On the Eve of the Preseason, Grading the 2019 Roster

| August 7th, 2019

Like I did last year, here’s an objective look at this Bears roster, grading each unit on a 1-10 scale. I’m scaling it such that 1 means it’s the worst in the NFL, 10 is the best in the NFL, and 5 is 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: 6

Key Players: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel

Roster Depth: Tyler Bray

Trubisky was right around average statistically as a passer in 2018, but added value as a runner. In two games when he was out hurt, Chase Daniel showed that he’s a solid backup, but also reminded us that he’s a backup. I was torn between a 5 and 6 here, but decided Trubisky’s running and Daniel as a backup warranted the higher grade.

Running Back: 5

Key Players: David Mongtomery, Mike Davis, Tarik Cohen

Roster Depth: Kerrith Whyte, Ryan Nall

This was a difficult position to grade because of Tarik Cohen. He’s a really good offensive weapon who produced almost 1200 yards of offense and 8 TDs in 2018, but he can’t handle a huge load and does more damage as a pass catcher than a runner.

Mike Davis is a solid player who fits well in this offense, but he’s probably best suited as a backup.

And while I’m hugely excited about David Montgomery and his fit in this offense, I can’t credit him for anything when he’s yet to play an NFL game. Thus I’ll give this group an average grade for now, but I think this is the position that has the highest potential to outperform its ranking in 2019.

Wide Receiver: 6

Key Players: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims

Roster Depth: Emanuel Hall, Marvin Hall, Tanner Gentry, Taquan Mizzell, Thomas Ives, Jordan Williams-Lambert

Allen Robinson was the Bears’ leading WR in 2018, and he finished 31st in the NFL among WRs in receiving yards, making him a low-end WR1 in terms of production. However, he also missed 3 games with injury, so his per-game production was a bit better. Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller both performed like capable WR2s, and Cordarrelle Patterson provides solid depth.

Behind them is a trio of unproven but intriguing prospects in Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, and Emanuel Hall. While I am extremely high on both Robinson and Miller in 2019, the starters don’t warrant any better than a 5 based on recent production. The solid depth bumps this up slightly.

Tight End: 4

Key Players: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker

Roster Depth: Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond, Ian Bunting, Ellis Richardson, Jesper Horsted

Trey Burton finished 2018 13th in receiving yards among NFL tight ends. He’s nothing special, but he’s not bad either. I’d say he’s about textbook average and give him a 5, but the shaky depth at the position lowers this grade a bit.

Adam Shaheen has played in only 19 games and caught 17 passes in his first 2 years. Ben Braunecker is more of a special teams contributor than a tight end. Bradley Sowell is switching from tackle to tight end, and everybody else is an undrafted rookie. This is probably the weakest position on the roster, at least in terms of the offense and defense. To be fair, that says more about the strength of the roster than the weakness of TE.

Offensive Tackle: 6

Key Players: Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward

Roster Depth: TJ Clemmings, Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery

Leno and Massie quietly form one of the better tackle duos in the NFL. Neither is an absolute stud, but both are solidly above-average. If I were just rating them as the starters, they’d earn a 7, but the grade gets dinged a bit for depth. The Bears seem to love Coward, but he just switched over from the defensive line a year ago and has never taken a snap at OT in college or the pros in a game that counts. TJ Clemmings has some experience, but injuries have really derailed his career.

Interior OL: 9

Key Players: Kyle Long, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Ted Larsen

Roster Depth: Alex Bars, Blake Blackmar, Sam Mustipher, Marquez Tucker

Kyle Long is fully healthy for the first time since 2015. Cody Whitehair hasn’t missed a game in 3 years and just made his first Pro Bowl. James Daniels quietly had a very good rookie season. That trio might be the best in the NFL, and the Bears’ offense was really good in 2018 when all three of them were on the field.

Ted Larsen is an experienced veteran who spent the last 2 years as a starter and provides quality depth. This is one of the strengths of a strong roster.

