The 2019 season did not go according to plan. However, the Chicago Bears have a chance to retool this offseason in order to get back atop the NFC North, and if all goes according to plan, win a Super Bowl.
The defense is still championship caliber, and with a few tweaks to the offense, they can get back to where they need to be. This will be a make or break offseason for Ryan Pace, and obviously a lot will change between now and the NFL draft. Still, I decided to take an early look at what their draft class might look like.
For this exercise, I used tankathon.com draft order.
Round 2, Pick 43: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
On the surface, wide receiver might not seem like the greatest need for the Bears, but the goal should be to accumulate offensive playmakers any way they can. While they have a more pressing need at tight end, the talent differential between Reagor and the number one tight end in this draft class is substantial.
Reagor is an explosive athlete and in any other draft would not get out of the first round. This could be the deepest wide receiver class in a long time, which means a talented option will be available for the Bears if they decide to go in that direction.
Reagor’s greatest asset is his athleticism. He has the straight-line speed to take the top off of the defense, which if you watched the Bears the last few seasons, you know has been a missing element from their passing attack. He can replace Taylor Gabriel’s role in the offense and, frankly, do it better despite being a rookie.
He is a threat to score whenever he sets foot on the field and is elusive with the ball in his hands as well. Matt Nagy loves the short passing game, and Reagor would finally be someone that brings elite run after catch ability to the table.
Reagor saw a dip in production in his junior season from his sophomore campaign, going from 72 receptions to 43 and 1,061 to 611 yards. However, that might not entirely be his fault. In 2019, only 30.7 percent of his targets were charted as accurate according to Pro Football Focus. In a pass-first offense like the Bears run he could be a game-changing talent.
Round 2, Pick 50: Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan
The Bears’ offensive line by all advanced metrics was, at worst, an average pass-blocking offensive line. On the other hand, they struggled mightily in the run game, which made the offense predictable. Their tackles, Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie, are locked into their starting spots for at least 2020, so it makes more sense for them to address the interior to replace Kyle Long.
Bredeson is a four-year starter at left guard for the Wolverines and one of the best pass-blocking guards in the nation. In 2019, he did not allow a single quarterback hit or sack in 451 pass protection snaps on his way to earning second-team All-American honors.
He is equally adept in the run game and should be able to solidify the right guard position for the next decade. In the play below, he shows everything you want out of an interior offensive lineman in the run game. Powerful hands at the point of attack and good rotational strength allow him to open up a hole for the running back, and he finishes strong with a pancake.
Round 4 comp Pick: Zach Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
In the end-of-season press conference, Pace reiterated that they really like Leonard Floyd for his versatility despite the lack of production on the stat sheet. And it’s true; Floyd sets the edge in the run game and is reliable, yet unproductive, dropping into coverage. The problem is they can get someone to do that for far less than the $13 million they are slated to pay Floyd in 2020.
Baun can be that versatile defender while also providing more utility as a pass rusher. Baun played outside and inside linebacker for the Badgers and was often tasked with dropping into coverage.
Baun also brings pass rush ability to the table. The two-year starter at outside linebacker has exploded in his senior season for 75 tackles, 19.5 for loss and 12.5 sacks. When you watch him play, it’s easy to see how his game will translate to the next level. He has a lightning-quick first step (especially when rushing from a two-point stance), relentless motor and uses his hands and length extremely well.
Round 5, Pick 142: Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
I love the idea of double-dipping at a position of need in the draft and there are a couple of positions that could make sense for the Bears to do that this year: offensive line, tight end and edge rusher.
Here they tab Charlotte’s ultra-productive pass rusher Highsmith to round out their outside linebacker room. He finished his senior season with 75 tackles, 21.5 for loss and 15 sacks.
I’ve written about Highsmith before, so if you are interested in learning more, check out my thread on what he brings to the table.
There are a lot of non-first round pass rushers I like in this draft. And my favorite might be the guy I've studied this week: Charlotte's Alex Highsmith. Played DL in their 3-3-5 scheme in 2018. Moved to the edge this season and has exploded for 15.5 TFL & 9.5 sacks in 10 games pic.twitter.com/ghS7IKQGvD
— Stephen Letizia (@StephenLetizia) November 21, 2019
Round 5, Pick 146: Levonta Taylor, CB/S, Florida State
I wanted to draft a defensive back higher as I feel it is an area the Bears are in desperate need of some youth. Taylor is a former 5-star cornerback recruit who has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that come with such high praise out of high school. While his stat sheet might be disappointing, with only four interceptions and 10 pass deflections in four seasons, they do not tell the whole story.
In 2018, at cornerback, Taylor allowed the fewest receptions per coverage snap in the nation according to Pro Football Focus. He was in coverage for 398 snaps and was only targeted 35 times, leading to 13 catches, two interceptions and two pass break ups, giving him a passer rating against of only 26.1.
The issue with Taylor, and the reason he might be available on day three, is his size and injury concerns. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 although that might be generous. He doesn’t have great length and it shows against bigger-bodied wide receivers. He also played through a back injury in 2018, so his medical checks at the combine will be crucial.
Taylor moved to safety for his senior season and the results were positive. He projects as a hybrid safety who can play nickel corner, which is the direction the league is heading. If both your safeties can’t play man coverage, you’re going to struggle in today’s NFL. He’d be a perfect compliment to Eddie Jackson.
Round 5, Pick 149: Josiah Deguara, TE, Cincinnati
I believe the Bears will try and take advantage of a loaded free agent tight end class to fill their hole at the position while also using a day three Pick on a young tight end with some upside. After all, the plan was to use Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen on the field at the same time and there might not be a more important position in Nagy’s offense.
Deguara is one of my favorite tight ends in this entire class because he does everything well. He’s a jack of all trades who possesses great route running ability, hands and athleticism. His biggest issue is he does everything well without having one trait that really jumps off the page to set him apart.
Despite being undersized at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, he could fill both the U and Y tight end positions in Nagy’s offense. He also could fill a H-back or fullback role for the Bears as well. Wherever he lines up, his route running ability would make him a reliable target for Mitch Trubisky or whoever is lining up under center next season.
Silver lining of the Bears being a dumpster fire is I get to start prepping for the draft early. TE is obviously a huge need and one guy I really like is Cincinnati's Josiah Deguara. Can play inline as well as in the slot
Route Running ✅
Blocking ✅ pic.twitter.com/rOtnsP1sIm
— Stephen Letizia (@StephenLetizia) November 19, 2019
Round 6, Pick 177: Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State
The Bears addressed the interior of their offensive line earlier in the draft and here they get a developmental tackle. Taylor has great size at 6-foot-9, 310 pounds possessing the long arms you want in a tackle prospect.
He was a basketball star in high school and only played 17 games of football before committing to Appalachian State as a two-star recruit. His basketball background translates to the gridiron where his athleticism and quick feet are evident.
While the size and athleticism are there, he is very raw at the moment and the jump in competition from the MEAC to the NFL is huge. This is simply a lottery ticket in the hopes he can be a starter in a few years.
Round 7, Pick 211: Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah
I am fairly confident the Bears will bring in a cheap veteran to compete with Trubisky while also drafting a late-round quarterback to hopefully develop. The odds of finding an NFL caliber quarterback this late in the draft are astronomical. That being said, Huntley is worth a late-round flyer due to his accuracy and athleticism.
Huntley has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for his career and 73.1 percent his senior season. In 2019, he also had a 10.3 yards per attempt and 24 total touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he has more than enough velocity for the NFL level.
He’s smaller than a typical quarterback prospects at only 6-foot-1, which is part of the reason he will be available later in the draft.