In years past, Ryan Pace drafted relatively raw players like Jonathan Bullard, Adam Shaheen, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, James Daniels and, of course, Mitch Trubisky early. He seemed to prefer potential over immediate production. The 2019 Draft was a stark contrast. With their first two picks — and only two in the first five rounds — the Bears drafted RB David Montgomery and WR Riley Ridley, players who should be ready to make an impact right away. This is a team ready to compete for a Super Bowl and in order to achieve that goal they’ll need everybody on the roster ready to play.
Neither Montgomery nor Ridley were necessarily explosive game breakers in college and surely won’t be in the NFL — both struggled to break 4.6 in the 40-yard dash — but they’re polished players. They both seem to have a natural feel for the game that should help them make an impact right away.
There is no question that third-round pick Montgomery has the body and all-around skill set to play in the NFL. While he may lack the explosiveness of the league’s elite backs, at 5’10”, 220 pounds, the Iowa State product is built for the NFL punishment. And he showed polish as a receiver in college, with solid route-running and soft hands.
A year ago the Atlanta Falcons draft Calvin Ridley to replace Taylor Gabriel, a free agent signing with your Chicago Bears. Now, somewhat ironically, the Bears may have drafted Calvin’s brother to do the same. Ridley likely won’t replace Gabriel as a rookie, but he shouldn’t have a problem winning the fourth receiver job and could move into a starting role sooner than later. (Anthony Miller should replace Gabriel in the Zebra role by 2020.)
Make no mistake, this is a two-person draft class. Perhaps sixth-round pick Duke Shelley or seventh-rounders Kerrith Whyte and Stephen Denmark can make an impact, but teams relying on late-round picks or undrafted free agents usually end up in deep trouble. Any contribution a contending team gets from players drafted beyond the fifth round is a bonus.
There were bigger and faster players available when the Bears made their first two picks. Players who could drastically outperform their draft slots or might never be NFL contributors. My favorite running back in the class went just a few slots before Montgomery as the LA Rams took Darrell Henderson. Henderson has elite explosiveness and breakaway speed, but is also much more likely to bust than Montgomery. That very likely was something the Bears considered as Montgomery was the back they targeted all along.
There is little question both Montgomery and Ridley will be able to put together solid NFL careers. More importantly, there’s little question they can contribute to a Super Bowl team. This is exactly what the Bears aspire to be.