It’s not that the Chicago Bears’ draft haul in 2017 didn’t have impact talent. But it was fair to question how much the five-player class would contribute immediately as rookies. Those questions don’t surround this year’s group of Bears draft picks. In fact, the seven-player class of 2018 is widely believed to be among the best in the NFL.
Over at ESPN, analyst/insider/former seven-year NFL pro Matt Bowen issues a bold prediction in sharing his belief that the Bears will also have the most impactful rookie class in the league this season. And for Bowen, it starts in the middle with Smith.
“He’s a blue-chip talent with the speed and natural instincts to find the ball. Great fit for Vic Fangio’s defense,” Bowen wrote regarding the Butkus Award winning inside linebacker. “Up front, Iowa center/guard James Daniels has the athleticism and pro-ready technique to compete for a starting job. And wide receiver Anthony Miller should find a role as a slot target for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The quicks are there and so is the playmaking ability.”
For more on what other draft classes could have a major impact on their respective teams, you can check out Bowen’s piece in its entirety here. But for now, let’s focus on the Bears and how adding playmaking talent on both sides of the ball with three picks in the first two rounds has helped the Bears build a potential high-impact rookie class.
Smith and Daniels are expected to slide into starting roles at their respective positions right away, bringing stability, youth, and upside spots on the gridiron that are instrumental to the team’s future success. And while Miller’s role won’t likely be fully defined until he builds up a rapport with Trubisky, there are already some high expectations surrounding the rookie wideout. So not only did the Bears fill three of their biggest holes, they did so by adding high-end talent with high ceilings who could also step in ASAP for a team that could use an early season jolt under a new head coach.
But let’s not sleep on the Day 3 picks who could be asked to make an impact in niche roles.
Linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe should step into a Christian Jones type of role where he plays on special teams immediately and finds his way into the defensive lineup in certain sub packages. Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols is expected to be a Week 1 contributor who could be the first backup at each of the three defensive line spots. Edge rusher Kylie Fitts will certainly figure into the rotation, especially if he can stay healthy. Even Javon Wims could conceivably work his way into the mix at receiver depending on the health and production of the players ahead of him on the depth chart.
After what a 2017 draft that clearly had its eyes on the future rather than the present, the Bears pivoted in 2018 and added a mixture of plug-and-play draft picks to go along with prospects with futures you can dream on. Now, that is how you build a quality draft class. Almost makes you wonder where this strategy was in previous years.