Another year, another Bears’ draft in the books. With brighter horizons ahead after another stellar draft for Ryan Pace and company, let’s run down and assign some grades to the picks. For this, we will assign a traditional school grade to both the player, defining his talent and potential, and to his value to the Bears, depending on how much the player fills a hole.
Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia (First round, Eighth Overall)
Perfectly designed for the modern NFL, Smith has elite athleticism and a blazing sideline-to-sideline coverage ability. At this point, the spread offense has all but overtaken college playbooks, revolving around speed and versatility no matter the position and Smith has been completely molded by that necessity. Now as the NFL slowly adopts the mantra and college continue to trickle in speedy running backs and rushing quarterbacks, defenses will have to learn to adjust if they want to keep up.
This means that Smith could not have been a better pickup for the Bears and their blooming defense. Smith, with his fluid athletic talent and disciplined open field tackling, has been flawlessly built by the revolution to combat the revolution. His instincts and football intelligence allow him to read and slip blocks with his incredible quickness, otherwise negating his relative lack of size.
However, he won’t be able to offer much in the pass rush because of his modest frame and can sometimes get swallowed up by larger offensive lineman. Pass rush was seen as a massive necessity going into this draft and Smith really doesn’t fill that hole.
Either way, Pace has equipped the defense well for the future of football and Smith only solidifies the come-up of the Bears. Combined with other pure athletes in Eddie Jackson and fellow Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd, this defense is locked and loaded to explode into among the league’s best.
Player Grade: A
Value Grade: A+
James Daniels, Guard, Iowa (Second Round, 39th Overall)
Daniels has awesome mobility for a guard (ok yeah, he was a center in college but the Bears intend to use him at guard so that is what we will consider him), being able to beat linebackers to the point of attack and be technically sound through it all. Iowa linemen always have great quickness and agility and Daniels fits this bill. A very solid athlete, he rarely overextends himself, even against most volatile of defensive lineman.
He does not bring dominating size and struggles against the bull rush despite his adept anchor so he will have to put on a tad bit more functional weight. Nonetheless, he still is strong enough and can bring enough power to take on opposing defenders. He fits perfectly with a fast-paced offense, moving fluidly and brilliant in second level blocking and will slide in nicely into a Nagy system with hyperactive Tarik Cohen and a mobile Trubisky in the backfield.
The Bears struggled mightily with their interior line this past season, seeing as longtime stalwart Kyle Long underwent three surgeries and Cody Whitehair didn’t take a massive step forward as the Bears had hoped. Daniels immediately comes in and takes over the opposite guard spot to Long.
Player Grade: A-
Value Grade: A
Anthony Miller, Wide Receiver, Memphis (Second Round, 51st Overall)
The first receiver drafted since the ill-fated Kevin White, Pace sent a second and fourth to the New England Patriots to grab Miller. But for good reason. Miller is a fiery player, likened to Steelers superstar Antonio Brown for his lightning-like footwork. He has easily had the best route running in this draft, with a mastery of stutter steps and sideline grabs. He can open on all three levels of the field and brings an intense edge and competitiveness to boot. His supreme confidence will be a nice change of pace to the Bears generally quiet nature.
He does have a slight drop problem, double tapping passes and sometimes straight up dropping short balls. His hands are occasionally inconsistent and he doesn’t bring a lot of top-end speed, being quicker than he is fast. However, with a little bit of tuning and an accurate quarterback to take passes from, Miller’s footwork and doglike nature will be all we notice from him. He will be an instant weapon in Trubisky’s arsenal.
Player Grade: B
Value Grade: B+
Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Linebacker, Western Kentucky (Fourth Round, 115th overall)
Iyiegbuniwe is a highly versatile linebacker, compactly built with 4.60 speed. With the athletic ability to contribute in coverage and in run defense, he has potential to be a sturdy backup or subpackage role. Not to mention his nose for stripping the football, finishing 2017 with three forced fumbles.
He will need to learn to shed blocks more efficiently and he does have question marks when playing in a zone defense. As of right now, he brings wonderful special teams help, racking up 11 tackles in his career.
With Danny Trevathan and fellow draftee Roquan Smith already having the middle of the field locked down, Iyiegbuniwe more than likely won’t see the field on defense all that much, at least as a rookie, however, his contributions on special teams should not be understated.
Bilal Nichols, Defensive Tackle, Delaware (Fifth Round, 145th overall)
While it seems a little odd to take a defensive lineman with needs in the edge and secondary departments, Nichols should quietly be a solid pickup for the defense. A scrappy defensive tackle with pass rush upside and great energy. His hand quickness and hustle will give defensive line coach Jay Rodgers a decent amount to work with.
He doesn’t have superior athleticism, popping right up after snaps and doesn’t bring a whole lot of leverage. His 10.5 sacks in the past two seasons indicate he may develop into a better pass rusher however not a lot on the tape backs this up. Especially considering Eddie Goldman has the middle already locked down, and is also a far better pass rusher already, there doesn’t seem to be too much room for Nichols on the defense. Either way, he can grow into a pretty reliable depth piece later in his career.
Kylie Fitts, Edge, Utah (Sixth Round, 181st overall)
After holding out on an edge rush until the sixth round, in spite of the glaring weakness, Pace finally pulls the trigger on Fitts, an explosive pass-rushing aficionado with a multitude of moves. He has a strong rip and swipe move in pursuit of quarterbacks and really the only reason he fell as far as he did is due to the injury concern. He only appeared in two games in 2016. A foot injury knocked him out for the season and he only saw ten games in his final season
He has swiftness and effective block shedding coupled with the length to evolve into a great pass rusher in this league. If he can stay healthy in NFL level play, he will be a mighty steal for a shaky Bears pass rush.
Value Grade: B-
Javon Wims, Wide Receiver, Georgia (Seventh Round, 224th overall)
The second receiver taken in this draft, Wims has a big frame and knows how to use it. Putting together quite the highlight reel, his ball skills, and stellar hands will give him immediate red zone value and his 23rd highest yard-per-route in the country hint at deep ball potential. However, he does rely heavily on his size and will struggle to get open in the NFL. In college, he could dominate corners on his size alone so his route running getting open does leave a lot to be desired.
Going into this offseason, the Bears’ tissue paper thin receiver corps had to be vastly revamped for Trubisky’s sake and after free agency and the draft, the Bears’ drip with receiver talent for the first in years.