It really is shocking to hear the way we talk about the Chicago Bears’ current situation and realize they haven’t had a losing season yet under the current coaching regime. For as much flack as general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy get, the worse they’ve finished over the last three years is 8-8. Plus, they’ve made the postseason in two of their last three campaigns.
Yet, here we sit thinking this upcoming season is a make-or-break kind of year for the Bears’ current decision-making group. For as much as the record looks serviceable, the behind-the-scenes element component of that record isn’t nearly as encouraging.
Their quarterback situation, to this point, has been a mess—though they do have Justin Fields now, which could forgive many previous sins. And their defense, the best in the NFL not too long ago, has taken steps back in both talent and execution in each of the last two seasons.
It just seems as though the team has gone backward. Anytime that’s the case, the patience for the people in control wears thin. Let’s take a look at the Bears’ last three draft classes to see if that’s where the root of their problems began.
2020 Draft Class
Round 2: Cole Kmet, TE
Round 2: Jaylon Johnson, CB
Round 5: Trevis Gibson, EDGE
Round 5: Kindle Vindor, CB
Round 5: Darnell Mooney, WR
Round 7: Arlington Hambright, OT
Round 7: Lachavious Simmons, OG
This class was tough because the Bears were in a situation where they really needed a splash at the draft but didn’t have a first-round pick due to the Khalil Mack trade. One could say that Mack has been worth the price paid, but it still makes it tough to look at these draft classes knowing the Bears needed more help.
The bright spots here seem to be cornerback Jaylon Johnson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Both have really come along nicely over the last year to be important contributors with even brighter futures. Kmet has been fine so far, but the rest of the names haven’t had much impact. However, given the limited picks they had, snagging Johnson, Mooney, and Kmet is pretty good.
Draft Grade: C+
2019 Draft Class
Round 3: David Montgomery, RB
Round 4: Riley Ridley, WR
Round 6: Duke Shelley, CB
Round 7: Kerrith Whyte, RB
Round 7: Stephen Denmark, CB
This class was the first wave affected by the Mack trade. The Bears sure wished they could get some more help, but coming off a season in which they were 12-4, finished with the No. 1 defense in the NFL, and had what they believed to be their franchise quarterback already in place, they must have thought they were in a good spot.
On one hand, they did get their future starting running back David Montgomery out of this draft class. On the other hand, Montgomery, while he has played plenty, hasn’t been highly impactful and the rest of the class is basically non-existent. It’s hard to be too tough on this class given that their first selection was in the third round, but this class didn’t do much for the Bears.
Draft Grade: D
2018 Draft Class
Round 1: Roquan Smith, LB
Round 2: James Daniels, IOL
Round 2: Anthony Miller, WR
Round 4: Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB
Round 5: Bilal Nichols, DT
Round 6: Kylie Fitts, DE
Round 7: Javon Wims, WR
In order to grade the last draft class in which the Bears picked inside the top 40, we have to go all the way back to 2018. Their first-round selection that year was Roquan Smith, who has grown into one of the best young linebackers in the league. James Daniels was a much-needed pick at the time; started 10 games at guard his first year then moved to the center position. Miller came on strong with a seven-touchdown rookie season, but as the offense has failed to improve, so has Miller's impact within it. Overall, those three, along with the day-three names, make for a pretty nice class.
Draft Grade: B-
It’s been a frustrating few seasons for the Bears, as of late, but when you throw in the fact that they were aggressive in drafting Fields and Teven Jenkins this past draft, there are still picks to like and good players to believe in as they move forward.
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