More Than Usual, the Bears Draft Was All About the “Develop” Part of “Draft and Develop”

To describe the Bears draft class as a whole, the word “projects” is probably too strong. But it’s clear that the Bears top draft picks are going to need a great deal of work.

Let’s start with first round receiver, Kevin White. White has great size and physical ability but when you look at him on video, the thing that stands out is how raw he is. The West Virginia game versus Maryland, below, give you a good idea of what I’m talking about:

White uses his big frame well to get physical with corners and get open. And he uses it to block well, too. But you have to ask yourself how far this will take him against the better athletes in the NFL. White’s route running needs work and at times its down right atrocious, looking like you or I playing catch in the back yard.

White had only two seasons of division I football and he really only produced in one (last year). He needs to work on all of the little things that other receivers like Amari Cooper are well on their way to mastering – footwork, getting off the line of scrimmage and, especially, working on all of the routes in the vertical tree and making them all look the same.

Second round defensive tackle Eddie Goldman is better but its a similar story. He’s a true junior who just turned 21 in January. He hasn’t played as much football as you’d like and on occasion it shows. Note the game against Louisville below.

The great thing about this video is that it shows tremendous effort from Goldman. He’s extremely active in the middle of the line. The problem is that he’s so active that he literally takes himself out of the play on occasion. Discipline in a two gaps scheme is something Goldman is going to have to learn. The good news is that he may already be well on his way to doing that. Note this game against Florida a month later.

Goldman is much more disciplined here, holding the middle consistently agains double teams on almost every snap.  As general manager Ryan Pace noted in his Friday press conference, Goldman plays with great pad level and leverage and it’s especially evident in this video.  His pass rush took a step back in this game, though.

Note that Goldman has a reputation for taking plays off but I certainly didn’t see it in these games. The worst I can say is that he got tire late and it showed. Conditioning may be an issue but he may find himself rotating out more often in the pros, at least initially.

Finally, there’s the Bears third round pick, Hroniss Grasu. Grasu is different from Goldman and White in that he’s a four year starter for Oregon. He’s a bit under-sized but takes advantage of good technique to move larger defensive linemen out of the way (by reputation – I couldn’t find video online of Grassu to confirm this myself). Grassu’s problem is that he’s a center and, therefore by the nature of the position, unlikely to contribute right away in that role. The odds are that he’ll need a year of development and work in the weight room, possibly as a guard, before replacing Will Montgomery as center as the heir apparent.

These prospects, along with true sixth round developmental project, offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje, are all promising. But Bears fans are going to have to wait to see it they attain their true potential – possibly more than one year. In the mean time, the Bears coaching staff is going to have to earn their money with these guys.

I think Bears fans can give the team the thumbs up for drafting good athletes with potential. For now.

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Reaction to Rounds One thru Three

He, guys.  New podcast with reaction to the first three rounds from representatives of the Bears (me), Patriots, Eagles, and Panthers.  Give it a listen.

Check Out Football Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Next Fan Up on BlogTalkRadio
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Follow the Money

With the first round of the draft over and with running back Adrian Peterson still on the Vikings, Peterson’s agent Ben Dogra makes it appear that he’s changing tactics. Via Kevin Patra at

“‘One of the things that I appreciate with the Vikings is their resolve to say ‘we’re not trading him,’ Dogra told [USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero]. ‘That tells me they value him not only as a football player, but what he’s done for the organization.

“‘I actually, as an agent, not only appreciate it — I accept it. But actions speak louder than words. If that’s going to happen, and you want to keep him, then show him a commitment to make him retire as a Viking. And I haven’t had that solution.’

“Dogra’s public strategy is clearly moving from ‘trade him’ to ‘pay him.'”

Let’s be honest. It’s always been about “pay him”. From beginning to end there was nothing about this that some more guaranteed money wouldn’t have solved.

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Not Turning the Bears First Round Pick Into Rocket Science

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune makes a savvy observation about Bears general manager Ryan Pace‘s first NFL draft pick:

“General manager Ryan Pace did what he vowed to do, taking the player at the top of his draft board at the time of the pick regardless of position. That White plays wide receiver on a team that needs to replace Brandon Marshall falls under the category of convenient. The Bears don’t need this White knight to save the offense but he will arrive with an opportunity to contribute immediately opposite Alshon Jeffery.”

“In selecting White over any one of the available pass-rushers, Pace punctuated his first draft with pragmatism. The NFL’s youngest GM didn’t arrive at Halas Hall determined to prove how smart he was or impress his new bosses. He took the gimme, proving that sometimes grasping the obvious is an underrated skill for executives.

“‘This was an easy pick,’ Pace said.”

