About this time last year, the Chicago Bears were coming off of a 12-4 season in which they were NFC North Division champs and a double doink away from a possible deep run in the playoffs. None of the 4 losses were more than 7 points, and it looked like head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace really only need to fix the kicker problem to have another shot at a playoff run.
Unfortunately, this is the NFL, and it very rarely goes that way unless you have Tom Brady and a weak AFC East to contend with each year. The league-leading defense dropped slightly, finishing 4th overall in points allowed, but it was the offense that had the biggest drop off. Starting with quarterback Mitchell Trubiski, who regressed instead of taking the next step which is expected out of a quarterback in his third year, the Bears offense was near the bottom in just about every major statistical category.
The Bears took big steps in free agency to fill some of these holes, which I wrote about here if you want to catch up on those moves. In one of the most unique drafts ever considering the Covid-19 pandemic, here is my take on how the Chicago Bears draft in 2020 turned out.
Second Round, #43 Overall
Cole Kmet – Tight End, Notre Dame
This 6’6″, 262 pound tight end out of Notre Dame was the first tight end off the board in the 2020 draft, and considered by most to be the top tight end. In many other years, he could have been 1st first round pick, according to ESPN insider Mel Kiper.
A lot was made of the fact that Kmet was the 10th tight end on the Bears roster after he was drafted, but realistically the only tight ends with a guarantee to make the roster are Kmet, Jimmy Graham, and Demetrius Harris. The rest will battle it out for the opportunity to be on the roster, but would likely be used more for blocking purposes.
Could he have still been on the board at 50, the Bears next pick? Possibly, but Ryan Pace has shown when he wants a guy he gets him. Kmet will have to work on his blocking and route running, but working next to Jimmy Graham will undoubtedly help him tremendously.
Second Round, #50 Overall
Jaylon Johnson – Cornerback, Utah
After releasing Prince Amukamara, the Bears needed to address the need at the cornerback spot opposite Kyle Fuller, They did just that when they drafted Jaylon Johnson, a 2-year starter who also played in 12 games his freshman year at Utah. The 6′ 0″, 195 pound defensive back was named to the First Team All-Pac 12 in both 2018 and 2019. Just to show how effective Johnson was on the outside, in 1,256 defensive snaps that he played he only allowed 3 touchdowns against him.
Many have spoken out against Johnson because of his “injury” history, however he only missed 2 games his entire college career – the bowl game after his freshman year to repair his injured shoulder, then the bowl game after his junior year for draft prep.
He did play his junior year with a torn labrum, which he still had when he competed in the NFL combine as well before having his third injury to repair his torn right labrum. His previous two injuries were on his left shoulder, but once again only missed the one game due to injury.
Another potential first round pick, Ryan Pace did very well with only 2 picks in the first 4 rounds.
Fifth Round, #150 Overall
Trevis Gipson – DE/OLB, Tulsa
We knew that Ryan Pace could not go through an entire draft without wheeling and dealing a little bit, and he saw a player he wanted before the Bears first draft pick of the 5th round. So he traded their 2021 4th round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for this pick. Although that makes many Bears fans cringe, as the Bears have been short on draft picks for most of Pace’s career as GM, the expectation is that the Bears may have as many as 4 compensatory picks next year, more than making up for the loss of one 4th round pick.
Gipson is a two-year starter at Tulsa, with 24 tackles for loss in those 2 years, 12 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. At 6’3″, 262 pounds, he played defensive end in college, but should transition to OLB easily in Chicago’s 3-4 scheme. He has a chip on his shoulder from falling so far in the draft, plus gets to learn from Khalil Mack and newcomer Robert Quinn. He will be a very good addition to this already good defense.
Fifth Round, #163 Overall
Kindle Vildor – CB, Georgia Southern
The Bears drafted more secondary depth with their second pick of the 5th round. Standing at 5’11”, 190 pounds, Vildor would have been a day 2 pick based on his production in 2018. He had 15 passes defended and 4 interceptions, and no doubt could have come out after his junior season.
He decided to come back to Georgia Southern for his senior year, however, and his production dipped. He did miss two games from an ankle injury suffered in October, but did come back and ended up having an impressive Senior Bowl appearance, making an interception and a tackle.
Vildor should have an impact immediately on special teams, and will fit into the depth chart behind Buster Skrines in the nickleback role.
Fifth Round, #173 Overall
Darnell Mooney – WR, Tulane
Pace worked another deal to add more picks to the Bears 5th round picks, trading their two 6th round picks and a 7th rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles to move back up into the 5th round to get Mooney. The Bears also received an additional 7th rounder, number 227 overall.
Mooney will give the Bears speed at the receiver position, which they lost when releasing Tyler Gabriel. Undoubtedly Mooney will play in the slot, and with his 4.38 40-yard dash speed he will give opposing defenses fits. He led Tulane in receiving in both of his last two years, with 993 yards in 2018 and 713 yards in 2019, both years with 48 receptions.
Seventh Round, #226 Overall
Arlington Hambright – OL, Colorado
By this time in the draft, Bears fans all over the internet were calling this draft a failure by Pace for not drafting any offensive lineman. I do not know whether he heard them, but Pace spent his last two picks on offensive lineman, bulking up the line.
The first of the two picks is Hambright, who started at junior college, before transferring to Oklahoma State then to Colorado as a graduate transfer.
At 6’5″ and 307 pounds, Hambright played his last 2 years at left tackle, but Pace has said that he may be better at guard, giving some depth at both positions.
Seventh Round, #227 Overall
Lachavious Simmons – OT, Tennessee State
With the very next selection, Pace chose Tennesee State offensive tackle Lachavious Simmons. Similar size to Hambright, at 6’5″ 315 pounds, Simmons has a little more flexibility, having played every position on the offensive line outside of center in his college career.
Nicknamed “Pig”, Simmons is quoted as saying that he is “a bloody your nose type of guy on the field.” He is stronger as a run blocker, and sometimes struggle with pass protection, so may spend some time on the practice squad much like Alex Bars did last year.
My Grade : A-
Outside of ESPN’s Mel Kiper, most other analysts have given the bears anywhere between B and A-. I am on the higher side of this opinion, I really like the addition of Cole Kmet. He has room to grow, but I like the idea of working with Jimmy Graham to learn from. Graham may be nearing the end of his career, but I am sure he has plenty of knowledge to pass on.
Jaylon Johnson has first round skills, and to be drafted with the 50th pick is outstanding. Then Pace turned around and added two additional 5th round picks, which he turned into more edge help, a replacement in the slot, and more defensive back help.
To finish the draft Pace added two big offensive lineman to add depth to a line that had trouble last year. Although neither will be starting immediately, both can be molded into productive lineman for years to come.
On paper, I like this draft, but we will know more once the season starts, hopefully this fall. What do you think about the draft? Let me know in the comments!