The two biggest holes on this Chicago Bears’ roster, which seem to be dug deeply into the ground by a bulldozer, are at receiver and outside linebacker.
Those holes have still not been filled despite the organization drafting one top-10 pick at each respective position in two of the last three years.
We all know about Kevin White, specifically, that he is incapable of staying on the field (missing 43 of 48 games) and in three years has 21 receptions for 193 yards to his name. That’s definitely not the statline Ryan Pace envisioned for his first pick as general manager of the Bears.
As for Leonard Floyd, who Pace moved up two spots in the 2016 draft to get, has shown some potential to be a capable pass rusher. But just like White, not to the same degree though, has missed his fair share of games – 10 in two years.
Since the Bears’ former first rounders have not played to their full potential, the other receivers and outside linebackers have failed to make a significant impact in years past, especially in 2017.
Last season, the Bears were ranked dead last in the league in receiving yards with 3,085 (1,685 yds from receivers). Kendall Wright led the group with 614 yds and Josh Bellamy finished second with 376 yds. Bellamy for goodness’ sake.
The outside linebackers didn’t do much better. The group, whose primary role is to rush the quarterback, only accounted for 13.5 of the Bears’ 42 sacks. Even though Floyd missed the last six games of the season, he had the most sacks among all the outside linebackers with 4.5.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the Bears must desperately add players at each position to give the organization the best chance at hopefully becoming this year’s Los Angeles Rams.
Luckily, the Bears can help their two glaring needs in this year’s draft. I was able to see first hand the prospects the Bears will get to choose from at receiver and linebacker. Here are my top three guys at both positions that impressed me the most and could be a good fit for the Bears.
Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) 5-foot-10, 200 pounds
|40 Yard Dash: 4.47||Bench Press: 20||Vertical Jump: 35.5||Broad Jump: 115.0|
|3 Cone Drill: 7.09||20 Yd Shuttle: 4.45||60 Yd Shuttle: 11.06||Via NFL.com|
Before the NFL prospects started competing in the various drills, I put a star next to some of the players’ names on the information guide each spectator was given, so I can pay close attention to those individuals. Kirk’s name got a star and he was worth the watch. He proved that he is a clean route runner, has reliable hands and can track the ball exceptionally well.
At Texas A&M, Kirk finished his junior season with 66 receptions for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns, 10 receiving and one each on punt and kick return. Kirk did most of his work for the Aggies when he lined up in the slot.
The Bears could use a receiver like Kirk who can consistently get open and become an easy target for Mitch Trubisky to find. And with no solidified kick returner on the Bears’ roster, Kirk could compete for that spot immediately.
Courtland Sutton (SMU) 6-foot-3, 218 pounds
|40 Yard Dash: 4.54||Bench Press: 18||Vertical Jump: 35.3||Broad Jump: 124.0|
|3 Cone Drill: 6.57||20 Yd Shuttle: 4.11||60 Yd Shuttle: 11.06||Via NFL.com|
Sutton was another guy that I put a star next to and he had himself a good combine. During the gauntlet, Sutton caught every pass and he also showed his toe tap ability catching a football from J.T. Barrett on the sideline.
The former Mustang finished his junior season with 68 receptions, 1,085 yards and 13 touchdowns.
With Sutton being a bigger bodied receiver it would be interesting to see how head coach Matt Nagy would use him in an offense that emphasizes route running and speed. But Sutton would provide a new element with him being able to go up for those one-on-one jump balls.
Trey Quinn (SMU) 5-foot-11, 203 pounds
|40 Yard Dash: 4.55||Bench Press: 17||Vertical Jump: 33.5||Broad Jump: 116.0|
|3 Cone Drill: 6.91||20 Yd Shuttle: 4.19||60 Yd Shuttle: 11.4||Via NFL.com|
Sutton wasn’t the only Mustang to impress at this year’s NFL Combine, his teammate Quinn caught my eye immediately as I watched him compete in each drill. Whenever a quarterback threw a ball in his vicinity, Quinn caught it effortlessly. Personally, I thought he had the best hands of the entire group of receivers.
His sure-handed combine performance was a carryover from his junior season at SMU, where he caught 114 passes for 1,236 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Sure, Quinn is your stereotypical white slot receiver, who is more fast than quick, but the Bears have not been able to find a guy like that. Maybe Quinn can be that guy to set up his defenders, make a man miss, and convert the chains on third downs. The Bears definitely could have used someone like that last season.
Outside Linebackers/Edge Rushers
Marcus Davenport (UTSA) 6-foot-6, 264 pounds
|40 Yard Dash: 4.58||Bench Press: 22||Vertical Jump: 33.5||Broad Jump: 124.0|
|3 Cone Drill: 7.20||20 Yd Shuttle: 4.41||60 Yd Shuttle: N/A||Via NFL.com|
When I got Sunday’s information guide, I immediately looked to see where Davenport’s name was and put a star next to it. I was pleased to see him effectively backpedal in his drop and break on command when a coach signaled him to. And despite being 6-foot-6, Davenport showed great footwork in each of the drills.
In his senior season, Davenport registered 8.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
Even though Davenport played in Conference USA, he would provide some much-needed pass rush for the Bears. And with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio back for another three years, I believe he would be ecstatic to work with someone as physically gifted as Davenport.
Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) 6-foot-5, 253 pounds
|40 Yard Dash: 4.54||Bench Press: 19||Vertical Jump: 33.5||Broad Jump: 124.0|
|3 Cone Drill: N/A||20 Yd Shuttle: N/A||60 Yd Shuttle: N/A||Via NFL.com|
Now I know what you are thinking, Edmunds isn’t an edge rusher, he’s an inside linebacker who has pass rushing capabilities. Technically, that’s true, but he has the potential to be a good pass rusher. I mean, the kid is only 19 years old. Although he was the youngest prospect at this year’s combine, he excelled at the drills, showcasing his nimble footwork and quick burst of speed.
In 13 games during his junior year, Edmunds racked up 108 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
With Edmunds being so young, there is no telling what he can or can’t do. But regardless, if the Bears were to draft him and have him play on the inside or outside, he would be an immediate upgrade for the defense.
Lorenzo Carter (Georgia) 6-foot-6, 250 pounds
|40 Yard Dash: 4.50||Bench Press: 17||Vertical Jump: 36.0||Broad Jump: 130.0|
|3 Cone Drill: N/A||20 Yd Shuttle: N/A||60 Yd Shuttle: N/A||Via NFL.com|
When Carter finished his 40-yard dash, Will, Brandon and I all had smiles on our faces. To see a guy, that big and tall finish with a 4.50 40-yard dash, was incredible. Instantly looking at Carter reminded me of his former teammate at Georgia, Leonard Floyd, who ran a 4.60 40-yard dash at 244 pounds.
Carter finished his senior season with 4.5 sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
The Bears need more pass rushers and Carter has the ability to get to the quarterback. If paired with Floyd, that could make for a formidable duo. Carter also has the ability to drop into coverage and with the two Georgia Bulldogs having a similar skill set, the two can make it difficult for opposing offenses to gauge which is rushing or dropping back into coverage.
The NFL Combine may be officially over, but the evaluation of each prospect has just begun for this Bears’ coaching staff. And with two glaring holes still on the roster, Pace must look to fill them with the right players to avoid being cemented with the bottom dwellers of the league for another consecutive year.