Defensive Line: 9

Key Players: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard

Roster Depth: Nick Williams, Abdullah Anderson, Jonathan Harris, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield

Akiem Hicks is an all-around beast, and teams really struggled running the ball when he and Eddie Goldman were on the field together last year. Bilal Nichols had a surprisingly good rookie season, and Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard are both quality veteran depth. The Bears’ have an outstanding combination of quality and quantity on the defensive line that helps make this a very strong unit.

Edge Rusher: 9

Key Players: Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch

Roster Depth: Isaiah Irving, Kylie Fitts, Chuck Harris, Matt Betts

Khalil Mack might be the best edge rusher in the NFL. If I was grading individuals, he’d get a 10. While Leonard Floyd has not blossomed into the pass rusher the Bears hoped for, he’s still a good solid all-around player, and Aaron Lynch is a competent if oft-injured 3rd edge rusher. If you take Mack away, this group looks awful, but his presence makes it outstanding.

Inside Linebacker: 9

Key Players: Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe

Roster Depth: Josh Woods, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Jameer Thurman, James Vaughters

Danny Trevathan is a really good veteran. Roquan Smith quietly had a monster rookie year. Those two might be the best starting duo in the NFL. I honestly thought about giving this position a 10, but then I remembered that Danny Trevathan has a long injury history and Nick Kwiatkoski is a massive liability in coverage.

Cornerback: 7

Key Players: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver, Duke Shelley

Roster Depth: Duke Shelley, Michael Joseph, Stephen Denmark, Jonathon Mincey, John Franklin III, Clifton Duck

Kyle Fuller was a 1st team All Pro in 2018, and Prince Amukamara is one of the better CB2s in the NFL. Buster Skrine is a downgrade from Bryce Callahan, but still stacks up decently well against other nickel cornerbacks around the league. Toliver proved to be solid depth when pressed into action in 2018, which should have the Bears feeling pretty good about this position.

And that’s before we get into intriguing draft picks Duke Shelley and Stephen Denmark, or Michael Joseph, a 2nd year UDFA who impressed in camp last year. There are definite questions at this position for the future, but for 2019 it looks quite strong.

Safety: 8

Key Players: Eddie Jackson, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, Sherrick McManis

Roster Depth: DeAndre Houston-Carson, Doyin Jibowu

Eddie Jackson might be the best safety in the NFL, and HaHa Clinton-Dix also has a Pro Bowl on his resume, though his play admittedly slipped a bit over the last year or two. I thought about going with a 9 here, but there are some concerns about how these two fit together, since both are better in coverage than defending the run. Deon Bush played pretty well when Jackson got hurt last year, so the Bears probably feel decent about their depth at the position too.

Specialists: 2

Key Players: P Pat O’Donnell, LS Patrick Scales

Roster Depth: K Eddie Pinero, K Elliot Fry,  LS John Wirtel

O’Donnell is a solid veteran punter who is pretty much the textbook definition of average. Scales doesn’t seem to mess up when long snapping, at least that I’ve noticed, so he’s fine. Those two would both get a 5.

But then we get to kicker. Cody Parkey missed a game-winning kick in two of Chicago’s five losses in 2018, including the playoffs, so he rightly got cut. The Bears don’t currently have a player on the roster who has even attempted an NFL field goal. That doesn’t necessarily mean whoever wins the job will be bad, but we have no evidence at the moment to suggest that they’ll be good either.

Overall: 7

Averaging all of these values together gives you a 6.6, which rounds to 7. That sets the Bears firmly as one of the better teams in the NFL, which feels about right.

The offense averages to a 6, and the defense an 8, which also feels about right based on past performance, though I’ll note that there is ample room for QB, RB, and WR to all significantly outperform their current rankings.

The biggest thing that strikes me from going through this is just how few weaknesses the roster has, at least on paper. Obviously kicker is a concern, but otherwise tight end is the only position I graded as below average for the entire offense and defense. They have many clear strengths – five positions graded out at 8 or higher – and only one real weakness. This is what a Super Bowl-caliber roster looks like.

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