It’s been a little over a month since the season finale for the Chicago Bears and now the NFL focus shifts towards Free Agency and the 2017 NFL Draft. While General Manager Ryan Pace and staff looks ahead, here are some draft evaluations of the 2016 Bears draft class.
(No. 9 overall) Leonard Floyd, OLB
During last year’s draft, the Bears traded up two spots to the Buccaneer’s 9th pick in return for their 11th and 106th(4th round) pick. The team fell in love with Floyd’s versatility and athleticism and felt they could not let him slip through their fingers.
The only downfall coming into the league with Floyd was his slim frame. Draft analysts and scouts consistently pointed out that he was built like a receiver and needed to bulk up to be a polished pass rusher in the NFL. When the Bears drafted Floyd, they made it known that their intentions were to have the rookie spend a lot of time building his frame.
In the 2016 season, Floyd started all 12 games he appeared in. He was hampered with 2 concussions and missed some time but when healthy he made his presence known. Floyd tallied up 23 tackles and 7 sacks along 1 safety. In the first Bears/Packers matchup he forced a fumble on Aaron Rodgers and returned it for a touchdown.
At times, Floyd disappeared in games and one would conclude he isn’t at the right weight yet. If he continues to work hard in the weight room, expect Floyd to be a dominant edge rusher and have many sack totals in the double-digits.
Draft Grade: B+
(No. 56 overall) Cody Whitehair, OL
Coming into the draft, Whitehair played every position on the offensive line at Kansas State besides center, ironically where he found his niche with the Bears. Whitehair was known for his work ethic in the gym, consistency, and is body control.
After being drafted, Whitehair found himself backing up former long-time Packers guard, Josh Sitton, who the Bears signed late in the preseason. Starting center Hroniss Grasu then tore his ACL and the team looked to Whitehair to fill the void.
Whitehair proceeded to grow into one of the core pieces on the offensive line as the season went on. He started all 16 games and was called for only 3 holding calls while allowing one sack all season. Pro Football Focus even had Whitehair graded as the 6th best overall center in the league and the 3rd best in pass blocking. That’s incredibly impressive for a rookie.
If Whitehair continues to grow and develop, expect many Pro Bowl and All-Pro seasons to come. The future is very bright.
Draft Grade: A
(No. 72 overall) Jonathan Bullard, DE
Bullard appears to be the first whiff in the 2016 draft class for the Bears. He started 1 game out of the 14 games he appeared in and never seemed to impress. Bullard ended up with 18 combined tackles and 1 sack and merely appears to be a rotational player.
When the Bears selected Bullard in the 3rd round, he was widely recognized as a potential “steal” for Chicago. Since then, he hasn’t made near as much of an impact that was expected of him and was outplayed by journeyman defensive end, Mitch Unrein.
If Bullard plans on becoming a more impact player and avoiding the “bust” label, he needs to be more physical in the trenches. Although, the Bears have been rumored to use their 3rd overall pick on Alabama’s disruptive DE, Jonathan Allen, so Bullard’s opportunities may be slim heading into next season. Only time will tell what the future holds for Bullard.
Draft Grade: D
(No. 113 overall) Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB
The former West Virginia middle linebacker appeared in more games than anybody expected in 2016. Kwiatkoski filled in for linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman while they were out of the lineup and started 7 games while appearing in 14 total.
Nothing seemed too big for the young linebacker when he was on the field. A good sign, considering he was considered to be a “developmental” prospect for the Bears. Kwiatkoski ended up with 32 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble.
Kwiatkoski is in a good position at this time. He’ll look to be a solid rotational player off the bench while he continues to work on his game.
Draft Grade: C+
(No. 124 overall) Deon Bush, FS
Bush appeared in 14 games and started 6 in place of struggling safeties Harold Jones-Quartey and Adrian Amos. He ended up with 16 tackles and 1 pass deflect.
It appears Bush could find his niche as a core special teams player, but he may get every chance to compete for a starting safety job if the Bears refrain to address the position via Free Agency or the NFL Draft.
Draft Grade: C-
(No. 127 overall) Deiondre’ Hall, CB
The jury is still out for the former Northern Iowa prospect. Hall was hampered with an ankle injury all season and couldn’t stay on the field. The biggest strengths for Hall coming out of college was his long arms and his knack for turnovers.
If healthy, Deiondre’ Hall should have every opportunity next year to compete in a position group that may be the biggest weakness on the team.
Draft Grade: Undecided
(No. 150 overall) Jordan Howard, RB
Quite possibly the biggest steal in the entire draft was the former Indiana running back, Jordan Howard. Howard came into the league with low expectations and proceeded to prove everyone wrong.
Howard ran for 1,313 yards this year, behind only fellow rookie running back, Ezekiel Elliott. That’s incredibly impressive for a rookie, but what’s more impressive is that Howard did this without making his first start until week 4. Pro Football Focus has Howard as their 7th best overall running back. Howard even made the Pro Bowl in his first year.
Looking forward, expect Howard to be a top ten running back on a consistent basis now that the team hands him the reigns.
Draft Grade: A+
(No. 185 overall) DeAndre Houston-Carson, FS
The former William & Mary product didn’t see much action as a rookie on the defensive side but he did find a spot on the special teams squad. It doesn’t appear that Houston-Carson will be more than a special teams player at this point.
Draft Grade: D
(No. 230 overall) Daniel Braverman, WR
Although he was a 7th round pick, fans hoped the Bears found a diamond in the rough that could fit the Wes Welker “mold” but Braverman struggled to find a spot in the receiver room. The Bears cut Braverman to make the 53-man roster before the season started. He was later brought back on the practice quad and appeared in 3 games but failed to record a reception.
Draft Grade: F
Altogether, the Bears had a very productive draft class and found 3 starters in Floyd, Whitehair, and Howard. If Ryan Pace stays continues his draft success, the Bears are headed in the right direction.