Jeff Dickerson breaks down the 2016 Chicago Bears draft class.
My take: Maybe Floyd is the next Kyle Long. The Bears famously hit a home run with Long in the first round in 2013, despite the fact that the freakishly athletic offensive lineman played only one year at Oregon. Floyd spent three seasons at Georgia, but he didn't produce any eye-popping stats. In last year’s draft, Pace preferred players who had impressive production in college. Floyd did not. He left school with only 17 career sacks – 4.5 in his final year. This is risky. At 244 pounds (his weight at the NFL combine), Floyd has to get bigger and stronger to be a three-down player. Right now, he appears to be a situational pass-rusher. The Bears better hope that seasoned defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can bring out the best in Floyd. But if Fangio succeeds, Floyd has the natural ability and speed to be a dynamic pass-rusher. He figures to battle Lamarr Houston and Willie Young – if both remain on the roster – for playing time opposite Pernell McPhee.
Aldon Smith Part II? Fangio coached Smith in San Francisco, and he displayed traits similar to Floyd’s when he entered the NFL in 2011. Under Fangio, Smith flourished. He registered 14 and 19.5 sacks in his first two years with the 49ers. Smith’s off-field troubles eventually derailed his career, but for a short time he was among the league’s most dominant pass-rushers.
"Aldon Smith is a rare player," Pace said. "That would be a great thing if this guy becomes that type of talent."
My take: Whitehair is a solid pick. A four-year starter at Kansas State, Whitehair has experience at left guard, left tackle and right tackle. The Bears' offseason mission is to create competition on the offensive line. Whitehair is a future starter, likely on the left side of the offensive line. Worst-case scenario, Whitehair is a key reserve until he one day joins the starting lineup. While Leonard Floyd (No. 9) represented a somewhat risky choice, Whitehair is rock solid. He started 51 of 52 games at Kansas State (41 straight to end his career), helping the Wildcats post a 34-18 overall record. A four-time All-Big 12 honoree, Whitehair was one of the conference’s top offensive linemen. At 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, Whitehair is built to last in the NFL for years to come. Maybe the Bears preferred Indiana offensive lineman Jason Spriggs (Green Bay moved up to No. 48 to draft him), but Whitehair is a nice consolation prize.
Goodbye Slauson? Matt Slauson is a consummate professional, but could be in real trouble. Not only is Larsen expected to compete for a starting guard job, but Whitehair is assured a spot on the 53-man roster. The Bears can only keep so many offensive linemen. Whitehair said he’s unsure if Chicago wants him at guard or center, but regardless, the best course of action for Slauson may be to find a trade to a club in need of help inside. Slauson, however, can still play. He did a great job filling in (under difficult circumstances) at center when Hroniss Grasu and Will Montgomery suffered injuries. But Slauson faces an even steeper uphill battle in Chicago in the wake of Whitehair’s selection.
Good company: Whitehair is the second guard drafted by the Bears in the top two rounds since 2013. The other: three-time Pro Bowler Kyle Long. “I know he’s a great player,” Whitehair said about Long. “I know he’s a Pro Bowl kind of guy. He’s going to be a great player. He’s going to be a great teacher for me. I’m looking forward to playing with him.” NFL teams used to shy away from using first- or second-round picks on guards, but solidifying the middle of the line is important, especially for a team like Chicago that likes to run the football. Whitehair is the first Kansas State player drafted by the Bears since cornerback Joshua Moore (fifth round) in 2010.
Round 3, Pick No. 72: Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida| Highlights
My take: The Bears want to collect pass-rushers. Bullard, who played both end and tackle at Florida, had 66 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last year. He registered 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a junior. Bullard may be best suited to rush in a sub package, but again, Chicago has to do a better job applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks. The hope is that with new additions Leonard Floyd and Bullard, the Bears defense has an easier job getting off the field on third down. After Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Mitch Unrein, the Bears had lots of question marks on the defensive line. With so many unknowns, the Bears were smart to address the position on Day 1 or Day 2, given the strength of the incoming class of defensive linemen.
Florida pipeline: Florida churns out versatile defensive linemen. In 2013, the Vikings used a first-round pick on Florida's Sharrif Floyd. The following draft, the Patriots took Dominique Easley in Round 1. Floyd has been average in Minnesota with 9.5 career sacks. New England recently released Easley in a surprise offseason move. Bullard is not a top pick, but Chicago thinks he can make an impact. Or at least, unlike Easley, last more than two seasons. He is the third Florida player selected by the Bears since 2010, joining safety Major Wright (third round, 2010) and linebacker Jon Bostic (second round, 2013). Neither Wright nor Bostic is on the current roster.