White is a talented guy with a high ceiling. I’m not going to say he’s perfect and I’m not too sure the Bears wouldn’t have been better off with defensive tackle Danny Shelton as a safer pick who could still deliver a high impact.  Even as he praises the pick,  Hub Arkush at provides relevant criticism:

“[I]t is disturbing that in the one season he played at Lackawanna Junior College – he sat out the 2010 season with a shoulder injury and missed 2011 because he missed the deadline for financial aid – he caught just 36 passes and he only caught 35 passes his first year at West Virginia.

“The bigger concern is that West Virginia plays a stripped down version of the spread offense in which White was only asked to run a handful of routes. He’s never had to make sight adjustments or read coverages and he’s not a natural route runner, occasionally looking more like a sprinter than a football player.

“So what the Bears have in White is either a perennial All-Pro who may end up dominating for the next decade, or another Cordarrelle Patterson.”

Still by almost everyone’s reckoning, this pick was a slam dunk. Most experts had the Bears taking White in this situation and, assuming there were no good offers to trade out of the pick, I have no problem with it. Given White’s size and physical traits, I think the odds are that he’ll work out fine. As Haugh indirectly points out, Pace’s handling of the situation stands in stark contrast to former Bears general manager Phil Emery, who always seemed to be trying to prove that he was the smartest guy in the room. Sometimes that worked out, as it did with the Kyle Long pick. But far too often, it didn’t.

Pace didn’t over think this. Sometimes the obvious thing is, in fact, still the right thing.

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Trade Attempt of Jay Cutler Could Have Long-Term Effects

jay-cutler-3Jerome Blattner once said “A person who trusts no one can’t be trusted.” We’re about to see if and how that applies to the Chicago Bears quarterback situation in the aftermath of their attempt to trade quarterback Jay Cutler to the Tennessee Titans for the number two overall pick last night. John Mullin at quotes Bears general manager Ryan Pace on the question of whether they tried to pull such a trade off:

“‘In my mind, we just got Jay another dynamic weapon,’ Pace said. ‘That’s why I’m excited about it. I hope right now he’s fired up because we just gave him another powerful weapon. With this receiving corps, this only adds to Jay’s ability to distribute the ball.'”

That’s not a denial. And it could mean trouble.

I’m of two minds when it comes to the attempt to trade Cutler. Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times perfectly summarizes at least one of those:

“There is something unsettling about Jay Cutler continuing to get rewarded with talent around him [wide receiver Kevin White]. I’ll admit to more than a small hope Thursday that the Bears would move up to the second pick, trade Cutler to Tennessee and use the Titans’ pick to choose Marcus Mariota. But Tennessee stayed put and took the Oregon quarterback.

“What we’ve learned the past six years is that no matter how talented the players who line up on offense, Cutler tends to bring them all down to the mean. And by ‘the mean,’’ I mean ‘disappointment and disillusionment.’’ An offense with [Brandon] Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett should have been better then 21st in total offense, as it was last season.”

There was a part of me – about half – that really wanted the Bears to complete this trade just to see Cutler leave town. But there was, on the other hand, the thought of the rest of the price that the Bears would have to pay in order to make that move – a package of picks including multiple first rounders. That’s a high price for a team with the number of holes the Bears have to fill.

What’s most relevant now is what effect this will have on Cutler. Most will recall that a similar situation in Denver where they tried to trade him resulted in him leaving Colorado and eventually becoming a Bear. I’m not saying that Cutler is going to go to Tennessee and pout this time around – he has grown at least that much. But the effect on his psyche could be more subtle and more damaging.

Cutler’s primary problem is that he has a very hard time trusting people. He doesn’t trust his coaches, he can’t throw with anticipation  because he doesn’t trust his receivers, heck he even backed out of his engagement before finally coming to his senses and marrying Kristin Cavallari. Now Cutler has been given tangible proof that he can’t trust the current Bears regime, either. They might not have lied to him. But at bare minimum they have now made it clear that they aren’t 100% behind him to run this team in action as well as in word.

My guess is that publicly Cutler will handle this move by saying and doing all the right things. But how it affects his performance on the field is another issue. He’s fragile even at the best of times. We may see a new level of unstable this year if the Bears aren’t careful.

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The Bears Have a Bad Day. And Other Points of View.


  • Adam Schefter at ESPN reports that the Bears are “entertaining trade offers” for tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett has been problematic for the Bears for some time and now isn’t showing up for offseason workouts.
  • The staff at propose draft day trades that they’d “love to see”. One involves the Bears trading this year’s seventh overall selection, next year’s first and second, Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler to move up six spots into No. 1. No way.

    This would be an awful trade for the Bears who arguably need those picks more than the Buccaneers do. I’m sure they’d love to have Winston but I can’t imagine they’d trade away even the near future to do it.

