Camp Has Started. Let’s Grade Chicago’s Roster.

| July 24th, 2018

Let’s take an objective look at this Bears roster, grading each unit on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best in the NFL, and 5 being an average NFL grouping. I am going to try to avoid projecting too much for young players who have not yet proven it in the NFL, so some of these rankings might be a bit lower than expected.

Let’s get right down to it!

Quarterback: 3.5

Key players: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel

Roster depth: Tyler Bray

I have a feeling this rating will be higher by the end of the 2018 season, but right now I can’t go any higher than a 3.5 out of 10. Mitchell Trubisky got steadily better as his rookie season progressed, but he still didn’t play that great, and while people seem to love Chase Daniel as a backup, he’s only thrown 78 passes over 8 seasons in the NFL.

Running Back: 8

Key players: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen

Roster depth: Benny Cunningham, Michael Burton, Taquan Mizzell, Ryan Nall

Welcome to the best position group on the Bears’ roster. Jordan Howard has run for over 2400 yards the last 2 years, and Tarik Cohen is a perfect complement who can make explosive plays on limited touches. Howard’s struggles through the air are the only thing keeping this grade from being higher, but the duo should be very productive in 2018 if used correctly. The depth here is solid as well; Benny Cunningham is a good ST contributor and solid 3rd down back, and people seem to like UDFA Ryan Nall as a sleeper.

Wide Receiver: 5

Key players: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Kevin White

Roster depth: Josh Bellamy, Bennie Fowler, DeMarcus Ayers, Marlon Brown, Javon Wims, Tanner Gentry, Matt Fleming, Garrett Johnson

For all of the focus spent on improving the wide receiver position this offseason, it’s hard to call this group anything more than average right now.

  • Allen Robinson is coming off a knee injury and hasn’t been dominant since 2015,
  • Taylor Gabriel is a WR3 getting paid like and relied upon like a WR2.
  • Kevin White is now on injury comeback #3.
  • Anthony Miller is a rookie, albeit a highly drafted one who is expected to contribute right away.
  • Josh Bellamy and Bennie Fowler are quality special teams players and solid depth at WR if they end up in the WR5/6 roles.

These players are all excellent fits for Chicago’s new offense, and there’s potential for a really good group here if all goes well, but you can’t bank on that until you see it on the field.

Tight Ends: 3

Key players: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims

Roster depth: Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker, Colin Thompson

This is a ranking that will probably surprise some people, but for all of the investment the Bears have made in this position (two big contracts and a 2nd round pick), we have yet to see it translate to the field. Trey Burton’s best season saw him garner 327 receiving yards, which would have ranked 29th in the NFL among tight ends last year, Adam Shaheen has 14 NFL targets, and Dion Sims had an atrocious 2017 season and has never even gotten 300 yards in one year.

If Burton is as good as the Bears believe (and have paid him to be) and Shaheen takes the next step, this could be one of the best tight end groups in the NFL, but right now there is a distinct lack of proven production.

Offensive Tackles: 5

Key players: Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell

Roster depth: Dejon Allen, Matt McCants

I think this group is pretty much the definition of average. Leno has established himself as a solid but not great NFL LT, while Massie is a guy who’s just good enough to not get replaced when the roster has bigger needs. That duo might merit a 6 as being slightly-above-average, but the lack of depth behind them tips it down to a 5. Bradley Sowell doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as the swing tackle, and there is nobody young who can realistically be expected to develop into a useful NFL player.

Interior OL: 7

Key players: Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Eric Kush

Roster depth: Hroniss Grasu, Jordan Morgan, Earl Watford, Will Pericak, Brandon Greene, Rashaad Coward

This was one of the hardest groups on the roster for me to grade. It could end up as one of the NFL’s best if Kyle Long remains healthy and rookie James Daniels is as good as advertised, but Cody Whitehair is the only sure thing I see. Eric Kush is a top backup here, and Earl Watford has significant starting experience. That depth is enough for me to consider them well above average for now.

Defensive Line: 7.5

Key players: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris

Roster depth: Bilal Nichols, John Jenkins, Abdullah Anderson, Nick Williams, Cavon Walker, Bunmi Rotimi

Akiem Hicks is the best player on the Bears’ roster, and Eddie Goldman is somewhere in their top 5 or 10. Those two push this group up to being one of the Bears’ best, but the questions around them keep it from being considered among the top units in the NFL.

