The Chicago Bears are playing host to the NFL Draft for the second year in a row, and the crowd reactions to the home team’s selections have been relatively cheerful. To find out if the responses Bears fans have expressed can be justified, keep reading to find my grades on their picks up to Round Three.
By: Peter Elliott – Lead NFL, MLB, and NCAA writer – @PelliottSports
First Round: Leonard Floyd, Outside Linebacker – Georgia
General manager Ryan Pace was feeling confident at the start of the Draft, and for the first time in 20 years, the Bears traded up in the first round two spots to grab Leonard Floyd, an outside linebacker from Georgia who possesses pure athleticism.
His Combine digits back that statement up, as evidenced by his 4.6 40-yard dash, 7.18 second 3-cone drill time, and an incredible 39.5 inch vertical jump, which are all far superior results than those outside linebackers normally recieve. Floyd amassed 17 sacks and 182 tackles in his three-year collegiate career, and won many accolades to accompany those numbers, including being Georgia’s Defensive MVP in 2014, a second-team All-SEC nod from coaches in the same year, a Dick Butkus Award finalist in 2015, and leading the Bulldogs in sacks every year he was there.
He fits perfectly into defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s 3-4 scheme that was adopted relatively recently, where he can help re-energize the pass rush, so don’t be surprised if he racks up anywhere between six to eight sacks this season. Last season, the Bears ranked 29th overall in 3rd-down defense, a horrendous number that is definitely on the minds of everyone at Hallas Hall. Hopefully, head strength and conditioning coach Jason George has time to turn Floyd into a gym rat in the offseason and add some muscle onto his lanky 6’5,” 244-pound frame that will constantly be brought up by coaches and analysts alike. This was a major concern for many, as without a strong build, it’s tough to play his position.
The Bears have gaping holes at many positions, and they could have gone in countless directions with this pick, like grabbing talented Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley, or another impressive prospect.
Second Round: Cody Whitehair, Offensive Lineman – Kansas State
The hometown crowd had to wait extra long for a Chicago selection on Day Two, and after swapping with Buffalo to gain the number 49 pick, the Bills fourth-rounder, and a 2017 fourth-rounder all by giving up their number 41 pick, the Bears moved down yet again in the second round, as they collected a pick later in the second round and an additional fourth-rounder in a “selection swap” with the Seattle Seahawks.
Finally, with the 56th overall pick in the Draft, Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair was chosen by Ryan Pace and the front office. The 6’4,” 301-pound Whitehair is a reliable and versatile protector with good size who started every game for the Wildcats from 2013 through 2015, and is able to transition between guard and tackle.
He’s considered one of the top guards in this year’s draft class, and he’s likely to take over the tackle role Kyle Long stepped into last season, as Long shifts back into his natural position, guard.
His physical abilities make him NFL-ready, and he had one of the best three-cone times out of all lineman who participated in the Combine. He reached the second team All-Big 12 in two consecutive years as a sophomore and junior, and was a member of the All-Big 12 team in his senior season. One of the only concerns surrounding Whitehair are his arm lengths, usually measured between 32 2/8″ and 32 3/8,” which can be troubling for him if he wants to play guard.
I like this pick, because Whitehair bolsters the unit protecting Cutler, and the Bears got the player they wanted by trading down while still archiving fourth rounders where they can start chipping away at some of their needy areas with sleeper prospects the scouting department have studied extensively.
Third Round: Jonathan Bullard, Defensive End – Florida
If the Bears truly want to bring back the “Monsters of the Midway,” this pick is a step in the right direction.
Defensive end Jonathan Bullard wrecked havoc on opponents throughout his four years at Florida University, as he made 92 solo tackles, and 175 total tackles with 34 for a loss, and 12 sacks. The well-built 6’3,” 283 pound Bullard is explosive and bolts off the line of scrimmage as soon the play begins and follows the ball.
The 2015 third-team All-American has drawn comparisons to Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald for his ability to win off the snap, something that will be valuable in the previously mentioned 3-4 defense. There are really not many flaws to pick through in Bullard’s game except for his footwork and play against double teams.
This was a nice third-round pickup that looks to help the defense tremendously. Look for more additions to the 3-4 scheme in the later rounds to complement Bullard.