This is it for Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, if the two can’t build off the success they experienced in 2018, then expect to see a changing of the guard in Chicago. The elephant in the room was evident the past couple of seasons; quarterback play. Mitch Trubisky deteriorated as more of the pressure fell on him to make plays and the Hail Mary of trading for Nick Foles accomplished absolutely nothing. It’s not going to be easy, but perhaps the planets are aligning for one last run at it.
It won’t be easy either, with so much of their money tied up in Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson, Robert Quinn, Eddie Jackson, and Akiem Hicks, the Bears were forced to cut bait with some key starters. Gone is former All-Pro corner Kyle Fuller, gone are starting tackles Charles Leno Jr and Bobby Massie. That’s three big hits at three key spots for them, so with little cap room to maneuver and finishing in “no-man’s” land at 8-8, the Bears had their work cut out for them.
First, they addressed the QB spot, bringing in Andy Dalton as a fail-safe in the event that they couldn’t land one of the top 5 QBs coming out. They paraded him around, made him dress up as QB1, but we all know that Chicago wasn’t hedging their bets on a guy who couldn’t succeed with Dallas. Especially given the amount of talent he had there and what he was walking into in Chicago, which is basically Allen Robinson and a million tight ends. In fact, the only other notable additions they made were on defense, adding Desmond Trufant and Tashaun Gibson, praying that they could each turn back the clock 5 seasons.
The lucky part is that they still have the core of that 2018 group under contract, so not much needs to be done to the front-7, David Montgomery started to show promise at the end of 2020, Darnell Mooney emerged as a 2nd option as a receiver, and Eddie Jackson still does Eddie Jackson things. So, coming into this draft, there were two things the Bears absolutely had to do without fail, somehow land one of those Tier-1 QBs and find a left tackle to block for him. Whatever it took, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace needed to accomplish. Let’s jump into our Bears draft grade analysis.
Ohio State QB Justin Fields (Round 1, Pick 11)Embed from Getty Images
Isn’t this just the perfect fit for this Chicago team. Fields is such an unknown that he’s just as likely to be a colossal bust as he is to become a franchise-changing player. The potential is just too tempting, his sophomore season for Ohio State was one of the best in college history. He threw for 41 TDs and ran for another 10, all while committing 3 turnovers. He has a big arm, he’s mobile, and has good size. Who does that sign like? How about Josh Allen or Cam Newton. To play Devil’s Advocate, you know who else that sounds like? One JaMarcus Russell.
Regardless, if you’re Matt Nagy or Ryan Pace, you don’t care at this point, you’re not a new regime trying to imprint yourself on this team. You’re on your last legs and trying to save your job and potentially prolong your career calling the shots, not everyone gets a second chance. So, I love the gamble because it’s the only one Chicago could make. If Justin Fields comes in and lights it up like he did at Ohio State, the Bears could legitimately threaten for the division and not out of the realm of possibility to contend for the conference.
He has everything around him to succeed, he has a number 1 receiver in Robinson, who is perhaps the most underrated player in the league, a coach who despite his recent record has a good offensive mind, and a defense that still has elite potential. If this blows up, who cares? The Bears are on the brink of a rebuild anyways. However, if they’re right on this one, they just did a complete on 180 on where this roster was going. This pick made our Bears draft grade. They had to make the deal to get their future quarterback, regardless of the price.
Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins (Round 2, Pick 39)
Another absolute necessity for the Bears heading into 2021. Was Charles Leno Jr a world beater? No, he was a serviceable vet who was a casualty of the cap plummeting this offseason. As we all learned with David Carr with the Texans, Joe Burrows with the Bengals, or Robert Griffin III with the Redskins, if you let your guy get hit enough bad things are going to happen. Trading up for Fields is all for naught if you can’t figure out a way to protect him, despite his mobility.
Jenkins is a 1st round talent, and in any other season he would have been a top-16 pick in my opinion. He’s MASSIVE (6’6, 325) and DOMINATED the competition in college (85 career PFF grade, 92 in 2020). So, I’m on board with the Bears getting aggressive again to land a franchise left tackle to protect their brand new franchise QB. Did they overpay a bit? Yeah, maybe, they probably didn’t NEED to give up their 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, but it would have been a harder explanation internally if they were outbid in such a critical year.
Chicago now has three quality offensive linemen on the left side that excel in both the running and passing game. This will allow them to line up tight end and extra blockers over on the right side, or they could even slide Cody Whitehair that way on blocks. The point is that there are ways to hide your lesser blockers on the line, you just have to be confident in the guys that you’re leaving on an island.
The other benefit for Nagy and Pace is that they now have two of the most expensive positions in football under lock and key for peanuts over the next 4 seasons. This is going to open up so many other possibilities for this Bears team financially, to either extend guys like Allen Robinson, James Daniels, and David Montgomery or add additional talent to the offensive line/secondary. A really nice Bears draft grade, even if it did cost them next year’s first round pick.
I loved the aggressiveness out of Chicago, they didn’t wait for their guys to come to them, they had a couple of names they liked so they attacked once they got within striking range. Does this mean things are all well and dandy in Chicago? No, both players are technically unknowns and a lot will be resting on their shoulders to turn this franchise around. The careers of HC Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace are hanging in the balance as well, so tensions are going to run high. Chicago added the talent at the positions they needed to early in the draft, the only thing that remains to be seen is if they hit on a stud or whiffed on a dud.