Chicago Bears Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

James Daniels, C, Iowa – Round 2
The Bears taking an interior offensive lineman was a surprise considering they already have talent on the interior with Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair, and they also drafted center Hroniss Grasu in the third round a few years ago. Thus, Chicago taking Daniels in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft was unexpected. Still, Daniels was an excellent college player who should be the long-term center for Mitch Trubisky.

Daniels is a steady pass protector. He is very quick at the point of attack with excellent short-area speed and athleticism. Daniels is fast to react to speed rushers and keep them from firing by him. For the NFL, he could use more strength and weight in his base to handle the heavy nose tackles, especially the elite 3-4 nose tackles who give a lot of centers problems as zero-techniques. Once Daniels adds more strength to his base, he should be an excellent professional pass protector.

As a run blocker, Daniels is lightning fast to the second level, and he a tremendous blocker in space. Even though he isn’t the biggest of interior blockers, he has functional strength to sustain his blocks through the whistle. When Daniels gets his hands on defenders, they are in serious trouble as he rides them around the field.

Daniels (6-3, 306) should immediately form a very talented trio with Whitehair and Kyle Long at guard. Because of his lack of length, height and weight, Daniels could have limitations to being played at guard and he may only fit as a center in the NFL. Still, Daniels looks like a safe pick to develop into a quality long-term starter at center for Chicago.

2017: Eddie Jackson, S
2016: Jonathan Bullard, DE
2015: Eddie Goldman, DT
2014: Kyle Fuller, CB
2013: Jonathan Bostic, LB

Most Likely To Bust

Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky – Round 4
After taking Roquan Smith in the first round, it was surprising that the Bears took a similarly sized linebacker in the fourth round. The team seems overloaded at inside linebacker with a number of players who are lacking height and weight but have very good speed and instincts. Iyiegbuniwe fits that description, but I could see him having a hard time seeing the field in Chicago.

Iyiegbuniwe could form a linebacker tandem with Smith, but for that to happen, Iyiegbuniwe will have to beat out veteran Danny Trevathan and third-year pro Nick Kwiatkoski. While the latter shouldn’t be a big challenge, Trevathan is a good starter who I don’t see Iyiegbuniwe beating him out. I think in the NFL Iyiegbuniwe will be more of a backup and special teams contributor. However, Iyiegbuniwe has other off-the-field interests, including medical school, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he cut short his NFL career. Chicago had a solid 2018 NFL Draft, but doubling up at slightly smaller linebackers was questionable. Of the Bears’ first four selections, Iyiegbuniwe looks like he has the most bust potential.

2017: Mitch Trubisky, QB
2016: Cody Whitehair, G
2015: Hroniss Grasu, C
2014: Ka’Deem Carey, RB
2013: Kyle Long, G

Potential Boom Pick

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia – Round 1
The Bears were projected by many to take linebacker help in the 2018 NFL Draft, but it seemed like Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds was the better fit for Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense. Thus, it was somewhat surprising when Chicago took Smith with the eighth overall-pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Still, Smith should start immediately and form a dynamic inside linebacker tandem with Bears veteran Danny Trevathan.

There is a lot to like about Smith for the NFL. He is a tremendous linebacker with excellent instincts. Smith has superb speed, and with his instincts, he is a heat-seeking missile who tracks down ball-carriers all over the field. Smith is very fast to the flat and shuts down perimeter rushing attacks. He also is quick to read his keys and fire to the right spot to make tackles. With his speed, instincts, and diagnosis skills, Smith is a dangerous run defender.

The key for any non-pass-rushing linebacker to be a first-round pick is his ability to excel in pass coverage. Smith fits that criteria as he is a capable defender at helping to limit passing attacks. In coverage, he has the speed, athleticism and agility to be a man-coverage option against running backs or tight ends. Smith also gets good depth in zone and is sound to be in the right spot while covering up receivers who come into his territory. In the pass rush, Smith is a weapon as he is a dangerous blitzer who closes on the quarterback in an instant. Quickly in his NFL career, Smith should be a three-down starter who never leaves the field.

Great linebacker play is part of the Chicago tradition. From Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall, Otis Wilson, to Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs; the Bears have been synonymous with great legendary linebackers. I think Smith could revitalize the tradition during his NFL career.

2017: Adam Shaheen, TE
2016: Leonard Floyd, LB
2015: Kevin White, WR
2014: Will Sutton, DT
2013: Khaseem Greene, LB

Future Depth Player

Bilal Nichols, DL, Delaware – Round 5
Chicago’s starting defensive line is set with Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard. However, the Bears’ depth was nothing to get excited about, and Nichols is a nice fit as a player who can play a variety of places. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder could be a rotational backup as a five-technique defensive end and also could rush from the inside in passing situations. Nichols totaled 10.5 sacks over the past two years, so he has some rush ability. Nichols will probably never develop into a good starter, but he could be a quality backup for Chicago.

2017: Tarik Cohen, RB
2016: Nick Kwiatkoski, LB
2015: Jeremy Langford, RB
2014: David Fales, QB
2013: Cornelius Washington, DE

Walt’s 2018 NFL Draft Grades:

8. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia A Grade
I thought the Bears would want Tremaine Edmunds over Roquan Smith because Edmunds fits the sort of prospect Ryan Pace has drafted in the past. Smith has less upside, but I think he’s a much better player, at least the moment. Smith is a very intelligent linebacker who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Chicago really struggled defensively when Danny Trevathan was hurt, so I love adding arguably the top player available who fills a need.

39. James Daniels, C/G, Iowa A+ Grade
What a steal! James Daniels is a player I felt as though could be chosen in the early 20s. Some had Daniels as the top center in this class following Billy Price’s injury. Daniels can also play guard, and that’s where I believe he’ll be stationed in Chicago, at least right away. The Bears had a big hole at guard, and Daniels will immediately fill that need.

51. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis C Grade
The Bears didn’t have another second- or third-round pick, so they’ve somehow moved into this spot. I like the player they’re taking, as Anthony Miller is a skilled receiver who should be able to provide an upgrade. I’m going to tentatively grade this as a B+, but hopefully Chicago didn’t surrender too much to get the Memphis product. Update: Chicago surrendered a second-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft, as well as a fourth-rounder, so I don’t like this very much.

115. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky B Grade
I had Joel Iyiegbuniwe in the third round to the Steelers, though I had them reaching a bit to address a need. This makes more sense, as Chicago needed another linebacker for depth purposes. They’re getting an athletic player who will at least play on special teams.

145. Bilal Nichols, DE/DT, Delaware B Grade
Bilal Nichols was seen as an early third-day prospect, so it’s a logical move for the Bears to take him at this spot. Nichols is a small-school player who will need to prove himself, but he could provide solid depth on the defensive line for a team that needed it.

181. Kylie Fitts, DE, Utah A Grade
I had Kylie Fitts in the third or fourth round of my mock drafts, so I love the value with this choice. Fitts is a very athletic edge rusher who could eventually emerge as a starter. It’s not a surprise to see Ryan Pace pick a player like this.

224. Javon Wims, WR, Georgia B+ Grade
Javon Wims lacks athleticism, but he could become a solid possession receiver in the NFL if he sticks around. Wims is a logical choice as a Round 6-7 prospect, and the Bears’ need at wideout could allow him to hang on to a job.

2018 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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