Lessons Learned About Our Bears in 2015
In a season where the Chicago Bears finished 6-10, it was quite the roller coaster. The Bears were in a lot of games, but they were failing to start off the game with a fire or finish off the game on a high note. That ended up costing the Bears (at least to my count) six games. Naturally, give or take a few of those games but in those six there were a couple plays in each that could have decided the outcome in the Bears favor.
So … how does a team fix only a couple plays?
They do so by retooling in the offseason.
It’s possible that the Ryan Pace could swap out a lot of positions. He has said that he is going to try and spread out the $50 million the Bears have available to spend on free agents. (Keep this thought in the back of your mind, I will come out with another article focusing on free agency.)
However, this is my pre-Senior Bowl Bears Big Board for the upcoming draft. As we progress through the offseason the board will change as draft stocks rise and fall, plus our Bears will be signing free agents soon.
My priority list for the 2016 NFL Draft looks something like this:
- Finding Jay Cutler’s future replacement
- Bolstering the offensive and defensive line
- Adding solid players to the secondary
The Bears pick 11th and have a draft pick in every round this year including three selections in the sixth round.
Note: The list below is in no particular order.
I Have My Eyes On…
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State University
Jay Cutler has said that he understands if the Chicago Bears draft a quarterback, and he’ll help the new quarterback develop. If Pace is going to keep his “best available” draft strategy, Carson Wentz has to be a must in my eyes.
Plus: History is on the Chicago’s side when drafting FCS players. The Bears drafted Walter Payton from Jackson State University and Richard Dent from Tennessee State University.
I see three teams that will possibly take a quarterback before the Bears. Who knows what Cleveland will do with the number two pick, the Cowboys at four may take one to groom under Tony Romo, and San Francisco at seven I definitely see taking a quarterback.
If Wentz is still available at 11, I fully expect the Bears to take him in the first round. He won his fourth straight FCS Football Championship with NDSU (NDSU has now won five straight). Needless to say, this kid knows how to win.
He is 6’5″ and weighs around 220 pounds. He completed 62.5% of his passes in only seven games in his senior season (due to a wrist injury). He also threw 17 TD’s and only four interceptions on the year. In his career at NDSU, he threw for 5,115 yards, 45 TD’s and 14 interceptions. Not only can Carson Wentz sling the ball around he’s also quite mobile on his feet. In his collegiate career, he rushed for 1,028 yards.
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State University
Standing 6’4″ and weighing 250 pounds, Shilique Calhoun went back to Michigan State to win a national title but fell short. Returning for a senior season speaks to me about his character, and tells me that he has drive to help his team reach their goals. This is the type of guy that the Bears want in their locker room.
Calhoun finished his senior season with 10.5 sacks and 49 total tackles. He has quick hands and good technique to get to the quarterback. Bringing in Calhoun can help an average front seven. The defensive line would get a boost of talent if they decide to draft him in the first round. Or … they could get lucky like they did with Eddie Goldman last season, and select Calhoun in the second round if he falls.
Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech University
How cool would it be to have two lock-down corners? Bringing in Kendall Fuller could help elevate his older brother’s play on the field. Kyle Fuller had a slow start to the season but his play became more respectful as the season went along. Bringing in his younger brother could add some competition that could create two solid corners.
Kendall Fuller was out for quite a few games with a torn meniscus. That would make drafting him a gamble, but the combine and his pro day could help clarify where he stands on my big board. As of right now, having two Fullers could help the Bears secondary.
Vadal Alexander, OT, LSU
The Chicago Bears offensive line was once again shuffled around. Injuries took their toll, and right before the season, Kyle Long shifted to tackle.
Vadal Alexander is 6’6″ and weighs 329 pounds. He can come in and make an early impact if he can prove that he will stay healthy. Maybe this is the Charles Leno Jr. replacement? Leno Jr. struggled towards the end the 2015 season. The offensive line will get some help if the Bears pick up Vadal Alexander.
Additionally, I would not be upset to see the Bears draft Jack Conklin from Michigan State University or Jason Spriggs from Indiana University to fill the tackle position as all three players look to have solid careers ahead of them.
Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State University
There was a lot of instability at the wide receiver position. Between Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Marquess Wilson the injury bug bit really, and I mean really hard. Bringing in a receiver from the draft will be ideal in helping Cutler find stability in his wide outs.
Michael Thomas is a tall 6’3″ to be opposite of Alshon Jeffery (or Kevin White in case a deal does not get done). He caught nine touchdown passes this past season and had 781 receiving yards. Not only could he be the best available but Micheal Thomas could very well become a reliable target that Cutler could use effectively.
Those are my initial thoughts on how the Bears can fix their issues in the early portion of the draft. Championship teams are built in the draft, and I think this year’s draft is a big test for Pace.
Drafting a quarterback may not make a lot of sense right now, but Cutler cannot play forever. This needs to be the draft we find his replacement. Drafting a quarterback now and sitting behind Cutler to learn the system and soak in everything will benefit the future quarterback in the long run. I understand that is what David Fales has been doing, but Fales has yet to show a whole lot. I think there are more guys available in the draft with more upside than him.
Chicago has nine selections in the draft, making this one a pivotal draft for the future of the franchise. If Pace continues to go with the “best available” draft strategy, this draft has the potential to be a very successful one.