Football

Welcome back, Bears fans! Today, Friday, and Monday Wes and I will be doing a 3 part roundtable about the draft and going forward. Just like every website that somehow has access to our email addresses, I’d like to include the phrase “in these uncertain times” before we go too far- so be on the lookout for that.
-TM

Wes-
It’s been a minute since we were together here at the roundtable. Since we last spoke, I wrote 3500 words about a bunch of players the Bears didn’t draft, but they selected 7 new dudes and picked up 11 UDFAs.
How do we feel, in these uncertain times?

Wes French: I’m a little…skeptical. I was ECSTATIC when Josh Jones, Antoine Winfield Jr., Grant Delpit and Jeremy Chinn were all there at 43 only to see the Bears pop Cole Kmet. I was still pretty happy when Jones and Chinn were available at 50, but Jaylon Johnson is also a very good gamble given his ability and “slide” was due to some cranky shoulders that might not be that scary. 

Ryan Pace has made his mark in the middle rounds across his drafts, so I didn’t mind spending a little draft capital next year and using existing later round picks this year to create three Fifth Round 2020 selections. Trevis Gipson especially stands out for me.

Tony Martin: As everyone that reads the site knows, I was a major mark for Winfield Jr throughout the pre-draft process and I was so pumped when he was still on the board at 43. I have mixed feelings about the draft, but Jaylon Johnson isn’t one I’m mixed on. I saw projections of him as a day 1 player, and “immediate starter” is a phrase I’ve seen in a lot of his scouting reports. If both he and Kmet live up to their potential, this was a power move by Pace.

I don’t really know what to feel about the Kmet pick. I mean, I guess this is more Nagy’s chance to prove that the offensive shortcomings can be changed if they have that prototypical TE, I just wish the Bears fans on Reddit can see that he’s not a complete prospect and his blocking is suspect. Tell me more about why you like the Gibson pick, I’ll tell you why I think Kindle Vildor shines in this system and then we can probe the late round picks and UDFAs.

Wes: I was WAY in on Winfeild Jr. Man, the possibilities with playing next to Eddie Money, allowing Jackson to basically be unleashed to do ANYTHING in the defensive backfield…fuck. Oh well. 

My problem with the Kmet pick is it feels desperate. We know this was Nagy’s guy, it had to be. My problem with the whole situation is that they have now devoted a ton of resources in the way of salary, draft capital and player development into positions that are clearly central to Nagy’s offense. The boys upstairs got super cute with the first iteration, tabbing a career back up and Juco draft reach the first go around in 2017 and now Trey Burton is cut and costing millions to not play and Adam Shaheen is more thank likely to be cut without a complete 180 this summer. The pedigree is better for the second crack at it with Jimmy Graham/Kmet…but Graham is basically in the twilight of his career and Kmet is at best a high upside project. Just feels like throwing more bad money after bad money but I guess they have to try. 
On Gipson, it just feels like the type of mid/late round Pace pick that will pop. A guy that had some really strong games while playing a style with his hand in the dirt on the edge at Tulsa could easily become a force in a stand-up 3-4 straight up edge rusher role. Also, there’s this comparison I found to be pretty encouraging: 

Matthew Judon: 6-foot-3, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 146 overall in 2016

Trevis Gipson: 6-foot-3 3/8, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 155 overall in 2020

The paths could be similar too – Judon was a rotational/role player on the edge his rookie year, and in the last three seasons has become a force worthy of a Franchise Tag in Baltimore. Gipson has the measureables and quick-twitch hallmarks of someone that can succeed on the edge in the new NFL. While he didn’t pile up sacks last year (8.5) he did have 15 tackles for loss showing he knows how to be disruptive in opposing backfields. I love this pick. (h/t Adam Hoge for the leg work on this one)

Tony: Before we put the Winfield Jr stuff to rest, I’d like to agree and also point out that I’ve seen a lot of chatter that the Bears needed an “in the box” safety, without acknowledging that EJax also plays close to the line and makes plays in the run game as well, and having two incredibly versatile athletes at Safety gives the team crazy amounts of flexibility.I think your love for Gipson will pay off, to be honest. He looks like he can contribute to the rotation and will certainly be an upgrade over Aaron Lynch almost no matter what. As an added bonus, he also gets to learn from two all-star edge rushers, which no doubt inspires confidence in his future development.While we’re dreaming of big things, I wanna talk about two guys that I think not only make this team but contribute: CB Kindle Vildor and WR Darnell Mooney. Vildor is a man corner who won’t challenge for starting reps anytime soon, but he will make major contributions on special teams and I believe can eventually come in and make plays in sub packages. He’s got a major chip on his shoulder and I have major love for gritty players from small schools. Mooney, on the other hand, is going to come in and make plays. He’s quick, tall, and can win contested catches. His highlight tape is basically him winning jump balls and taking slants 70 yards to the endzone, and ironically as I was writing this the Bears signed Ted Ginn Jr, so I guess there’s time for him to develop that route tree.

