Bears find offensive help with only 5 picks in NFL draft
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — In an abbreviated draft for the Chicago Bears, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky appears to be the big winner.
He’ll have three more potential offensive options.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace had only five picks because of the trade for linebacker Khalil Mack last year. He used three of the first four on offensive players in hopes of bolstering an improved but inconsistent attack.
“I think we’re always mindful of that,” Pace said Saturday. “The more weapons we can supply to the quarterback, or our coaches, the better.”
After the Bears traded up to select running back David Montgomery in the third round Friday, they selected Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley on Saturday in the fourth and Florida Atlantic running back/return man Kerrith Whyte Jr. in the seventh.
“Really, with limited draft picks, I really feel like we maximized it,” Pace said.
They didn’t ignore defense, selecting Kansas State cornerback Duke Shelley in round 6 and Valdosta State cornerback Stephen Denmark in the seventh round.
Still, it was coach Matt Nagy’s offense where improvement was needed most.
After all the trick plays and aggressive calls by Nagy, the Bears ranked only 21st both in passing and offensive yardage.
So they didn’t hesitate to take Ridley, despite an already crowded receiver group.
“To have a player of that caliber there and comfortably be able to take him was really a no-brainer because he was so high on our board,” Pace said.
The Bears last year signed Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel in free agency and drafted Anthony Miller and Javon Wims, then signed wide receivers Marvin Hall and Cordarrelle Patterson this year. They have several other receivers under contract, as well.
Ridley has been trained for the job by his brother, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who was a first-round pick last year.
“Watching him being able to snap down at the top of his routes, route running is key in being a receiver,” Riley Ridley said. “Watching him, learning, and just wanting to be great for myself and my family, it paid off.”
Montgomery will share time with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen, and Nagy is eager to get him involved the passing game. The Bears had traded running back Jordan Howard to Philadelphia because he wasn’t as much of a receiving threat.
“They’re weapons,” Nagy said. “In my opinion, they’re all weapons. They can play every down.”
WHO THEY GOT
Montgomery is a high-character back with a knack for breaking tackles. His running style has been compared to Kareem Hunt’s.
“He’s the whole package,” Nagy said. “He has the hands. He’s a three-down back. He’s everything that we’re looking for.”
Ridley’s fit is backup to starter Allen Robinson at outside receiver, and he’s considered a strong route runner with good leaping ability and balance.
Whyte was backup to Buffalo Bills draft pick Devin Singletary, and last season averaged 6.5 yards per rush with eight touchdowns. He also averaged 26.1 yards per kick return in his career, with two TDs.
Shelley is a feisty and undersized at 165 pounds, but had eight interceptions. He’ll play slot cornerback, according to Pace.
Denmark plays outside cornerback. But at 6-foot-3½, 220 pounds, he’s as big as some linebackers. He switched last year from wide receiver to cornerback.
Pace traded up 14 places to take Montgomery. Not a huge surprise for Pace, though. He has made nine draft day trades since taking over as GM in 2015.
HOW THEY DID
The Bears addressed their greatest need at running back. But they did not address a huge hole on offense: kicker. Cody Parkey’s replacement is still pending.
The Bears also didn’t select a tight end. Six Bears tight ends were injured last season. Then Daniel Brown left in free agency, Dion Sims was cut and Zach Miller retired, so they could have used one more. Another offensive lineman or safety were also possibilities and those spots were ignored.
They’ll continue to look at the kickers they have working in a three-man competition: Redford Jones, Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry, who kicked in the AAF.
Pace said he would likely sign a kicker and turn it into a four-player competition.
A few unsigned free agent tight ends or a guard might be added.
Prior to the draft, Pace estimated they would sign 18 to 20 undrafted free agents to complete the roster.