LAKE FOREST, IL (AP) — Trading up to draft quarterback Justin Fields in the first round and tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round of the NFL draft only started the process of fortifying the offense for the Chicago Bears.
They had plenty of work to do after being mired near the bottom of NFL offensive statistics for the last two seasons. So they wound up making their first five picks on the offensive side, including a second tackle in Round 5 in Missouri’s Larry Borom.
It all started with Ohio State's Fields, though. There's actually excitement in Chicago now about a quarterback.
“The excitement was there, and when you’re able to get a player like Justin Fields in the first round, obviously we were super pumped,” coach Matt Nagy said after the draft ended.
It’s not expected to be an overnight developmental process. That’s why the Bears still have Andy Dalton and Nick Foles for this season.
“And as we all grow with him, I think we’re gonna sense that he really has a little bit of that ‘it’ factor to him, too, which is neat,” Nagy said. “That has to come naturally to everybody. Some have it, some don’t, and I think that, for him, it’s gonna be exciting for him to just come in here and learn how to be a professional quarterback. It’s not gonna happen overnight.”
They’ll try to do something like Nagy did when he played a part in training Patrick Mahomes with Kansas City in 2017 while Alex Smith played.
“So is it gonna be the same thing? I don’t know,” Nagy said. “But at least we have some type of blueprint to at least work off of and be able to just kind of use that to start and see where it goes.”
Whoever plays quarterback for the Bears this year could have a drastically different line providing protection. The only problem is who plays where.
Borom is 6-foot-6, 332 pounds and has been a right tackle and guard mainly, but he played a little left tackle at Missouri. Jenkins has played tackle on both sides.
The Bears have veterans Charles Leno Jr., and Germain Ifedi currently at the tackle spots and they’ll figure into the mix, but the young tackles provide options.
“What we liked about both of them is they can play both sides,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “They can play guard. There’s just so much versatility.
“So we went into this draft, and Matt and I said it, we looked at the entirety of the draft. We looked at the depth of offensive linemen, and we said, man, if we don’t come away improving our offensive line then shame on us. We really thought we could attack it that way.”
After trading in each of the first two rounds, the Bears used the 151st pick they acquired in the move up for Jenkins to take Borom. Then they traded again.
In Round 6 they traded down nine spots to 217 and acquired a seventh-round pick.
They selected running back Khalil Herbert of Virginia Tech at No. 217, then with their two other sixth-round picks they drafted North Carolina wide receiver Dazz Newsome and, finally, their first defensive pick, Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. They closed in Round 7 with 24-year-old BYU defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga.
Newsome is also a punt returner and Herbert has returned kicks.
The Bears are looking for special teams help after they didn’t sign back return man Cordarrelle Patterson.
Herbert started his career splitting time at Kansas but transferred for his final year to Virginia Tech and put up 1,183 yards rushing at 7.6 yards an attempt.
“Well, it didn’t prove anything to me,” Herbert said. “It’s something that I’ve always known, but I think a lot of people just weren’t able to see it. I think I was just able to show everybody what I could do.”
Herbert has six fingers on each hand and six toes on one foot.
“I mean, it helps, I guess,” Herbert said. “It doesn’t really do anything different that I can tell.”
The draft provided little help for new Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai, but Pace said that side is solid.
“I felt like we attacked a lot of that in free agency and it really opened the draft, truly opened up the draft for best player and, as you know, you just kind of go the way the board goes sometimes, and it happened to lean a little bit more offense this year,” Pace said.
The Bears have veteran free agent Desmond Trufant in place to replace lost free agent Kyle Fuller. Graham could compete either at that spot or at nickel cornerback with Duke Shelley as Buster Skrine's replacement.
NOT DONE YET
Pace said there could be more unsigned veteran free agents ahead for the Bears.
“There’s guys on our board right now that we’re still looking at,” he said. “There’s guys still that we have targeted with other teams that could be potential cuts or potential trades that we’re watching closely.”
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