Blues and Reds: The Final Chicago Bears Big Board 

| April 27th, 2023

When creating a big board for the Chicago Bears ahead of tonight’s NFL Draft, it’s important to consider separate categories.

Ryan Poles has spoken about “blue” and “red” players. Blue players are obviously the elite, reds are a step down. He hasn’t been consistent in how many blue players he sees in this draft, but he had indicated that he thinks the team can get one with the ninth pick. Though he previously said there were seven blue players, including quarterbacks, we can probably figure out which players he might target early.

But there is another option.

The Bears don’t want to make a pick at nine. They’d certainly like to move back and pick up an earlier second-round pick, giving them two in the top 50. That opens up many other options But if the Bears stay at nine, they have to take a blue player.

On Tuesday, Ian Cunningham said there are six-to-eight players the Bears were comfortable taking with the ninth overall pick. I’m betting the list includes the likes of Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson, who aren’t likely to be there. I’m also comfortable with assuming Devon Witherspoon will be gone. With that, I took a shot at guessing the players atop the Bears board.

Blue Players

1. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio St.

If there is an offensive lineman worth taking with a top-10 pick this year, it’s Johnson.

Unlike Peter Skoronski, Johnson has the length to translate seamlessly to the NFL. And unlike Broderick Jones, Johnson is polished enough to play immediately.

Johnson will need to add strength and refine his technique, but he certainly has the upside to lock down the left tackle position for years. Johnson isn’t the best player on this list, but he would fill the biggest need.

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Dannehy: When it Comes to the Draft, Expect the Expected

| April 20th, 2023

One of the biggest misconceptions about Ryan Poles’ first NFL Draft is that he didn’t draft for need.

If the Bears didn’t have Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker starting at cornerback and safety last year, who would have been the starters at those positions? Both players were inserted into the starting lineup on their first day. While 2022 third-round pick Velus Jones Jr. never met expectations, there’s no question that wide receiver was also a need. So was the team’s fourth pick, offensive tackle Braxton Jones.

Ryan Poles can talk about taking the best player available all he wants but, looking back, it’s obvious the Bears saw clear needs and used the draft to attempt to fill them.

The confusion regarding those first two picks is a result of perception. Entering the 2022 draft, Bears fans were mostly excited about Thomas Graham Jr. at cornerback and the team had signed veteran slot corner Tavon Young. The team clearly saw it differently as neither Young nor Graham played a snap for the Poles/Matt Eberflus Bears.

So, what does that mean for this year? The Bears will draft for need, but it might not necessarily be the need we’re looking at. At least, not right away.

The public perception is that the team’s biggest need – offensive tackle – will fit nicely with the best players available when they’re picking. But we have no real way of knowing how the Bears view the offensive tackle class. It’s also possible that the Bears think the offensive line scouting talents of Poles and AGM Ian Cunningham will help them uncover some diamonds in the rough later, allowing them to focus on other positions early.

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Dannehy: Jalen Carter, The Risk vs. Reward

| April 13th, 2023

If the Chicago Bears deem Jalen Carter’s tape good enough to warrant being selected with the ninth overall pick, they shouldn’t hesitate to turn in the card.

The conversation regarding Carter’s “off the field concerns” has gone way beyond logic. Carter pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service. The charges stem from an incident last January in which Carter was involved in a race that led to a crash that killed Georgie football player Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy. Carter’s lawyer said the Georgia standout did not cause the crash, nor was he under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Yet, he is being treated as if he is a hardened criminal.

Last week, ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan compared Carter’s situation to a player who was “kicked out of the NBA for cocaine.” Doing the math on Kaplan’s story, he’s possibly talking about Duane Washington, who was 24 years old when he was suspended for two years after testing positive for cocaine in 1988.

Another possibility is Mitchell Wiggins, who was 28 when he tested positive for cocaine and was suspended for two years.

Carter is a 21-year-old college student who raced a car.

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Dannehy: Poles Playing Dangerous Game In Trenches

| March 23rd, 2023

Generally speaking, the best way to create a good offensive line is to invest resources into it. That’s what makes Ryan Poles’ decisions up front so confusing.

When Poles was hired, much was made of his work to help rebuild Kansas City’s offensive line as it went from a unit that couldn’t keep Patrick Mahomes on his feet to one of the best on the league. That rebuild included some major investments, including a trade for Orlando Brown Jr., a contract that made Joe Thuney among the highest-paid guards in the NFL and a second-round pick spent on Creed Humphrey. In one offseason, the Chiefs made their offensive line great again.

So, why won’t emphasize the position in Chicago?

The reasoning for not signing Brown to the Bears was sound. The Bears like to get their offensive tackles in space, getting to the second level of the defense. Brown isn’t the most mobile tackle.

But their hardline stance on Mike McGlinchey is confusing.

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Dannehy: Quick Thoughts on the Early Moves

| March 16th, 2023

For the first time since he became the GM, Ryan Poles is showing aggressiveness and his plans for the team are becoming clear.

In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue with trading the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for the ninth pick, their 2024 first and, perhaps most importantly, DJ Moore, amongst other pieces. That trade values Moore as a first-round pick, which makes sense when you compare his production to others who have been traded in recent years. Furthermore, getting Moore in the trade will make the Panthers worse in 2024 and 2025, thus improving the draft picks the Bears will receive in those years as part of the trade.

