With the 2018 NFL Draft completed, we now take this time between the draft and the first game of the season to evaluate the newcomers into Chicago and how they would fit best on the roster. The Bears filled a number of open spots including linebackers, offensive linemen, and wide receivers. While many were surprised with the Bears’ absence of a cornerback selection, they signed two skilled undrafted free agents in Kevin Toliver and Rashard Fant who will both compete to make the final roster. The draftees include one first rounder, two second rounders, one fourth rounder, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounder. Here are the picks:
Round One, Pick 8- Roquan Smith, Linebacker (Georgia)
Roquan Smith was the leader of last year’s national championship runner up Georgia Bulldogs’ defense. Standing at 6’0” and 236 lbs, Smith’s electrifying plays and leadership contributed greatly to the Bulldogs’ excellent 2017-18 season. With a lack of defensive leadership at linebacker, this was an excellent pick for general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears to further improve a solid front seven for the upcoming season. Smith paired with Danny Trevathan at the inside linebacker position should have Bears fans drooling.
Round Two, Pick 39- James Daniels, Center (Iowa)
With Quenton Nelson getting drafted by the Colts in the first round before the Bears, Daniels–a projected first round pick–was one of the best offensive linemen on the board. The 6’3”, 306 pound center will become a solid asset for the offensive line. With Daniels snapping the ball next year, Cody Whitehair can move back to his natural position at guard. As a plus, Kyle Long will be healthy next year to play guard on the other side of Whitehair. This change to the line will certainly help Mitchell Trubisky in the pocket, but will also give Jordan Howard the interior holes in the offensive line that he needs to run north-south.
Round Two, Pick 59- Anthony Miller, Wide Receiver (Memphis)
The addition of Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason made the Bears receiving core much more reputable, after having an underwhelming and injured set of receivers last year. This was one of, if not the biggest hole in Chicago’s roster entering the offseason. The Bears added depth with the pick of Miller, who tallied 37 career receiving touchdowns and 3590 career receiving yards at Memphis, should make a solid addition to Chicago.
Round Four, Pick 115- Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Linebacker (Western Kentucky)
With losses to Willie Young, Jerrell Freeman, Pernell McPhee, and Christian Jones, the Bears had a gaping hole at the edge rusher position. Many thought Chicago would select a defensive back here, so the addition of Iyiegbuniwe (E-yay-boo-ne-way) was a bit surprising. But, the Western Kentucky product will serve as a depth player for Vic Fangio’s defense and hope to provide athleticism and upside to the Bears’ linebacker corps.
Round Five, Pick 145- Bilal Nichols, Defensive Tackle (Delaware)
For the second consecutive draft, Pace has shown that he likes talented, small-school players towards the later rounds. Players like Tarik Cohen and Adam Shaheen were both contributors in their rookie seasons with the Bears, and Fangio and Nagy would be thrilled to see that kind of production. After performing well in the East-West Shrine game, Nichols also projects to provide depth to the Bears defensive line in 2018.
Round Six, Pick 181- Kylie Fitts, Linebacker (Utah)
For the third time this draft, the Bears addressed their needs at the linebacker position. With the addition of OLB Aaron Lynch this offseason, there will not be much pressure on Fitts or Iyiegbuniwe to perform right away, but these talented and high-upside prospects could turn heads later this season. Fitts has had trouble over the course of his college career staying healthy, but he’s a talented prospect who could contribute to the Bears 3-4 scheme in the future.
Round Seven, Pick 224- Javon Wims, Wide Receiver (Georgia)
The Bears made a smart decision by using their seventh round pick to draft a high reward, low risk prospect in Javon Wims. Wims brings plus size and plus athleticism to a receiving corps that has been underwhelming in past seasons. Wims was Georgia’s #1 receiving option and excelled when targeted on back shoulder throws. Nobody should pencil Wims in as an instant starter (or even backup for that matter) but look for him to be a valuable reserve who can learn and grow from Allen Robinson’s play in the 2018 season.
The Bears draft was lauded by many experts in and around the NFL as one of the top classes of 2018, which only adds to the optimism already brewing amongst Chicago fans. Pace & Co. selected at least 3 players who can come in and start Week 1 against Green Bay, with a number of other role players in the realm who can chip in during the long and grueling season. Consider this draft class a success for the new-look Bears as expectations increase with the new coaching staff.