Based on the way the Chicago Bears spent their picks during the 2017 NFL Draft, things definitely could have gone better for Ryan Pace and Co.
There were a lot of dumbfounded Chicago Bears fans after the 2017 NFL Draft came to a close. Based on the immediate reaction from Chicago faithful and analysts, not too many people were impressed with what general manager Ryan Pace and his staff did.
I’d have to agree with the criticism the Bears’ 2017 draft class has received so far. Not only did they part with a huge haul of picks to move up one spot, but they spent that pick on a position that wasn’t considered an immediate need. Beyond that head-scratcher, Chicago focused their attention on offense, essentially ignoring its numerous needs on the other side of the ball.
Imagine if we could go back and make some much-needed changes, though. They say hindsight is 20:20, so let’s take a look back and try to fix the draft class that may cost Pace his job.
Some may see this as a pointless exercise, but I’d obviously disagree. It’s actually one of the most common practices in the sports world — trying to figure out what could have been while hypothetically fixing the mistakes that were actually made.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five prospects the Bears could have picked instead during the 2017 NFL Draft. Take it for what it is: a look at how things could have panned out differently, despite there being zero chance of actually changing the past.
The Bears shocked the league when they decided to part with way too many assets to move up one spot to draft Mitchell Trubisky. Not only was their selection of a quarterback unexpected, but the bounty they gave up to get him earned a lot of criticism.
Imagine if they could go back in time and use that pick on Solomon Thomas. Although the picks they gave up to make the deal would still earn Pace some ugly looks, the selection of the future star defensive end would earn him plenty of praise. Instead, he stayed in the Bay Area to play with the San Francisco 49ers.
To make matters worse, the Bears failed to address their need along the defensive front later in the draft. Although they have some solid starters in Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, they need an upgrade on Mitch Unrein. Thomas would have given them said upgrade and so much more.
Instead, they now have a rookie quarterback who probably wasn’t worth the No. 2 overall pick. Nor was he worth giving up so many draft assets to acquire. Finally, his selection probably sends the wrong message to Mike Glennon, who the Bears spent a hefty amount of money to sign this offseason.
Just so much wrong with this pick, but the biggest mistake was passing on Thomas.
There were numerous directions the Bears could have gone in with their first-round pick. Even if they hadn’t of traded up for the No. 2 selection, they easily could have landed an impact player. Instead, they gave up way too much to get a guy who will likely spend the next year or two on the bench.
If Thomas wasn’t the guy, they should have stayed put at No. 3 and landed Jamal Adams. We know they could use some help in the secondary. By drafting the LSU product in the first round, they would have found themselves with one of the best prospects at the position in recent memory.
While safety isn’t the biggest need for Chicago right now, it could have used an upgrade. The current starters are Adrian Amos and Quentin Demps, and the Bears have a decent amount of depth on the back end. However, passing on a talent like Adams would have been hard to do.
The former Tiger is a dynamic difference maker at safety. Not only is he a hard-hitting tone setter, but he’s an instinctive cover man who can play sideline to sideline. On top of everything else, Adams is a heralded leader and locker room presence. We all know the Bears could use someone to rally around, especially on defense
But, you know, why not spend the pick on a backup quarterback?
As we saw, the Bears were focused on fixing their offense during the 2017 NFL Draft. In fact, four of their five selections were spent on that side of the football. Seeing as that was the case, maybe they should have used their top pick on a player who can make a huge impact as a rookie.
I know No. 3 would have been early for Corey Davis. I was already a tad surprised to see the Tennessee Titans select him at No. 5 overall. However, I don’t deny that he can be a star in the NFL based on what I’ve seen from him on tape. As it so happens, the Bears could use a new No. 1 receiver after watching Alshon Jeffery leave via free agency.
Right now, the Bears have a lot of depth at wide receiver without a true dominant presence. That’s not a great situation for Glennon or Trubisky to be in if Chicago hopes to put their quarterbacks in position to succeed. The top two targets right now are Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, neither of whom has proven to be a No. 1 receiver.
Davis, however, could have been. He’s got a tremendous mix of size, speed and hands, using his big body and surprising quickness to dominate defenders and rack up yards after the catch. While not the same type of talent as Jeffery, he certainly could have done some damage for this Chicago passing game.
Instead, Marcus Mariota will enjoying throwing to him. As for Glennon/Trubisky, they’ll be hoping someone can emerge as a star from their lackluster list of pass catchers.
For a team with so many holes on defense, I don’t see why grabbing a small-school tight end in the second round was necessary. Sure, there’s a lot to like about the potential-laden Adam Shaheen, but it’s not like the Bears need a new star at the position just yet.
They easily could have waited until the later rounds to add a quality tight end. Then, they could have used this pick to draft an impact defender — such as outside linebacker Tyus Bowser.
Considering all of the injuries we’ve seen among the Bears’ outside linebackers, adding another playmaker seemed like a priority. Instead, Chicago completely ignored the position during the 2017 NFL Draft. Bringing aboard Bowser, however, would have been a huge boost for this defense considering his ridiculous athleticism and knack for getting after opposing quarterbacks.
In the end, though, he went to the Baltimore Ravens a few picks after the Bears took Shaheen.
There’s a good chance the Ashland product turns out to be a productive tight end at the next level. However, Chicago had much bigger fish to fry at that point in the draft. Bringing in some serious depth on the edge would have been a second-round pick much better spent.
As I mentioned previously, the selection of Shaheen in the second round seems a bit ill-advised. Had the Bears hypothetically gone for Boswer in the second round instead, they could have added another option at tight end on Day 3 with the selection of Jeremy Sprinkle.
Don’t discount the Arkansas product because of his donut-themed last name, though. On the field, he’s a tough, productive tight end who proved himself to be a reliable part of the Razorback offense. While not necessarily a special talent, Sprinkle does everything well. He can catch and block, and did plenty of each during his college career.
Especially with Zach Miller routinely battling injuries and Dion Sims offering limited upside, the Bears need another quality option at tight end. They could look to one of the numerous prospects on their roster, but none offer a ton of long-term potential. Sprinkle, however, could realistically pan out as a solid starter.
In the end, though, he ended up with the Washington Redskins, coming off the board a few picks after Jordan Morgan.
Was Morgan a bad pick in the fifth round? Not necessarily, but he’s a raw project who may take a couple of years to pay dividends. The Bears needed an offensive tackle who could potentially step in and contribute as a rookie. I don’t believe Morgan is that guy. As for Sprinkle, he easily could have seen significant snaps in 2017.