The Fleeting Nature of Success. And Other Points of View.

What makes Austin Booker a different prospect than Dominique Robinson? Both were seen as raw talents with great athleticism and length. Why will the Booker pick end up being successful when Robinson is likely not to make the roster in 2024? — @coachsmyth

We don’t know if Booker will be a hit, while Robinson, barring something unexpected at this point, has been a miss. Robinson was more of a raw defensive player when the Bears drafted him in the fifth round two years ago from Miami (Ohio). He started out at quarterback and then wide receiver in college. So Booker is a more natural defensive player.

The Bears view Booker as an ascending player. He has a long and narrow frame and more defined pass-rush moves than Robinson had coming out of college. He has good short-area athleticism and plays with a high motor. Yes, there is projection involved with Booker, and some believed he would have greatly helped himself by remaining in school for another year. He’ll have to do some quick on-the-job learning to earn playing time.

I guess the short answer is the Bears must feel like he’s less of a project and more NFL-ready than Robinson was because Booker isn’t a converted pass rusher. That’s what you’re usually doing in the fifth round: identifying a player with traits that fit your scheme and taking a chance.

I think the bottom line answer from my perspective is that they are not fundamentally different. At least not in the way that the questioner is asking. But that doesn’t make either choice wrong.

Fifth round draft choices are not like second round picks. You take your chances. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But you still have to take swings and that doesn’t mean that taking a chance on Robinson was a bad thing. Nor does it mean picking Booker was a bad thing.

Sentiment for the Rome Odunze pick is overwhelmingly positive and I get it, but do you find it a tad odd the Bears have a defensive head coach and in three seasons, not one first-round pick has been used to select a defensive player? I know they’ve only had three picks (0 in 2022, 1 in 2023, 2 in 2024) and they have mostly been used to fill holes, but was wide receiver really a hole this draft with DJ Moore and Keenan Allen ready to go? Feels like a defensive end counter to Montez Sweat or another cornerstone offensive tackle may have seemed more imperative? — Gerry M., Chicago

I like the selection of Odunze and believe he has a chance to be a terrific player for the Bears. One personnel man described him back in the fall as a bigger version of Moore. Can he be that physical and difficult to bring down after the catch? Time will tell. Moore is like a running back with the ball in his hands after making a catch downfield.

It’s a mistake to look at the roster in the vacuum of only the 2024 season and talk about filling holes and remaining needs. You have to take a long view when evaluating draft picks, especially first-round selections, and project them over the course of three or four years and the impact they can make on the roster. Allen is signed for only this season, and absent an extension for him, the Bears would have a gaping hole opposite Moore if they didn’t add a legitimate option this year.

To me this pick was all about who the players were at a position of need who were going to turn out to be “blue” players. That is, the ones that were most likely to end up ranked among the best in the league.

Opinions about the top two pass rushers in this draft varied, as things like that do. But, generally speaking, none of the edge rushers in this draft ranked among the best prospects according to media experts. The league apparently agreed because, despite the fact that it is a high impact position, the first one didn’t come off the board until pick 14.

Marvin Harrison Jr, Malek Neighbors and Odunze were almost universally ranked among the top 5 non-quarterbacks in the draft. Odunze was the most likely high impact player left and the Bears took him.

Bears roster looks good, lots of optimism. But where do you rank them in the NFC North? — @djs815

The Bears are in a better position in the NFC North than they’ve been in quite a while, and I don’t believe it’s a stretch to suggest they can compete for the division title this season. But they have to beat the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers to do that, and as Ryan Poles has said, the Bears’ improvements to this point are on paper. They’re running third right now until they prove they can overcome their rivals.

“I’m pumped,” Poles said after Round 1 of the draft. “We’ve done good work. It’s one thing to bring talent in, but it’s another to bring talent that they’re good people and they’re great teammates. And the stuff that these (veteran) guys have been doing over the last few weeks has been incredible. We’re seeing how close everybody is.

“But, yeah, we were looking today at what the roster looks like and it’s been a journey. I know it hasn’t been that many years, but it feels like it’s been a lot of years. So we’ve done good work. But obviously, like I said the other night, we’ve got to win.”

That’s the key: going out and winning with an improved roster.

I was genuinely surprised at how positive Biggs, who usually knows what he’s talking about, was about the Bears coming out of the draft. He not only suggested here that the Bears can compete for a division title but that it was reasonable to expect them to make the playoffs.

That’s a tall order for a team with a rookie quarterback. By my reconning, the Bears will sacrifice half the season to breaking Caleb Williams into the NFL. I don’t think you adjust to the speed and complexity of the NFL game overnight and he’s probably going to be a serious drag on the offense until he gets up to speed mentally.

Unless Williams is much better immediately than I think he’s going to be, I can’t see the Bears finishing higher than 3rd in the NFC North. A winning record and anything above that third place finish should leave Bears fans pretty happy.


Starter: Caleb Williams

Tyson Bagent, Brett Rypien

Jahns: The Bears aren’t wasting time with Williams’ development. I like that. There is value in sitting behind a veteran quarterback. But (GM Ryan) Poles knows he doesn’t have an Alex Smith on his roster and that the odds say that first-round quarterbacks typically take the field at some point in their rookie seasons regardless of their respective circumstances. There is no Mike Glennon or Andy Dalton standing in Williams’ way. He will learn on the field as the Bears’ No. 1 quarterback — and do so in a situation that only Mitch Trubisky and Justin Fields could dream of.

Fishbain: Well, this looks a lot better than it did after the Fields trade, but we all knew it was happening. In an effort to best support Williams, I’d expect the Bears to keep three quarterbacks. They have a very valuable backup in Bagent, who already has game experience. Assistant coach Ryan Griffin will also have a major role in this room after being Tom Brady’s backup during his decade-long NFL career.