Link to the past: Bullard led the Gators with 17.5 tackles for loss in 2015, the most by a Florida defender since former Bears defensive end Alex Brown had 18 in 1999. Can you imagine Bullard emulating Brown’s success in Chicago? That would make the pick a steal. One of the more underrated players from the great Bears teams of 2005 and 2006, Brown enjoyed a highly productive run in Chicago from 2002-09. A fun-loving personality inside the locker room, Brown topped the Bears in sacks in 2003, 2004 and 2008.
My take: Kwiatkoski played three different linebacker spots at West Virginia. He could develop into a top reserve behind veteran inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, but plenty of competition already exists at those backup spots (Christian Jones, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson). Kwiatkoski had 303 tackles and 28 tackles for loss over four seasons with the Mountaineers. A team captain and WVU's defensive player of the year in 2015, Kwiatkoski (6-foot-2 and 238 pounds) is plays with an aggressive style, which should help him carve out a role on special teams if he makes the final 53-man roster.
My take: This pick makes sense. In a perfect world, the Bears pair a young strong safety with 2015 fifth-round pick Adrian Amos, who made 16 starts as a rookie. Veteran Antrel Rolle (another Miami product) is 34 years old and dealt with a bunch of injuries last year. Rolle wants to play in 2016, but Chicago has to be ready in case Rolle falters again. Bush is a hard hitter. He is built to play in the box -- 168 tackles and nine forced fumbles at Miami. Can he cover? That’s another story. But you can understand the thought process here. The Bears need safeties. At a bare minimum, Bush has the body (6-foot, 200 pounds) to contribute on special teams. But as we all know in Chicago, mid-round safeties often find their way onto the field sooner rather than later.
My take: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers taller cornerbacks. Hall is big enough at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds to also potentially line up at cornerback or free safety. Hall had 13 career interceptions in college. Again, the pick here is a practical one. Former first-rounder Kyle Fuller underwhelmed the coaching staff in 2015. Fuller is expected to start next season, but his long-term future is far from secure. Veteran Tracy Porter (29 years old) just received $4.250 million guaranteed, but all of that guaranteed cash is due in 2016. So beyond next year, the Bears' cornerback situation is wide open. Plus, the Bears need defensive backs who take the ball away.
Hall probably needs time to adjust to NFL life after facing average competition at Northern Iowa, but perhaps Hall can grow into a bigger role down the road. He certainly seems to possess the intangibles to do so.
Coach John Fox prefers the running back-by-committee approach; a philosophy that dates back all the way to Carolina. When Chicago allowed veteran Matt Forte to leave via free agency, the Bears had a hole to fill. After failing to sign C.J. Anderson to an offer sheet, the Bears tuned their attention to the draft, selecting Indiana running back Jordan Howard in the fifth round (No. 150).
My take: I love it. The more tailbacks the better. And you can find them in the middle rounds. Jeremy Langford is the perfect example -- Chicago took Langford in the fourth round last year. Howard rushed for 2,800 yards and 22 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Indiana and UAB. Durability is a concern. But despite missing 18 quarters due to injury, Howard rushed for 134.8 yards per game (second in the Big Ten). Bottom line: Jay Cutler is a better quarterback when the Bears run the football. Between Langford, Howard, Ka'Deem Carey and Jacquizz Rodgers, the Bears are in good shape.
Round 6, Pick No. 185: DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, William & Mary
The Chicago Bears invested another pick in the secondary, drafting William & Mary safety DeAndre Houston-Carson in the sixth round (No. 185). Houston-Carson is the second safety taken by Chicago on Day 3, joining Miami’s Deon Bush (fourth round).
My take: The Bears love safeties who have hyphenated last names. In a humorous twist, Houston-Carson will compete directly against Harold Jones-Quartey for a roster spot. But seriously, Houston-Carson had a nice college career. The William & Mary product tallied 293 tackles, 10 interceptions and nine blocked kicks on special teams. Nine blocks! That’s kind of amazing. He started at both free safety and cornerback, becoming just the third player in school history to earn consensus first-team All-America honors. Bottom line: you block nine kicks in college and you have my attention.
With their final pick, the Chicago Bears went with their best available player, selecting Western Michigan wide receiver Daniel Braverman in the seventh round (No. 230). Even though receiver is not a need, per se, Braverman’s college statistics will make you do a double take.
My take: Why not? On paper, the choice is a no-brainer. Believe it or not, Braverman has been compared to Wes Welker, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman by draft analysts, such as ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. A 5-foot-10 slot receiver, Braverman put up phenomenal numbers for Western Michigan in 2015: 108 catches for 1,371 yards and 13 touchdowns. That is serious production for someone at the collegiate level. And against elite combination, Braverman had 23 combined receptions for 231 yards versus Michigan State and Ohio State. Ryan Pace is a genius if Braverman becomes Welker or Edelman 2.0. If for whatever reason it doesn’t work, the Bears only spent a seventh-rounder. No big deal. There is no risk. What’s not to like about this?