Back to the Bears: Five takeaways from the NFL Scouting Combine
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INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Scouting Combine this year was another reminder that there are two drafts: one for quarterbacks and one for everyone else.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are considered the two best quarterbacks in the class. But neither seemingly is undergoing the same level of scrutiny — at least from a public perspective — that Mitch Trubisky experienced two years ago with regard to their limited experiences as a college starter.
So what gives?
Here are five takeaways from the combine, where the Bears were happy to have a low profile after their 12-4 season:
Similar to Trubisky, Murray and Haskins have only one year of starting experience in college. Trubisky was questioned about not being able to beat out Marquise Williams at North Carolina. Teams explored why.
Haskins is viewed as a first-round pick, but he waited behind J.T. Barrett at Ohio State. Barrett starred for the Buckeyes, but he also went undrafted last year. The Saints signed Barrett to their practice squad in January.
‘‘Just being able to learn from [Barrett] was probably more beneficial than playing,’’ Haskins said Friday.
Murray’s decision to pass on baseball — the Athletics drafted him with the ninth overall pick in June — for football excited quarterback-needy teams. But there still is only a year of starting experience to evaluate.
Murray transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma in 2015 and sat behind future No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield for two years.
‘‘Getting to watch him operate and [seeing] how he works and obviously learning under [Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley], all that ties into why I was successful,’’ Murray said.
Statistically, evaluators have 377 passes from Murray’s final season — a Heisman Trophy-winning one — to evaluate. Haskins threw 533 passes for Ohio State.
In Trubisky’s final year at North Carolina, he threw 422 passes. Trubisky threw 572 passes in three seasons, which are more than Murray’s 512, including his playing time as a freshman at Texas A&M. Haskins threw 590.
One reason for the difference in scrutiny might be that Murray and Haskins were part of better college teams. But Trubisky also faced better individual competition in draft evaluations: DeShaun Watson, a decorated national champion, and Patrick Mahomes, an all-world talent with a rocket arm.
Duke’s Daniel Jones and Missouri’s Drew Lock are viewed as the next-best quarterbacks in this class.
‘‘I’m not worried about overrated or underrated, last year’s class or the class ahead of me,’’ Haskins said. ‘‘I know what I can do. I know what I can be. I’m just going to show that to the teams.’’
Size does matter
Two years ago, Trubisky received considerable attention after he went through official measurements and was listed at 6-2⅛.
‘‘Disaster averted: Mitch Trubisky measures 6-2 at NFL combine,’’ a headline on NFL.com read.
‘‘He measured over 6-2, so he made himself some money,’’ 49ers general manager John Lynch later said.
This year, Murray made headlines for his measurements: 5-10⅛, 207 pounds and 9 1/2-inch hands. There were concerns Murray would be 5-9. At 5-10, there were more comparisons made to the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. In some league circles, Murray’s stature remains a legitimate concern.
‘‘I’m always the smallest guy on the field,’’ Murray said. ‘‘But I said it multiple times: I feel like I’m the most impactful guy on the field. I’m the best player on the field at all times. That’s just the confidence I have in myself.’’
The QB buzz
It was a well-kept secret, but the Bears were enamored with Trubisky before the 2017 combine. Last year, Browns general manager John Dorsey concealed his interest in Mayfield.
This year, it has been reported — and widely speculated — that the Cardinals are considering Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, even though they selected Josh Rosen in the first round last year.
The connections start with new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. He recruited Murray when he was Texas Tech’s coach.
‘‘I have a great relationship with him,’’ Murray said. ‘‘If I were to play under him, I think it would be a great deal.’’
Wait and see
The Giants have until Tuesday to decide whether to use the franchise tag on safety Landon Collins, who has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls. It appears unlikely a long-term deal will be reached before then.
‘‘We’re still evaluating,’’ Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said. ‘‘You have that tag. You can keep him.’’
In other words, the safety market still has to set itself. Beyond Collins, there are other notable safeties to consider: Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu, Lamarcus Joyner and HaHa Clinton-Dix.
Where does this leave the Bears’ Adrian Amos? He might be among the second tier of free-agent safeties. In general, teams don’t value safeties as much as cornerbacks. It often can lead to a waiting game for many of them.
Thomas, a three-time first-team All-Pro selection with the Seahawks, is well aware of the pitfalls of the position. He didn’t report to training camp or the play in the preseason last year because of a contract dispute. He eventually returned before Week 1, but he suffered a broken leg in Week 4 and famously flipped off his own sideline as he was getting carted off the field.
It’s arguably in the Bears’ best interest to allow Amos to test free agency, then ask him to return for further discussions once his market is established.
But the potential availability of Collins and the others will affect Amos’ options. A team-friendly deal just might happen for the Bears.
Youth gone wild
The Bears’ decision to sign Redford Jones to a futures contract after what general manager Ryan Pace called an ‘‘open-kicker workout’’ in January might be a sign of their approach to solving their kicking problem. Free-agent veterans Nick Folk and Blair Walsh also participated in the workout.
‘‘These guys kind of come out of nowhere sometimes,’’ Pace said. ‘‘We went into it and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to be unbiased, and we’re just going to let it come to us.’ And [Jones] crushed that workout. It was impressive, so he’s on our team.’’
Finding a young kicker through a competition might be the prudent approach. Taking the veteran route proved to be disastrous, starting with the signing of Connor Barth and ending with Cody Parkey.
A competition between two or three young kickers also makes the most sense financially. The Bears will use a post-June 1 designation on Parkey when he’s released March 13. That means part of his contract will remain on their books in 2019 and 2020.