The Chicago Bears’ 2017 draft plan (and execution) wasn’t all that warmly received, but it’s fair to say it’s viewed differently nearly 10 months later.
NFL.com analyst Jeremy Bergman shared his grades for the rookie classes of the NFC North and the Bears made a surprising appearance at the top of the division. Bergman handed out a B+ grade to the Bears’ five-man draft class and notable rookie free agent signings. The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, also earned a B+ grade, while the Detroit Lions followed with a B, and the Green Bay Packers brought up the rear with a C+.
Hindsight being what it is, Bergman concedes the Bears’ took a good risk in trading three mid-round picks as part of the deal to trade up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky. And even though Trubisky is still considered to be a “work in progress” by Bergman’s standards, the hiring of head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich has positioned the University of North Carolina product to make significant strides in his second season.
Drafting Trubisky wasn’t the only highlight of this draft. Fourth-round safety Eddie Jackson was a Day 1 starter whose pick-six of Cam Newton and a scoop-and-score of a fumble provided all the necessary scoring in a win against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. Fellow fourth-rounder Tarik Cohen was a flash of excellence for a Bears offense that didn’t have too many bright spots. He contributed rushing, receiving, returning, and passing (yes, passing!) touchdowns as a rookie. He figures to get more opportunities with a new coaching staff that is better equipped to put him in a better position to succeed.
And to think, the Bears’ draft grade could have been *higher* if second-round tight end Adam Shaheen was utilized better or more often. Shaheen caught just 12 passes in 13 games, but was targeted just 14 times. Under the old regime, Shaheen was unleashed in the red zone where he received 11 of his 14 targets. Sending Shaheen out into passing patterns in other situations could unlock a new look for the Bears’ offense in 2018.
If Trubisky, Cohen, and Shaheen each take additional steps in their development in their second seasons, the Bears’ offense won’t finish among the bottom third in 2018. And if Eddie Jackson’s excellence continues, the Bears’ defense could remain among the best in the league. That’s a lot of ifs, but if (there goes that word again!) this group continues to grow, the criticisms of this draft class could disappear in short order.