Realistic Expectations for Every Chicago Bears Rookie
General manager Ryan Pace went with a unique approach, grabbing guys from smaller schools such as Ashland. Those who have followed Pace's career as a scout on up through director of player personnel with the New Orleans Saints knows he likes to take relative unknowns such as, say, Marques Colston.
On a local scale, though, fans knew what to expect going into the ordeal—this is a long-term rebuild, and based on the front-loaded contracts doled out in free agency, 2017 is more of a stopgap year before Pace attacks premium positions in the 2018 draft.
Winning now would be great. But a rebuild as deep as this, in which hardly a player remains on the roster from a draft class as recently as four years ago, takes time.
Which isn't to say rookies won't contribute right away. They will, both based on talent and the sheer opportunities provided by a rebuilding roster. Here's a look at what to realistically expect from the Bears' rookies this year.
As hinted above, even the Mitchell Trubisky's pick wound up as an acceptable maneuver in the eyes of most Bears fans.
It took a bit to win over a fanbase wanting as many picks as possible after spending months and months being spoon-fed the idea the Bears wouldn't take a quarterback in the first round. We consistently mocked it, though, because it was the only move that made sense.
Now? The Bears have a potential franchise passer waiting in the wings behind another potential franchise quarterback, Mike Glennon. And the veteran has been nothing short of supportive after Trubisky's first pro minicamp.
"Yeah, he's been great," Glennon said recently, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson. "He works really hard at it. He asks questions. He's done a really good job of learning the offense, understanding what we're trying to accomplish, and I think he does a great job picking that up for being a rookie."
Make no mistake: Trubisky isn't going to start in 2017. This is the situation Pace wanted, and it seemed obvious enough all along. He took an unprecedented two shots on a franchise signal-caller. If Glennon plays well, his trade value goes through the roof as he hands over the team to Trubisky. If not, the North Carolina product didn't get immediately thrown to the wolves.
Bears fans will see some of Trubisky this year. The coaching staff will undoubtedly trot him out in blowouts swinging either way, and if the season is lost down the stretch, he might start a few games.
But 2017 is Glennon's year. The future, though, belongs to the rookie.
Fans didn't necessarily want to hear it at the time because he came from Ashland of all places, but tight end Adam Shaheen looks like he could end up being the best rookie player in Chicago this year.
Shaheen's transition to the NFL will only be so difficult—the man is already 6'6" and 278 pounds. His collegiate strengths were his combination of athleticism and size, route running and strong hands.
That means he'll be a veteran or rookie quarterback's best friend in 2017. Even veteran free-agent add Dion Sims likes what Shaheen brings to the offense.
"I feel like he brings a lot to the table and creates mismatches and trouble for opposing safeties and linebackers," Sims said, according to CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz. "It's great news, and it's exciting for him to come and be under all the tight ends and learning."
Sims, a blocker first and foremost (though his improving receiving skills shouldn't go underrated), pairs quite well with Shaheen right out of the gates. The future of oft-injured Zach Miller isn't easy to predict, but Shaheen leads the way on the list of reasons why one of the roster's biggest past weaknesses is now a strength.
Look for Shaheen to get plenty of starter snaps as a rookie, making a few splash plays here and there. The growth of the unproven unit around him means he won't post jaw-dropping numbers, but like the rest of the rookie class, the hints toward what is to come will be nothing short of encouraging.
Safety was probably the likeliest area of need the Bears would've addressed in the first round if they chose to pass on quarterback.
Thanks to the premium nature of the spot in today's NFL and the depth of the class, it looked like the Bears would break in a rookie next to free-agent add Quintin Demps.
And they still might.
Alabama's Eddie Jackson isn't the big name some might have envisioned, but he's a turnover-minded safety with great range, making him an ideal fit on the back end of a defense, not to mention a strong complement in the same defensive backfield as Demps.
Chicago doesn't just like Jackson for his range, either—not after he showed well in college as a returner on special teams.
"I'm ready to show everybody what I can do with a ball in my hands," Jackson said, according to
Terrin Waack of the Chicago Tribune. "I've just got that mentality, when I catch it, I don't go down. I'm thinking touchdown."
Fans can expect Jackson to see plenty of work as a returner next season. His appearances in base defense will be more sporadic because it's clear the coaching staff isn't ready to throw in the towel on guys like Adrian Amos, not to mention the staff still likely intends on giving guys like Kyle Fuller a shot at the position.
Given the situation, Jackson's best contributions will likely occur on special teams, as he'll be relegated to a rotational role on defense while adapting to the league.
Recalling Pace's days in New Orleans and a guy named Darren Sproles, Tarik Cohen's selection isn't so shocking.
Cohen, 5'6" and 179 pounds, is the definition of an explosive change-of-pace back who can come in and have a big impact as a runner or receiver.
The North Carolina A&T product expects do so too.
"I can come in and be a change-of-pace back, stretch the defense out," Cohen said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam L. Jahns. "So when [Jordan] Howard gets in, he has those vertical lanes and can be the type of slasher back that he is."
With Howard figuring to get around another 250 carries next year as the workhorse, fans can reasonably expect Cohen to sit in the 50-carry range, taking the place of guys like Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey last year.
Cohen figures to make a few splash plays here and there and will perform his intended function well. Fans would be hard-pressed to ask much more from a fourth-round rookie during his debut campaign.
Observers probably didn't have offensive line in mind when it came to Chicago's last pick of the 2017 draft.
Alas, Pace and the front office went that route and did so with Morgan, a small-school prospect out of Kutztown, with the duo there encouraging a rather negative initial reaction to the pick.
Still, Morgan is a 6'3", 309-pound depth piece on the interior of the line who might just have the athleticism to take snaps at tackle later in his career. He played all four years in college at left tackle, but there's a huge difference between Kutztown and snaps at either tackle position in the pros.
Here's something important to remember: Getting quality depth in the fifth round is a good thing. But Pace, once again recalling his time in New Orleans, knows how to find quality talent from smaller schools.
"I look at Jordan Morgan today—and I hate to make comparisons to players – but we took a guy in New Orleans in Jahri Evans who ended up being a great player from Bloomsburg," Pace said back in April, according to the Chicago Tribune's Dan Wiederer.
Maybe Morgan doesn't turn into a starter down the road. But fans can expect to see him if an injury occurs or in blowouts.
Like the rest of the rookie class, Morgan is a forward-looking prospect who could end up playing a critical role in the rebuild years down the line.