haven’t had a good safety since Mark Carrier left the team in 1996 (sorry, Mike Brown fans) – LSU’s Jamal Adams is a safety that can be an All-Pro for many years to come.  Besides having excellent instinct on the ball, he is an aggressive player, who can line up in the box and also cover down the field in man coverage.  If the Bears are ever going to make strides in this secondary, getting a player like Adams is the perfect place to start.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio