Bears fans, don’t get your hopes up for draft

Without a first-round pick and with only two picks before No. 163, the Bears aren’t in a great position to find immediate-impact rookies where they need them most.

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Purdue v Wisconsin

Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins (89, catching a touchdown pass against Wisconsin last season) caught 61 passes for 830 yards (13.6 avg.) and seven touchdowns as a fifth-year senior in 2019. He is among the top-rated tight ends in the NFL Draft.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Every NFL team plans to build through the draft, but that is a big-picture, long-term approach.

The 2020 Bears are pretty much built, for better or worse. Without a first-round pick (barring a trade up) and with only two picks before No. 163, the Bears aren’t in a great position to find immediate-impact rookies where they need them most.

For one thing, their biggest needs are on offense. And so far, coach Matt Nagy’s offense — so dependent on timing, chemistry and repetition for success — doesn’t seem to be too rookie-friendly. Even those rookies who have gotten on the field have struggled to get acclimated: guard/center James Daniels, wide receiver Anthony Miller and running back David Montgomery among them. The Bears can still find starters at guard or tight end and maybe even wide receiver. But finding a difference-maker might be expecting too much.

The Bears are pinning their hopes for a rejuvenation in 2020 on growth from within. They still have 16 starters from the 2018 team that went 12-4 and won the NFC North, including all eight players who played in the Pro Bowl after that season. The re-emergence of the 2018 version of Tarik Cohen — or Charles Leno Jr. or Trey Burton — likely would be a bigger upgrade than any tight end, wide receiver or guard the Bears get in the 2020 draft.

The Bears have seven picks in the draft: two in the second round (Nos. 43 and 50), one in the fifth (No. 163), two in the sixth (Nos. 196 and 200) and two in the seventh (Nos. 226 and 233).

A year ago, without any picks in the first or second round, general manager Ryan Pace found a starter in Montgomery in the third round (after trading up from No. 87 to No. 73). Finding a Week 1 starter in this draft figures to be more challenging. Here’s a look at key areas the Bears figure to address in the draft:

Tight end

The Bears had the fewest tight end receiving yards in the NFL last season (44 receptions, 395 yards, two touchdowns) and are attacking that problem with numbers. After signing Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris in free agency, they have 10 tight ends on their roster — more than double the NFL average (4.3) and four more than any other team in the league.

And with Burton’s status unclear, they still don’t have the complete, versatile tight end that is such a key factor in Nagy’s offense. So a tight end in the draft is still in play. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is considered by many to be the Bears’ best bet in the second round, and Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins is a particularly intriguing option as a fit for Nagy’s offense, with the best chance to make an immediate impact in a system that is difficult to get acclimated to. Just don’t expect it.

Secondary

The Bears have two openings in the secondary after cornerback Prince Amukamara was released and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys in free agency.

At cornerback, reserve Kevin Toliver, CFL signee Tre Roberson and former Steelers first-round pick Artie Burns lead the competition to replace Amukamara. At safety, holdover Deon Bush appears first in line to replace Clinton-Dix, with former Chiefs safety Jordan Lucas competing for the spot.

After shoring up their front seven by re-signing linebacker Danny Trevathan and signing edge rusher Robert Quinn in free agency, the Bears could have little wiggle room on the back end. Among the holdovers, Bush, in particular, could develop into a playmaker in this defense. But a second-round talent — such as LSU safety Grant Delpit or Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs — could be too good to pass up.

Offensive line

Though offensive line is arguably in the greatest need for an upgrade over 2019 after quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Bears really only have one obvious hole they can fill — Kyle Long’s right guard spot. Any tackle available after the first round is unlikely to be an upgrade over Leno or Bobby Massie. And center Cody Whitehair and Daniels are foundation pieces.

After signing former Seahawks starter Germain Ifedi in free agency, the Bears have a workable competition to fill Long’s spot with Ifedi, Rashaad Coward and second-year guard/tackle Alex Bars. Coward started 10 games after Long was put on injured reserve and was effective enough to keep veteran Ted Larsen on the bench.

Bars was signed as a highly regarded undrafted rookie in 2019 who would have been drafted if not for a torn anterior cruciate ligament at Notre Dame in 2018. And he has arguably the best credentials of all of them — the Patriots wanted to sign him off the Bears’ practice squad last year.

Wide receiver

The Bears have a need after cutting Taylor Gabriel in the offseason, and wide receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft. But two things to consider: The Bears already have addressed this need in recent drafts with Miller (from left), Riley Ridley and Javon Wims, and all three still are considered potential breakout players. And Gabriel’s top-end speed is a commodity that isn’t easily replaced.

Quarterback

This is a wild card, but one that can’t be discounted, even in the second round, despite acquiring Nick Foles in a trade with the Jaguars. One of the reasons Foles was available is because the Jaguars still drafted Gardner Minshew in the fifth round after signing Foles in free agency last year.

With the odds of finding a sure-fire upgrade for 2020 at positions of need, it’s possible Pace could take a shot at a quarterback, even at No. 43 and No. 50 in the second round. There could be some intriguing roll-of-the-dice options, including Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Washington’s Jacob Eason or Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

That would be a bold move, considering a rookie quarterback is unlikely to even get a chance to win the job in 2020. With the Bears in win-now mode, Pace needs as much immediate help as he can get. Then again, the sixth-year Bears GM already has proved he’s not afraid to take some chances.

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