Camp approaches, which means it’s time for me to grade the roster. Like I’ve done the last few years, 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: Justin Fields, PJ Walker
Others: Nathan Peterman, Tyson Bagent
I should start here by noting that I’m grading based on past production so that I don’t project what I personally think will happen in the future. After a terrible 1st month, Fields more or less spent the bulk of his sophomore campaign as an average passer and elite runner, though he also took a ton of sacks, and a decent number of them were his fault. There is some hope he can make a Year 3 leap towards superstardom, but until he does, it’s hard to rank him much higher than average.
The overall grade gets dinged because of depth; Fields has missed multiple games due to injury in each of his first two seasons, and PJ Walker seems like a less than ideal backup with a career 58% completion rate, 6.4 yards per attempt, and 5 TD to 11 INT. Peterman and Bagent will compete to be the practice squad QB, and we can only hope that we don’t see either of them take a meaningful snap this season.
Running Back: 5
Key Players: Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson
Others: Travis Homer, Trestan Ebner, Khari Blasingame, Robert Burns
Herbert is the presumed frontrunner, but he’ll be competing with Foreman and rookie Johnson for snaps and touches. Herbert and Foreman have both been excellent runners for the last 2 years, but neither contributes much in the passing game. The duo has combined for 568 carries and only 48 targets over the last 2 years, and Herbert has really struggled as a pass blocker. That has to bring their grade down, since passing is such an important part of a modern running backs’ role. Veteran Travis Homer is a passing game specialist, with almost as many pass targets (61) as carries (83) in his career, but he’s more of a special teamer & never played even 200 offensive snaps in a season in Seattle. Roschon Johnson is the Bears’ best hope for a do-it-all back, but it’s hard to put too much hope into a Day 3 rookie who has yet to play a snap in the NFL.
Wide Receiver: 6
Key Players: DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown
Others: Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Dante Pettis, Nsimba Webster, Joe Reed, Thyrick Pitts, Daurice Fountain, Aron Cruikshank
DJ Moore is a legitimate WR1, but his efficiency dipped along with QB play the last few seasons and that makes it hard to consider him any more than average for now. Mooney is a well-rounded player who should be considered one of the best WR2s in the NFL, while Claypool is the true wildcard who could repeat his atrocious 2022 or be a solid WR2 in his own right. There are a lot of questions with this trio, but a whole lot of upside too. For once, the depth behind them is actually pretty solid, as St. Brown is a quality blocker who provides decent insurance and the rookie Scott provides real speed and deep threat ability.
Tight End: 7
Key Players: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan
Others: Jake Tjonges, Chase Allen, Stephen Carlson
Cole Kmet has established himself as a quality starting TE in the NFL who is a solid blocker and good fit as a receiver in this offense, which can utilize play action to scheme him open. Robert Tonyan is a quality backup with the potential to provide starting-caliber play if he can revert to his pre-injury form from 2020. Neither player is a star, but they should be a quality 1-2 punch that makes this one of the stronger positions on the roster. None of the rest of the players are really worth mentioning; they’re all pretty much blockers only who will be fighting for a roster spot.
Offensive Tackle: 4
Key Players: Braxton Jones, Darnell Wright, Larry Borom
Others: Kellen Diesch, Robert Haskins, Gabriel Houy, Roy Mbaeteka, Loren Metz
Braxton Jones was one of the best run-blocking tackles in the NFL as a rookie in 2022, but he struggled in pass protection, though those issues did improve as the season wore on. If he can maintain his late-season rookie play, then he is an average or (slightly better) starting tackle. The right tackle spot will be manned by rookie Darnell Wright, who was the 10th overall pick. It’s hard to count on rookies being solid players from day 1, which dings the grade a little bit here, but Wright does profile as somebody who could thrive as a pass protector immediately. Larry Borom has played over 1100 snaps at OT the last 2 seasons and wasn’t completely terrible (though he wasn’t good), making him a quality swing tackle. There’s not a lot of proven production in Chicago’s tackle spots, but there is significant reason for optimism. This ranking could end up significantly higher by seasons’ end.
Interior Offensive Line: 5
Key Players: Nate Davis, Teven Jenkins, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick
Others: Alex Leatherwood, Ja’Tyre Carter, Dieter Eiselen, Doug Kramer, Josh Lugg
Chicago’s starting trio of Jenkins, Whitehair, and Davis is solid, but none of them are stars until Teven Jenkins proves he can stay healthy and improve his pass protection. Whitehair was also pretty bad after an injury last year, and he has to prove he’s not washed up or too old to stay healthy. Lucas Patrick was awful in 2022, but was hurt all year, and provides solid depth as the top backup. Everybody else is fighting for roster depth and practice squad spots, but has not really proven they are capable of doing much in the NFL so far.
Those rankings all average out to just over 5, but I think there’s a lot of volatility becuase of many young players the Bears have in key roles. Still, the pieces are mostly in place. After years of fielding a moribund offense that didn’t have the personnel to compete, this should be a solid unit in 2023. If some of the key young players figure it out sooner rather than later, this has the potential to be a really good offense, but I think that’s more likely to happen in 2024 than 2023.