Bullard and RRH both played solid football in spurts last year, but will be asked to do more in bigger roles. If they can do that, Vic Fangio can feel comfortable rotating Hicks out more, which should keep him fresher and more productive as the season wears on.

Outside Linebackers: 2

Key players: Leonard Floyd, Sam Acho, Aaron Lynch, Kylie Fitts

Roster depth: Isaiah Irving, Andrew Trumbetti, Jonathan Anderson, Kasim Edebali, Elijah Norris

This is the worst group on Chicago’s roster by a fairly sizable margin. It’s never a good thing when three of your four key players are Aaron Lynch, Sam Acho, and a 6th round pick.

Lynch hasn’t looked like a starting-caliber player since 2015. Acho is a 4th OLB/STer competing for a starting spot. Leonard Floyd has been more solid than spectacular and has struggled to stay on the field. This has to be considered one of the worst collections of edge rushers in the NFL. If Floyd gets hurt again, the lack of pass rush could torpedo Chicago’s entire defense.

Inside Linebackers: 6

Key players: Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski

Roster depth: John Timu, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods, Ro’Derrick Hoskins

This is another group I had trouble evaluating. Danny Trevathan is really good when he’s healthy, but he’s not healthy enough. Roquan Smith was a top 10 pick who is a favorite to win defensive rookie of the year, but he hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet. Nick Kwiatkoski has been ok through two years, and is a solid 3rd ILB. If Trevathan stays healthy and Smith is as good as expected, this will be one of the best groupings in the NFL. As it is, I think slightly above average is a fair placement for now.

Cornerbacks: 6

Key players: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Marcus Cooper, Sherrick McManis

Roster depth: Michael Joseph, Doran Grant, Deiondre’ Hall, Kevin Toliver II, Jonathan Mincy, John Franklin III, Rashard Fant

Another group I think is slightly above average. Kyle Fuller had a breakout 2017 season that he needs to back up, Prince Amukamara is a boring but competent CB2, and Bryce Callahan is quietly a good nickel when healthy. LeBlanc and Cooper should provide solid depth (although Cooper was awful in 2017), while McManis is a great special teams player.

The biggest thing keeping this group from moving any higher is the lack of turnovers. The top trio combined for only 4 interceptions last year, and in 13 combined NFL seasons have only caught 17 balls.

Safeties: 5

Key players: Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos

Roster depth: Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Nick Orr

The starting duo of Jackson and Amos probably deserves a 6 or 7 after their performance in 2017, and I think EJ should be significantly better in his 2nd year. But the lack of turnovers, especially from Amos, also keeps the grade down here. More importantly, the depth-or lack thereof-is terrifying, and that has to affect the grade. What happens if either Jackson or Amos get hurt? Bush has looked simply awful through two seasons, DHC is a special teams guy only, and Nick Orr is an undrafted rookie. I can’t believe the Bears haven’t signed a veteran for some injury insurance yet.

Specialists: 6

Key players: K Cody Parkey, P Pat O’Donnell, LS Patrick Scales

Roster depth: P Ryan Winslow

The kicker spot has been a nightmare for the Bears since Robbie Gould left town, but Cody Parkey should settle that down as a solidly above-average kicker. Pat O’Donnell is an average punter who will compete with Ryan Winslow in camp, and Patrick Scales never really does anything to make you notice him, which is precisely what you want from a long snapper.

Overall: 5

If you average all of these numbers together, they give a 5.3, which is just slightly above average. I feel like that’s about right for the Bears, who are likely still a year away from being a playoff team. A few other observations:

  • The offense (5.25) and defense (5.3) are also roughly the same, with the defense being slightly higher. I also feel like that’s about right, though I think there’s more room for the offense to outplay these grades.
  • Few of the units are really good or really bad; 9 of the 12 graded out between a 3 and a 7. That’s good news in that most of the weaknesses have been rendered adequate (except at OLB), but the Bears still need more top-shelf players and units to emerge as the focal point of their team. The good news is that, for the first time in a while, they actually have young talent that could do that. They need players like Trubisky, Miller, Floyd, and Smith to play like stars.

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