The NFL draft is finally here. With only three days to wait for almost everyone else, Chicago Bears fans will be stuck biting their nails for an extra day as the team does not have a first round pick. Ryan Pace is in a spot where he needs to hit the nail on the head with this draft. There is only a handful of holes that need to be addressed. This team is in win now mode, with a roster ready to compete.
First, it is important to address a huge issue for the Bears in this draft. That being the absence of any picks between 50 and 163. The Bears are as big of a candidate to trade back in this draft as any, and I have them trading 2.50 to the Seattle Seahawks for 2.64, 3.101, and 4.144. This will give the team the third and fourth round picks they were missing simply by moving back 14 spots in the second round.
Pick 43 – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Cornerback is arguably the biggest need on this team, and Jaylon Johnson is a complete, plug and play corner. With how well rounded he is, Johnson would be able to make an instant impact starting day one. His physicality is easy to notice, and he is strong at the point of attack. His best trait in my opinion, is his football IQ. He’s able to recognize plays and routes which allows him to make breaks on the ball and come up with big plays and turnovers. This is something we saw our secondary do a lot in 2018, and takeaways were part of what made that defense great. His aggressiveness, route recognition, and form tackling all make him worthy of the 43rd overall pick.
Pick 64 – Damien Lewis, OG, LSU
The Chicago Bears’ biggest hole on the offensive line is the right guard. Right guard happens to be the position Damien Lewis naturally plays. At 6’2″ and 329 pounds, Lewis’ biggest strength is, in fact, his strength. His power allows him to drive defenders north and pave wide run lanes. Our run blocking needs improvement in 2020 to put it lightly, and Lewis can help with just that. Pass protection isn’t his specialty as he needs improvement in his lateral movement, but his flaws are almost entirely coach-able. He will quickly develop into a high-end guard with the right coaching staff which I believe we have in Juan Castillo and Co.
Pick 101 – Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas
Duvernay has a combination of size and speed that is hard to find. At 5’11” and 209 pounds, his 4.39 speed permits him to be the deep threat needed by the Chicago Bears, while also remaining physical by breaking tackles after the catch. His great hands and large catch radius give him the ability to catch slightly off target passes – something we’re used to seeing in Chicago – as well as dive for deep balls in replication of Taylor Gabriel who was released this off season. He can work on his route running, mainly his breaks, but only in a wide receiver class like this will you find talent like his in the third round.
Pick 144 – Geno Stone, S, Iowa
Geno Stone has a great combination of instincts and toughness for a projected fourth rounder. He is a hard-hitting safety who flies to the ball and can make some great open field tackles. Stone can play more of a strong safety role, allowing Eddie Jackson to be the ball hawk that he is. He also comes up with big plays on occasion. His style of play is somewhere in between Adrian Amos and HaHa Clinton-Dix, which is what the Bears need.
Pick 163 – Alex Highsmith, DE, Charlotte
The Bears made a huge signing this off season by giving Robert Quinn $70,000,000 over five years, with $30,000,000 guaranteed. This addressed our need for an effective pass rusher opposite of Khalil Mack. Yet we still don’t have depth at the position. Highsmith would bring a good combination of pass rushing and run stopping as our third outside linebacker. At Charlotte he played as a 4-3 defensive end, but at 6’3″ and 248 pounds, he definitely has the build to transition to linebacker. Highsmith sets the edge more often than accumulating sacks, but with a powerful bull rush and a handful of pass rush moves, it’s not rare for him to make it home. Additionally, he has a high motor and always plays through the whistle. He would be a great depth piece to bring in for when Khalil Mack or Robert Quinn need a breather.
Pick 196 – Josiah Degura, TE, Cincinnati
After signing Jimmy Graham, it didn’t seem like the Bears were going to address the tight end position in the draft. After a somewhat surprising release of Trey Burton, picking a tight end is back on the table. In what’s a pretty shallow class for the position, I think Josiah Degura has one of the biggest chances to be an immediate impact guy, especially for the sixth round. His sticky hands and a big catch radius coupled with his surprising ability to get separation allows for him to be a pretty consistent red zone threat, as seven of his 39 receptions went for touchdowns last year. Tight ends can take some time to develop, but Degura could be a play maker for the Bears right away.
Pick 200 – Justin Strnad, LB, Wake Forest
After losing our two best depth pieces at the linebacker position in Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Lewis, it is important to refill those slots. It doesn’t seem as though Joel Iyiegbuniwe is developing into much more than a special teams player, and Justin Strnad brings a lot onto the field if need be. He is a stout open field tackler who can play the run as well as drop back in coverage. He has the athleticism to be a quarterback spy at times. His play diagnosis was easy to recognize and he was a team leader, but there was something left to be desired. You can’t ask for much more out of a sixth round pick than what Strnad brings to the table.
Pick 226 – Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane
This pick is more of a flier in another attempt to replace Taylor Gabriel. With similar speed to Devin Duvernay at a 4.38 40-yard dash, Mooney is one of the more underrated deep threats in this draft. He is about the same height as Duvernay but around 30 pounds lighter, which more reminiscent of Gabriel. There is definitely a chance Mooney can become a wide receiver 2 or 3, and he brings in some more speed to compete for that spot in our offense.
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Pick 233 – Javon Leake, RB, Maryland
Finally, to address the need for a running back behind David Montgomery, we have Javon Leake. First off, at 6’0″ and 206 pounds, Leake is much more capable than Tarik Cohen at running between the tackles and being an every down back if Montgomery were to go down. Leake ran just a 4.65 second 40-yard dash, but he looks much faster on tape. He is able to accelerate and burst through holes unscathed. Pairing his speed with his vision makes him a serious home run threat. If you look at his highlights, most of them are very long touchdown runs where he is seemingly able to avoid even being touched by blazing past defenders. With only one more year on Cordarrelle Patterson’s contract, Leake could also take over kick return duties. He did so at Maryland and had multiple touchdown returns.
Zack Busse is a Bears writer for Time Skew. Follow him on twitter @BusseZack for more Bears content.