After the dust settled following an unexpectedly wild NFL Draft, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. handed out his first round of grades. The Chicago Bears earned a C+ and this is what we wrote about it at the time:
“The Bears received a C+ grade, which is a surprise of sorts considering the backlash the team faced after Thursday’s move to get Mitch Trubisky and the fact that three non-FBS prospects and a twice-injured safety were the team’s other weekend picks. Kiper likes the developmental upside of players like Tarik Cohen and Jordan Morgan. Unfortunately, the upside factor is the only thing saving the Bears’ draft grades from a complete public thrashing.”
Fast forward 324 days and we now find ourselves discussing Kiper’s re-grades of the 2017 NFL Draft. So where does Kiper have the Bears’ draft grade sitting after the class’ first year on the gridiron? Exactly in the same place.
The Bears were handed a C+ on their draft re-grade, which is a bit difficult to comprehend considering how things played out in 2017.
Safety Eddie Jackson was a Week 1 starter and a playmaker in a secondary that was one of the strengths for a defense that ranked in the top-10 in scoring and total yards. Remember when he single-handedly won a game against the playoff-bound Carolina Panthers with a pick-six of Cam Newton and touchdown off a fumble return? Jackson provided stability and skill (not to mention upside) to a position that hasn’t had much of anything going on in recent years.
Tarik Cohen was a valuable piece of the offensive puzzle as a change-of-pace back and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Cohen spent a bulk of the year as the Bears’ best receiver and arguably had the most reliable hands on the team. Sure, he struggled early as a return specialist, but Cohen eventually found his footing late in the year and provided an electrifying punt return score. And imagine how many more yards he would have if not for penalties on special teams.
Kiper notes that the team signed Trey Burton as a free agent tight end after second-round pick Adam Shaheen “faced a steep learning curve” as a rookie. But he doesn’t point out that Shaheen and Burton don’t play the same position. Shaheen is more of a traditional in-line tight end who is positioned next to a tackle. Burton plays a “U” tight end position, where he lines up elsewhere, most likely primarily in the slot.
Let me be clear, signing Burton does not project to directly impact Shaheen’s playing time. In fact, both will likely play in formations together, which could keep defenses honest. That would be a nice change of pace considering Shaheen’s presence in the huddle virtually told defenses a run was coming at a nearly 70 percent rate.
It’s understandable for Kiper to approach the Bears’ second-year quarterback with some sort of guarded optimism after a year in which he completed just 59.4 percent of his passes. But in the end, the one thing Kiper is 100 percent right about is that the draft class of 2017 will be all about what happens with Mitch Trubisky moving forward.
If Trubisky develops into the franchise quarterback GM Ryan Pace is banking on him to be, then the Bears’ draft class from 2017 will be viewed as a rousing success. If he doesn’t, it probably won’t matter what the others do.