Camp approaches, which means it’s time for me to grade the roster. Like I did last year, I’ll grade on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best, and 5 being an average NFL unit. Let’s get right down to it.
Key Players: Andy Dalton, Justin Fields
Roster Depth: Nick Foles
Veterans Andy Dalton and Nick Foles are not good. Rookie Justin Fields is Chicago’s best chance at getting good QB play this year, but rookie QBs aren’t usually good either. I mainly grade now based on proven production, so Fields’ draft status doesn’t factor in much here. If I was just basing it on certainty going into the season, this would be a 2, but Fields’ upside prompted me to round up.
Running Back: 7
Key Players: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Damien Williams
Roster Depth: Khalil Herbert, Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, CJ Marable
David Montgomery broke out as a sophomore in 2020, but a lack of explosive plays limits how good I think he is. The Bears were forced to rely on Montgomery heavily in 2020, so they spent the offseason improving the group of players around him. They get Tarik Cohen back from a torn ACL that cost him most of the 2020 season, and they added solid depth in both free agency (Damien Williams) and the draft (6th round pick Khalil Herbert). I’d give Montgomery a 6 – an above-average NFL starter – but the quality depth around him bumps this up to a 7.
Wide Receiver: 6
Key Players: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin
Roster Depth: Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Dazz Newsome, Rodney Adams, Thomas Ives, Chris Lacy, Khalil McClain, Jester Weah
Allen Robinson is a stud. Darnell Mooney had a solid rookie season, and is somebody the Bears should feel pretty good about as a WR2. Anthony Miller took a step back in 2020 and seems maxed out as a situational WR3 for passing downs only. Javon Wims and Riley Ridley were awful depth last year, so the Bears brought in Damiere Byrd (who should even push Miller for playing time) and Marquise Goodwin, which should bump those two off the roster. Bears fans seem to love Dazz Newsome, but I’m not overly optimistic about the prospects of an unathletic 6th round pick. Anything he gives the offense will be a pleasant surprise.
This grade really hinges on Mooney, who needs to be the guy at WR2. If he can establish himself as a quality starter this year, the Bears’ WR group will be a clear strength.
Tight End: 5
Key Players: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham
Roster Depth: Jake Butt, JP Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Scooter Harrington
Fans are really high on Cole Kmet, but his rookie season was less than impressive as a pass catcher. It will be a win for the Bears if he can be an average starter who isn’t a complete waste of space in the passing game. Jimmy Graham had a surprisingly solid 2020 season, finishing 14th among tight ends in catches and 19th in yards, but the Bears phased him out of the offense as the season progressed. He’ll do well if he can be a situational player who is a quality a solid red zone option. The depth behind those two is nonexistent, as nobody else has done anything of note in the NFL.
I debated between a 4 and 5 for this group, but the combination of 2 players close to starting caliber and an expected improvement from Kmet in year 2 pushed me to 5.
Offensive Tackle: 2
Key Players: Teven Jenkins, Germain Ifedi, Elijah Wilkinson
Roster Depth: Larry Borom, Lachavious Simmons, Tyrone Wheatley, Badara Traore
You might be surprised by how low this grade is, but what starting tackle do you feel confident in? Germain Ifedi is the guy at right tackle, but I have a hard time feeling good about that. He was bad as a tackle for 4 years in Seattle, and while he played ok in the last 6 games there in 2020, that was against a series of mediocre to atrocious defenses. It will be a pleasant surprise if he is an average player.
Starting on the left side is rookie Teven Jenkins, who was widely projected as a right tackle (the position he played in 2020) heading into the draft. The 2nd round has not been a fertile place for finding left tackles in recent history, which makes it hard to say with confidence that Jenkins will be a quality starter from day one.
In terms of depth, Elijah Wilkinson is the likely swing tackle. He has some experience from Denver, but I’ve yet to see anybody who follows the Broncos lament his departure. Fans seem really high on Larry Borom, but he was a 5th round pick for a reason and shouldn’t be counted on to contribute much as a rookie.
Interior Offensive Line: 5
Key Players: Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Sam Mustipher, Alex Bars
Roster Depth: Arlington Hambright, Dieter Eiselen, Dareuan Parker, Adam Redmond,
Cody Whitehair and James Daniels are slotted in as the guards, and the Bears should feel good about that. Whitehair is a long-time good but not great player, while Daniels looked like Chicago’s best lineman early in 2020 before being lost for the season. That duo would probably earn a 7.
The grade drops due to the uncertainty at center, where Sam Mustipher seems locked in despite what could most charitably be referred to as mediocre play in 2020. While Mustipher had his moments, he also struggled at times, especially against bigger, stronger players. This matches somebody who went undrafted in 2019 due to a lack of athletic ability. If Mustipher emerges as even an average starting center, the interior becomes a strength, but right now it’s hard to view him as anything but a question mark.
Alex Bars is the top backup on the interior, and he played well enough in 2020 to feel decent about him in that role.
Overall Offense: 4
Those 6 groups average out to a 4.7, which should round to a 5, but I rounded down because the 2 lowest rated groups – QB and OT – are among the most important on the offense (it is worth noting that Chicago’s top 2 draft picks are at those positions, so they could end up much better than this if those 2 can hit the ground running). The offense also lacks top shelf talent, as only Allen Robinson can be viewed as a surefire top 10 player at his position.
Honestly, this is better than I expected when I sat down to do the grading, and it speaks to real improvement in the offense over the last few years, largely due to the improved depth and emergence of young talent at the skill position spots. The offense also lacks top shelf talent.
This remains an offense that has a wide range of outcomes, largely depending on what they can get out of young players like Justin Fields, Teven Jenkins, Darnell Mooney, Sam Mustipher, and Cole Kmet. All have real upside, but none can currently be counted on as surefire average or better starters. If they can solidify their spots, and maybe even have 1-2 emerge as stars, the offense could surprise, but for now I’m going to play it safe and look at this as a below-average unit.