  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times pretty much destroys running back Matt Forte after he didn’t show up for the Piccolo Award presentation. I can’t say its entirely off base. As Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out, the Piccolo Research Fund has raised millions of dollars over the decades in support of cancer research. Not showing up to accept this award because your “training schedule” didn’t permit it really isn’t a good look.
  • I find it to be interesting that Forte is taking the most heat for not showing up to these voluntary sessions when he’s the veteran with the best excuse – really any excuse – to skip them. His contract. No explanation for the absence of tight end Martellus Bennett or nose tackle/defensive end Jeremiah Ratliff has been provided and as far as anyone can tell, they just didn’t feel like showing up.
  • Arthur Arkush at quote guard Kyle Long on quarterback Jay Cutler: “We love him here, and I really feel like Chicago will gain a new appreciation for Jay under this new regime. … He’s taking it upon himself to try and broaden his horizons as a leader from a vocal standpoint. He’s got the reins in his hands and we’re ready to work for a guy like that.” I’m open to it. But I’m not holding my breath.
  • Scott Krinch at predicts that the Bears will trade back in the first round. I would agree but in my scenario, a team trades up to get wide receiver Kevin White not pass rusher Bud Dupree.


One Final Thought

As if Matt Forte not showing up to receive an award in honor of Brian Piccolo weren’t enough, Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reports defensive end Ray McDonald‘s statements on his run ins with the law last season. McDonald was unrepentant and said nothing indicating that he was accountable for what happened. Believe it or not, he sees himself as the victim, blaming the incidents on the people around him and bad press on the media. Again, not a good look for him or the franchise, which should be embarrassed.

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Pray the Bears Don’t Take a Pass Rusher in the First Round


Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer at report that Randy Gregory‘s stock is falling precipitously as teams wonder if he’s got the mental makeup to make the jump to pro football:

“The situation for the Cornhusker All-American is like this: The natural ability is there; whether he can realize his considerable potential is another matter entirely. Those considerations, however, do not make Gregory unique in the draft nor in the league as a whole.

“‘It all depends on the organization, and what they have in place for him,’ said one NFC personnel exec. ‘There are quite a few players that have issues. It’s where you place football character over the things he can’t control. That’s the big thing to me.'”

“One NFC general manager said, ‘There are more negatives than positives.’

“And that’s remarkable, given that many scouts and execs spoken with during the past two months believe Gregory is the best natural pass-rusher in this year’s draft class.”

And I couldn’t agree more. The top four pass rushers past consensus top five pick Dante Fowler are Gregory, Shane Ray, Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree. Of the four, the only one I would have said belonged in the top ten picks based upon what you see on the field is Gregory. Now it looks like even he’s going to be a huge risk.

Many well respected media experts have the Bears taking a pass rusher in the first round of this draft. Here’s hoping that’s not the case. The guys I see have “bust” written all over them. That’s something the Bears can’t afford.

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NFC North Roundtable

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Adam Bringedahl (Detroit Lions), Brian Slattery (Green Bay Packers), Davey Randa (Minnesota Vikings) and I review hot topics currently affecting the NFC North and the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft in . We worked hard on this and I think it came out reasonably light and funny. Give it a listen and don’t miss the where all 32 representatives participated in a mock draft in preparation for the upcoming real thing tomorrow. Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

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Niggling Doubts About Antrel Rolle

Nate Atkins at interviews new Bears safety Antrel Rolle:

“‘I don’t think I was ever involved with a player who was more sincerely interested in how his team could improve,’ Giants coach Tom Coughlin, now in his 31st year in the NFL, said at the NFL Scouting Combine.”

“‘You just have to be yourself,’ [Rolle] said. ‘If you’re a guy that’s laid-back, then be laid-back. If you’re a guy that’s motivated and very enthused about what’s going on, then be that guy because you can be that energy. You can be that fuel for other guys.”

The Bears locker room could undoubtedly use more like Rolle. I can’t stress enough the comment of one opposing assistant coach who called the Bears “the biggest bunch of frontrunners in the league.” Players like Martellus Bennett, Jeremiah Ratliff and Matt Forte, who didn’t show up for the voluntary minicamp which is currently underway, aren’t helping dispel that impression. The bears need more like Rolle.

Having said that, I have to question whether Rolle is the guy to do it. In order to lead the team you need to also perform on the field. I recently caught the Giants week 7 game against the Cowboys last season on the NFL Network and took the opportunity to focus on Rolle. It wasn’t a good look. He’s lost a lot of range and his first step was frequently in the wrong direction. I’m told he performed better late in the year. Let’s hope so.’

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Hub Arkush: Draft Information Worth Noting

Hub Arkush at rips the process of putting together mock drafts. Justifiably. But then gives out some information that he thinks is reasonably reliable based upon sources were willing to go on the record on:

“One team’s general manager told me Monday morning he’s sure it’s no better than 50-50 right now that the Bucs are taking Jameis Winston. They might, but don’t bet the farm on it.

“Another individual who will be picking for his team told me cornerback Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest is one of the fastest risers on a number of draft boards right now as we count down to draft day.

“And one highly respected offensive coach told me, ‘Todd Gurley will be the best offensive player in this draft.'”

For what its worth.

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