Last season the Bears had a strong rookie class that contributed to the team from the get-go with the only exceptions being the first-round pick Kevin White and sixth-rounder Tayo Fabuluje.
Eddie Goldman solidified the nose tackle position, improved each week and finished the year with four and a half sacks. Hroniss Grasu came in and was able to step up when his number was called in October. Jeremy Langford was able to take advantage of Matt Forte’s absence and provided the Bears with enough to earn him the starting job to begin 2016, and Adrian Amos started all 16 games and was able to learn on the fly.
Expect the same this season.
The Bears current crop of rookies is yet another strong one that will contribute throughout the upcoming season. Starting with our “unofficial” draft pick White. Before he was shut down for the year, White was 2015’s number one reason to give a damn.
As I said last year, “[White’s] combination of size, strength, and athleticism, along with his quick feet, make him a potentially dangerous target.”
The Bears can use him in a number of ways, and he will be able to take some focus off Alshon Jeffery, which in turn, will make the offense stronger than a year ago. Look at White as a “bonus” draft pick since he did not make it to the field last season.
Going back to this year’s draft class, Leonard Floyd will not be a starter, however, he will be called upon to not only rush the passer but also drop back in coverage. He’s done both fairly well during the preseason, and will be expected to make an impact in sub packages from Week 1. Additionally, he will bring energy to the defense whenever he is on the field.
Cody Whitehair is already proving his worth as the rookie out of Kansas State has been working at both left guard and center. He will be the team’s starting left guard, but if the situation ever called for him to slide inside, Whitehair can. Out of the entire rookie class, it appears Whitehair will be the only clear-cut starter when the Bears face off against the Houston Texans on September 11.
Just like Floyd, third round pick Jonathan Bullard might not be the starter opposite of Aikiem Hicks, but will find himself with ample playing time. Last year, he led the Florida Gators in tackles for loss with 17.5, and we’ve already seen glimpses of that quick burst in the preseason as No. 74 has been in the backfield aplenty. He’s always around the football and can be disruptive against both the run and pass. Keep on eye out for Bullard as he will make a bigger impact than most think.
Then, there are the rookies in the secondary: Deon Bush, Deiondre’ Hall and DeAndre Houston-Carson. All of whom are going to make their impact felt in one way or another. Out of this group, Hall seems to be ahead of the rest and has made his presence felt this preseason. Bush has shown potential, but still needs to refine his game.
Don’t count out the other two rookies on offense. Jordan Howard can become the bell cow if given the chance, and his role will only expand as he becomes more comfortable within the system. Fan-favorite Daniel Braverman might find himself with some playing time come Sundays if he continues with the same strong work ethic he’s had since his days at Western Michigan.
Why Give a Damn?
Well although it is difficult to predict exactly how the rookie class will fare, it’s safe to assume that the good majority of Ryan Pace’s draft picks will find ways to impact this team, which is reminiscent of last year’s rookies.
Going back to his first day as the Bears GM, Pace explained the importance of consecutive strong drafts:
“I understand for the Bears to have sustained success, we must build through the draft,” Pace said. “The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again.”
With two strong drafts in place, Pace is getting the ingredients in order to bring the Bears back to the Super Bowl, which all fans can agree, is a reason to give a damn.