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Analyzing the Bears’ picks, Justin Fields’ timeline and more

The Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley breaks down the Bears’ 2021 draft:

Oregon v Oregon State
Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. returns an interception for a touchdown in 2018.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley analyzes the Bears’ 2021 draft:

Grade Ryan Pace’s draft:

A-. The 49ers traded first-round picks in 2021, 2022 and 2023 — plus a third-rounder this year — to move up nine spots and draft quarterback Trey Lance. The Bears traded first-round picks in 2021 and 2022 — plus a fourth-rounder next year and a fifth-rounder this season — to move up the same nine spots to take Justin Fields. Which team would you rather be?

I had Fields going third in my final mock draft and tackle Teven Jenkins going No. 31. It’s nothing short of shocking the Bears wound up with both. Now they need to develop them.

How many games will Justin Fields start in 2021?

Andy Dalton has averaged 11 starts over the last three years. That leaves six as a fair over/under for Fields. The Bears wanting to redshirt him was predictable — what else are they supposed to say? — but the odds of coach Matt Nagy being able to incubate him the way he did Patrick Mahomes four years ago are slim.

Best-case scenario for Justin Fields:

He’s undeniable in training camp. The Bears remember that Joe Burrow made his debut in Week 1 and Justin Herbert in Week 2, and let him start.

Worst-case scenario for Justin Fields:

The Bears are overmatched by a second-place schedule. By the third home game, every Dalton mistake — and there are plenty — is greeted by chants of “Just-IN! Just-IN!” Knowing chairman George McCaskey needs to see “progress” for them to save their jobs, Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace play Fields before he’s ready. The Bears implode. His confidence rattled, Fields has to learn a new playbook in 2022 and play for a GM that didn’t draft him.

Their best Day 3 draft pick was:

Oregon’s Thomas Graham Jr., who started 39 games before sitting out 2020 with coronavirus concerns. He can play the slot and outside cornerback. Compare him to Stephen Denmark, a cornerback Pace took 10 spots later in 2019. A lifelong wide receiver, the tall, long Denmark had played cornerback for only one year — and that was at Valdosta State. Give Graham’s production over Denmark’s projection any time.

The Bears still need this:

FINLEY: A veteran slot receiver. The Bears haven’t been able to trust Anthony Miller for three years; why should they start now? They haven’t traded Miller — yet — and need to push him with someone other than rookie Dazz Newsome.

Where do the Bears rank in the NFC North?

Third. But no fan base is more invigorated. That’s an amazing statement, given how miserable a playoff team made Bears fans year. As an added bonus: the Packers’ drama is bringing out the schadenfreude in them.