Moore doesn’t just give the Bears an actual Number One wide receiver, he goes them a WR1 who fits their quarterback. His average depth of target (ADOT) — 13.1 — was second amongst players with 100 or more targets. Justin Fields throws a great deep ball and with Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool, the Bears will have three wide receivers who can be on the receiving ends of those bombs.

Edwards+Edmunds+2nd rounder > Roquan

Nobody who is qualified to speak on the subject will tell you the Bears upgraded from Roquan Smith, but they clearly upgraded the linebacker position with a series of strategic moves.

There was a clear, steep drop off once the Bears traded Smith for a second-round pick last year. As much as fans liked Jack Sanborn, the Bears clearly didn’t evaluate the UDFA out of Wisconsin the same way. On Monday, we learned of the team’s intentions to sign Philadelphia’s TJ Edwards and Buffalo’s Tremaine Edmunds — the latter to a rather large deal.

Both are quality starting linebackers who fill not only a position of need, but a position of great importance in the Matt Eberflus defense. The bonus is that, combined, they cost less than Smith and Nick Morrow would’ve in 2023 and the Bears still have a second-round pick from trading Smith.

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Dannehy: Chicago Bears NFL Draft Big Board

| February 17th, 2023

It’s a little odd attempting to put together an NFL draft big board for the team with the first overall pick, but with much speculation that the team might trade down, there is a lot to consider.

Obviously, if the Bears stay with the first overall pick, or move down just a couple of spots there are very few players who would be in consideration. But we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Bears moving down a couple of times or dealing out of the top ten entirely for a massive haul. There is also the possibility that the team will move up into the back half of the first round, should they acquire enough draft picks to do so.

With that, this board has to be tiered.

  • Tier One will be players the team would consider with picks inside the top four.
  • Tier Two will be players who would be in consideration from picks 5-10.
  • Tier Three will be players the team could consider in the teens.
  • Tier Four will be players who they might grab at the end of the first round.

Tier One

1. Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama

Anderson seems to check every box a team could want in a prospect. Even in a “down year” this past season, Anderson was among the post productive pass rushers in college football, finishing with 10 sacks and 17 TFLs. By all accounts, he fits the HITS principle and Matt Eberflus’ relationship with Nick Saban should give the Bears good intel.

2. Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

If Anderson is the top player on the board, then Carter is 1A.

Carter didn’t quite have the production teams covet, but his tape shows flashes of a dominant player. Georgia asked him to do different things than the Bears will, but when Carter was asked to simply shoot a gap – which is what the Bears will require of him – he was tough to block.

But there is a question about if he fits the HITS principle. Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr. and Dane Brugler have all made mention of Carter’s effort. Will the Bears see it the same way? No idea, but it will be worth investigating.

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Dannehy: First Pick a Dangerous Precedent for GMs

| January 12th, 2023

Since the turn of the century there have been eight general managers who have kept their jobs after ending a season with the worst record in the league. Of those, San Diego’s A.J. Smith, Houston’s Rick Smith, Tampa Bay’s Jason Licht, Detroit’s Martin Mayhew and Jacksonville’s Trent Baalke have recovered to make the playoffs. In two of those cases — Licht and Baalke — the GM didn’t have final say on the roster, instead it was head coaches Lovie Smith and Urban Meyer calling the shots.

Another example could be Duke Tobin of the Bengals, though Cincinnati’s front office set up is unique and it’s unknown how much power he actually has.

More often than not, the decision maker who is responsible for constructing the worst team in the league is fired, either immediately or soon after.

The easiest way to climb out of the dumpster is by hitting on a quarterback. That, more than anything, is what has the Jaguars and Bengals in the playoffs. Hitting on Matthew Stafford kept Martin Mayhew employed for a few more years and AJ Smith was able to get creative, taking Eli Manning and swapping him for Philip Rivers. Time will tell if the Bears truly believe they have their quarterback, though they seem content – at the very least – with Justin Fields.

Rick Smith is the exception; he took defensive ends both times he had the first pick and neither worked out particularly well. He had a longer leash than most as the Texans didn’t make the playoffs until his sixth season in charge. You can bet Poles won’t get that much time.

Carolina’s Marty Hurney is also an exception, he hit on the quarterback but was still fired shortly after.

Poles is in a good spot to turn this roster around as long as he uses his resources wisely.

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Who Needs a Quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft?

| October 17th, 2022

Supposedly, this is a quarterback-heavy NFL Draft. But it also might be a collection of the most quarterback-needy teams we have seen.

This was the draft order, via Tankathon, as of Saturday morning. (Results Sunday have already changed this order but the order as of Week 6 is not particularly important.) Let’s just look at the first 18 selections.

(1) Carolina – needs QB

(2) Las Vegas – could draft QB

(3) Pittsburgh – has QB

(4) Detroit – could draft QB

(5) Houston – needs QB

(6) Chicago – unlikely to draft QB

(7) Washington – needs QB

(8) Atlanta – needs QB

(9) Houston second pick

(10) Philadelphia – has QB

(11 & 12) Seattle – could draft QB

(13) New England – has QB

(14) Arizona – has QB

(15) Detroit second pick

(16) Cincinnati – has QB

(17) Jacksonville – has QB

(18) Indianapolis – eventually Chris Ballard has to draft a QB, right?

The Chicago Bears have picked the right year to be a bad football team.

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