Any thoughts on the later round guys or UDFAs?

Wes:I agree on Vildor, and I’d like to tie this into baseball (RIP) a little bit and steal a phrase – This entire Bears draft is full of 70/80-grade names. Love it. I do think taking two CBs and no safeties tells you how they feel about the personnel in house. I was pretty happy with what I saw from Kevin Toliver at the end of last season, but he’s going to have a real battle just to make this team now.For the 7th rounders/UDFAs I think it’s those last two picks/two signings on the Oline that stand out, another few 80-grade names in Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons (7th Rd) and Dieter Eiselen/Badara Traore (UDFAs). The more I think about the process the more I like the idea of swinging for a handful of OL late with the idea you stash them on the practice (or possible taxi squad this Fall…) and let them come along that way instead of a project in the 2nd round. Pace keeps telling us that Juan Castillo was the big acquisition on the OL this offseason and this draft only solidifies that sentiment.

You feeling good about any of the other UDFAs?

Tony: Simmons has some awesome tape, and with a new offensive line coach I’m excited to see how the young guys develop, given that most of them won’t have the time to take physical reps, given the state of the world. I’m hoping at least one of the late round linemen makes the team, and a couple of the UDFAs make the practice squad. Is LeDarius Mack a viable prospect? I’m hoping the name gets him in the door and he makes the team, but the ones I like the most are Artavis Pierce, the RB from Oregon State, and Rashad Smith, another OLB from Florida Atlantic who I think is going to get kicked inside and back up Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Rashad Smith put up preposterous tackle numbers and can cover as well as play the run. I’d like to see Pierce make the team, especially if the Bears don’t intend to resign Tarik Cohen after this season. I think Ryan Pace’s ability to find quality running backs has been understated in his time here, and Pierce might make the team given where the depth chart sits today.

Final thoughts?

Wes: I feel like Mack was a nice nod to Khalil, and if there’s anything that will get him as motivated as possible it’s big brother on his ass all offseason in the same training program. I’m not sure if he can become a rotation player given what they have at the position, but he can win a job by going hard on special teams and showing some versatility – he’s smaller than Khalil so maybe a hybrid edge/coverage option in the middle.

I really, really like Pierce as well, the lightening to our fan favorite Ryan Nall’s thunder at OSU. I feel like overall there are some good opportunities for the guys drafted/signed to make this team one way or another. I’ll especially be keeping my eye on Pierce and Mooney as returner options and a path for either to make the team outright.

That’s all I have for now…which looks like quite a bit as I scroll back up this marathon. Great chatting you up about sports again with the uncertainty surrounding everything else right now. Stay safe out there, dear readers, and remember – fuck landlords and mortgage lenders #cancelrent Now!

Tony: It’s always a pleasure chopping up the finer points of this shitshow with you, Wes. Football was a nice distraction from the dystopian shithole our world is at the moment. I hope everyone reading this is making the best of it that they can, unless you’re a landlord expecting rent today. Happy May Day!

Football

Welcome back to another installment of On the Clock, where I scour mock drafts and pretend that I watched any college football last year (which I did not- fuck the NCAA).

Previously, I made the argument that the Bears need to stay at 43 and 50 and not trade back, instead looking to solidify two areas of need with rookie starters. We looked at the consensus top two interior linemen, and 4 potential second-tier receivers that could be game breakers. However, with two major holes in the defensive backfield, an instant starter (or two) in the secondary could pay bigger dividends than a lineman or wideout. One consensus between all the mocks I’ve seen is that the Bears most likely wait until the later rounds to find depth for both the linebacker corps and defensive line rotation, so we will spend this entire section looking at the secondary.

 

What the Bears need: 

The Bears need a Safety and a Cornerback immediately. Deon Bush is a great depth piece, but he is not a starting safety (look back at last year’s opening week Packers game for an understanding of how easily Bush can look too hard in the backfield and get beat deep; also his inability to make plays on the ball in the red zone). Similarly, Kevin Tolliver, Artie Burns, and Tre Roberson are either career backups or unknowns. If Roberson plays in the NFL the way he did that made him the CFL’s premiere defensive free agent, that eliminates the need for a top pick on a CB, but as of now he’s still an unproven commodity. Since most mocks have the Bears looking Safety or Cornerback in the second round, let’s take a look at some of the prospects.

Xavier McKinney- Alabama
Xavier McKinney is a game-changer on defense and there’s no debate about it. In Chuck Pagano’s defense, he would have the ability to be a matchup nightmare. He lined up all over the field last year, as a sort of hybrid defender who can do it all. He’s got tremendous ball skills and watching his tape shows someone who is an instinctual blitzer. Pagano would be able to be super creative with a talent like this. He’s a playmaker, forcing turnovers at ease and always being around the ball. I’ve seen him mocked as early as pick 20, but if he falls it would be difficult to see the Bears pass on him.