Although they did not generally include the Bears undrafted free agents in this analysis, I’d like to take an opportunity to put a word in for former Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed.

To make a long story short, Reed’s strength is reading the field, something that I think should be emphasized when evaluating quarterbacks. He’s limited athletically by NFL standards. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not a stiff. He can run and he’s got average arm strength. But against superior athletes in the NFL, he’ll have to show that he can overcome a lack of excellence in these areas with what’s in his head. If he can do that, he may be a guy worth keeping around either as the number 3 on the roster or on the practice squad.

Defensive line

DE: Montez Sweat, Dominique Robinson, Khalid Kareem

DT: Gervon Dexter, Michael Dwumfour

NT: Andrew Billings, Zacch Pickens, Byron Cowart

DE: DeMarcus Walker, Austin Booker, Jacob Martin, Daniel Hardy

Fishbain: The Bears showed a lot of belief in their 2023 draft picks on the interior by not adding any defensive tackles in the draft or in free agency, aside from Cowart. That puts some pressure on Dexter and Pickens to make the Year 2 jump, but Dexter especially did show plenty of promise late last season. Billings played nearly 50 percent of the snaps last season, too, and figures to be out there often. There is still room to add depth and we may see a veteran defensive tackle and defensive end signed before camp.

Jahns: There is no way Poles is done with this group. (Head coach Matt) Eberflus and defensive coordinator Eric Washington need more to work with up front beyond the development of their young players. It wouldn’t be surprising if Yannick Ngakoue returned on a short-term, team-friendly deal after his injury last season. Other available veterans could interest the Bears as well.

I tend to agree with Biggs that Ngakoue didn’t work out last year and I see little reason why the Bears would sing him again.

The only other thing I’ll say is that if the Bears under-achieve in 2024, it will likely be because this group struggled and or because Caleb Williams struggled or both. I never say Walker as a competent starter and the Bears are relying heavily on Dexter and Pickens to develop.

No matter who else they try to sign here, they are taking big risks.

Offensive line

LT: Braxton Jones, Kiran Amegadjie, Matt Pryor

LG: Teven Jenkins, Bill Murray, Jerome Carvin

C: Ryan Bates, Coleman Shelton, Doug Kramer

RG: Nate Davis, Ja’Tyre Carter

RT: Darnell Wright, Larry Borom, Jake Curhan, Aviante Collins

Jahns: There are still questions about the line. Is Bates really ready for everything at center after being a backup last season for Buffalo? Can Jenkins stay on the field? Will Davis play like the free-agent signing the Bears hoped he’d be? Will Amegadjie be able to push Jones in his rookie season? All that said, the depth looks better across the board. It might not be an elite unit, but Wright still has the potential to be an elite right tackle.

Fishbain: Had Odunze not gotten to the Bears at No. 9, maybe we’re talking about a new starting left tackle, but it’ll likely remain Jones’ job for 2024. The key will be seeing if Amegadjie has the “starter potential” that the Bears believe after using a third-round pick on him. His ability to play right tackle, too, likely makes Borom a trade candidate. The 2021 fifth-round pick is due to make more than $3 million this season

A couple thoughts here.

First though Braxton Jones has been the target of many people who criticize the offensive line, I believe it’s the improvement that Nate Davis at right guard that will be the biggest key to improved performance there.

For those who thought replacing Jones was a high priority for the Bears, Fishbain’s reporting for The *Athletic seems to contradict that:

As the Bears awaited their pick, they had a need on the defensive line. When Bralen Trice, the Washington edge rusher, was selected one pick before them, they went with the highest guy on their board, Poles said.

The implication is, of course, that offensive tackle wasn’t a need and that Kiran Amegadjie was taken simply based upon their draft rating and his talent.

On the other hand, Davis woefully underperformed last year after being signed as a free agent. Bears fans have to hope that the player they signed will show up after a dip last year.

Second I’m not sure Borom is somebody that the Bears are going to discard. To my eye he’s done a pretty good job as the back up tackle positions. By all accounts, Amegadjie is a developmental project and is going to need time to develop. In the meantime you wonder if they might need to keep a reliable and versatile veteran player like Borom in reserve.


WLB: T.J. Edwards, Noah Sewell

MLB: Tremaine Edmunds, Micah Baskerville

SLB: Jack Sanborn, Amen Ogbongbemiga

Jahns: This group won’t get as much attention as the Bears’ other position groups this offseason, especially after what happened in the draft on offense. But it remains a good one. Edmunds and Edwards should improve in their second season together in Eberflus’ defense, too. Sanborn remains one of Poles’ best moves in undrafted free agency.

Fishbain: The Bears have to feel pretty good about their linebacker situation, which, like receiver, has seen quite the upgrade after 2022. Sewell’s progression will be worth watching in camp, and Ogbongbemiga should be a key special-teamer this season.

I think the Bears three starting linebackers stack up pretty well against the rest of the league. But the depth behind them worries me.

None of the three back ups look to me like they’d be anything less than a serious weakness if called upon to play by injury. The Bears were uncommonly healthy at linebacker last year. I don’t know if depending upon that to happen again is a good idea.

Beyond that, the Bears special teams were 22nd in Rick Gosselin‘s rankings last year. And, no, that’s not just because the punter had a down year. These backup linebackers are a major part of those units and, therefore, were also a major part of the problem.

If you don’t excel as either a back up or a special teams player, you are a candidate to be replaced at this position. It didn’t get much attention but this spot looks to me like it is in need of an upgrade.

One Final Thought

“All the success in the world is leased and rented. It’s never owned.”

The New York Jets Jermaine Johnson on not resting on his laurels from his 2023 Pro Bowl season.

Leave a Reply