With the draft over and the Bears walking away as big winners with quarterback Justin Fields and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, here are seven big questions as they set their course for the upcoming season:
Grade Ryan Pace’s draft:
A. Pace did his job flawlessly. He went in without much draft capital and pulled out long-term answers at two of the most important positions on the field in quarterback and left tackle. If they find even one multi-year starter out of the late-round picks, that’s a bonus. The only criticism: Why did it take him so long to figure this out?
How many games will Justin Fields start in 2021?
17. There’s no way anyone can look at what Fields did at Ohio State and rule out the possibility that he’s better than Andy Dalton. Fields is the most gifted quarterback to set foot in Halas Hall in decades—at least—and he’s going to be explosive when he hits the practice field. His deep ball and ridiculous speed set him apart, so why wait?
Best-case scenario for Justin Fields:
He steps in and immediately blows Dalton out of the water — like Russell Wilson did as a rookie — and leaves Matt Nagy no choice but to make him the starter before the season starts. That would be a much more ideal scenario than Nagy tailoring an offense to Dalton, then thrusting Fields in midway through the season.
Worst-case scenario for Justin Fields:
He gets dragged down by the malaise of the Bears’ offense. If he’s constantly scrambling because of offensive line problems, struggling to establish himself as a passer because the Bears are light on playmakers and overthinking everything because he has so many coaches and veteran quarterbacks in his ear, that could be a significant setback in his development.
Their best Day 3 addition was:
Virginia pass rusher Charles Snowden. ESPN rated him the second-best outside linebacker who didn’t get drafted, and NFL.com projected him as a fourth-round pick. He is 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, clocked a 4.8 in the 40-yard dash and had 21 tackles for loss in 22 games over his final two college seasons. He’s the best bet among the Bears’ undrafted free agents to make the roster.
The Bears still need this:
Cornerback. Actually two of them. It seems very risky to go into the season with Jaylon Johnson as the only certainty at corner as the Bears bank on Lions castoff Desmond Trufant (30) and Kindle Vildor (135 snaps as a rookie), and none of those three projects as a slot corner to replace Buster Skrine.
Where do the Bears rank in the NFC North?
Second. The Packers are still the class of the division and would remain a slight favorite even if Aaron Rodgers sits out. The Vikings are in decline, and the Lions are perpetually at least a year away from being taken seriously. The Bears don’t have enough to topple the Packers, but they do have enough to get second place and fight for a wild card.