Antoine Winfield Jr- Minnesota
How interested you are in the Bears taking Winfield sort of depends on what you want the safety opposite of Eddie Jackson to be: should he be an inside the box safety, someone who can play the deep middle to free up Jackson to read the QB, or a hybrid? Watching Winfield’s tape, it’s clear he plays a very similar game to Eddie Jackson. He is an absolute ballhawk and when he gets the chance, he’s a threat to take a fumble recovery or interception to the house every time. He picked off seven (!) passes last year. He has a long injury history, so there is risk to the pick, but if healthy, he and Eddie Jackson as a 1-2 Safety combo would be an absolute nightmare.

Jeremy Chinn- Southern Illinois
Aching for a return to the Bears defense of 2018? Jeremy Chinn’s pro comp is Adrian Amos, so if that holds true you should be rooting for the Bears to pick Chinn in the second round. Chinn has been talked about as everything from the first Safety off the board to someone that can be available for teams with a pick in the 60s, so if the Bears trade one of their first two picks to fall back in the second round, Chinn could be available as a value pick. I’ve also heard him talked about like a lighter version of Isaiah Simmons and could be asked to bulk up and play the roaming defender role in some defenses, which presents some interesting pairings with who the Bears already have. Let’s hope if the Bears take Chinn he can beat up on NFL teams like he did your Youngstown States (Youngstowns State?).*

Trevon Diggs- Alabama
Diggs is another Alabama DB that the Bears could be looking at to fill their other outside CB spot. He’s a bit more of a raw athlete than a polished defensive back at this point in his career, but the mocks that link him to the Bears indicate a belief that the talent around him can help him build those skills and make him a top-tier corner. He won’t play the run as well as it was played last year, but he has the ability to close off one side of the field. In short, Diggs is a stud that got ethered on prime time television last year by LSU, so there’s naturally going to be some question about how well he can hold up against top competition.

Bryce Hall- Virginia
Hall, like Diggs, is a big, physical CB (both are over 6’ and 200lbs) with injury histories. Neither of them are the ideal run stopping CBs, but the Bears secondary doesn’t necessarily rely on outside defenders to stop the run (save for Kyle Fuller’s game winning tackle against the Lions last year). Hall is effective close to the line on bubble screens, corner blitzes, and quick slants. He limited opposing QBs to passer ratings around 50 the last two seasons and led the nation in pass breakups two years ago. Hall is more of a zone CB, so it would be interesting to see if that scheme fit would work in Chicago. I’ve also seen him mocked to Denver in multiple places, where he would also make a lot of sense.

Kyle Dugger- Lenoir-Rhyne
The Ringer really must have Ryan Pace figured out, tabbing Dugger to be the Bears pick at 50. It all makes sense, a D-2 player that was absolutely dominant? That’s absolutely on-brand for Pace and Dugger’s tape is pretty ruthless. Not only is he an outstanding returner with tremendous ball skills, he honestly looked like a grown ass man playing against little kids, because he was. I mean it’s D-2 so like you’ve got this dude that runs a 4.49 and put up 17 reps of 225 at the combine, and he’s going against the pud from your high school who went to Middle Tennessee Grand Canyon Valley Technical Institute A&M and Dugger is hitting dudes so hard they quit on the spot and go back to their hometowns to sell life insurance with their dads. Of all the prospects he’s the oldest (24) and with the level of his college competition he’s probably the biggest question mark, but I am seeing Dugger mocked to a lot of teams in the second round, so he’s doing something right. He could be another Bears player to come from D-2, or the Bears could instead choose to invest in a more proven commodity.

 

With all the garbage presented to us fans as “The 2019 Chicago Bears Offense”, it might be tempting to focus on that side of the ball with the first two picks in the second round. However, the holes in the defensive backfield are huge and glaring and if the Bears go out and take a defender with one of these first two picks, I think the potential for the Bears D to return to form in 2020 is much higher, ESPECIALLY if Tre Roberson is as good as advertised. Just imagine a Bears secondary of Roberson, Fuller, Skrine, Jackson and Antoine Winfield Jr., and you can hear the crowd after the Bears hold Green Bay to their 9th straight 3 and out chanting “Holy Shit” like Braun Strowman just sidewalk slammed some cruiserweight into the shadow realm.

 

*While looking for a good cover photo for this article I stumbled upon the one of Jeremy Chinn that I ended up using because the size of that man’s arms literally turned me into Vince McMahon: WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT HIM? THAT’S SUCH GOOD SHIT!

 

Tomorrow will be Part 4 of On The Clock: The Leftovers!