The Chicago Bears drafted seven players during the 2021 NFL Draft. There are speculations that this is one of the best draft classes GM Ryan Pace has put together. Obviously, it’s way too early to evaluate that, but he did draft two of the top prospects in this year’s class, while also adding valuable depth pieces in the later rounds. Below are the Bears draft grades for every pick.
Bears Draft Grades | 2021 NFL Draft
Round 1, Pick 11: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Just four years after trading up for Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears once again traded up for a quarterback. This time, it was Justin Fields. With his job on the line, GM Pace traded away this year’s first-round pick, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-rounder and a 2021 fifth-rounder to the Giants for the 11th overall pick.
Fields threw for 22 touchdowns and six interceptions last season and 41 touchdowns and three interceptions the season before. The Ohio State product finished his prolific collegiate career with 5,701 passing yards, 67 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 34 games played. He also has great rushing abilities, which ideally fit Matt Nagy’s offense. He finished with 1,133 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
The Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year deal back in March, and now Fields will join a quarterback room with Dalton and Nick Foles. Even if Fields isn’t deemed the starter this season, he’s surely the future, and he has the right guys to learn behind.
Round 2, Pick 39: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
After a busy night one, Pace wasn’t done making splash moves. Early in the second round, he traded up to the 39th overall pick to select OT Teven Jenkins. The Bears traded away their second-round pick (pick 52), their third-round pick (pick 83) and a sixth-round pick (pick 204) in exchange for the Carolina Panthers’ 39th overall pick and their fifth-round pick (pick 151).
Jenkins is one of the better OT prospects in this year’s draft class, and he was often mocked to the Bears with the 20th overall selection. The Oklahoma State product surprisingly fell outside of the first round, and the Bears made sure to bring him to Chicago.
Before opting out of the 2020 season, Jenkins was a three-year starter, splitting his time both as the team’s starting left and right tackle. He plays with some nastiness, and he should slip into one of the vacant tackle positions for Chicago. It’s presumed that it will be the left tackle position, since the Bears released Charles Leno Jr. last week. Jenkins has all the tools to become a dominant OT for years to come. The only thing wrong with this selection is the fact that Pace had to give up so much draft capital, after doing so the night before.
Round 5, Pick 151: OT Larry Borom, Missouri
The Bears had to wait awhile before selecting their next player in the fifth round. As mentioned before, the Bears received the fifth-round pick in the Jenkins/Panthers trade. They then selected another OT in Larry Borom.
There’s plenty to love about drafting another offensive lineman. Double-dipping on the OT position after drafting a potential franchise quarterback seems like a smart move to make. Borom brings versatility and depth to the Bears’ O-Line. He has a lot of experience playing the tackle position in the SEC, but he will more than likely place most of his career as an offensive guard.
Borom is a big-bodied player (6-6 and 333 lbs), but he lacks strength at the tackle position. He only put up 21 reps at 225 lbs on the bench press during his pro day (compared to Jenkins’ 36). As a fifth-round selection, there isn’t a ton of pressure to become an offensive starter, but Borom has the potential. Nonetheless, he could serve as a valuable depth piece to an average offensive line.
Round 6, Pick 217: HB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech
This is a pick that can be seen in two ways. First, running back was not a position of need for the Bears to draft. Second, Herbert slipped mightily, and PFF ranked him inside the top-100 players (91) entering the 2021 NFL Draft.
Herbert joins a running back room that consists of David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Damien Williams and Artavis Pierce. He’s a running back that excels on outside zone schemes – something the Bears lacked once Cohen got injured last season. Montgomery and Williams are lethal in inside-zone run schemes, while Cohen and Herbert could excel on the outside.
The Virginia Tech product also has a good amount of kick return experience. Chicago let Cordarrelle Patterson walk in free agency, so Herbert is a prime candidate to take over return duties. He also put together a great season last year, rushing for 1,183 rushing yards on 155 attempts (7.6 YPC average) and eight rushing touchdowns. The knock on Herbert is that he didn’t see a ton of receiving production during his college career.
Round 6, Pick 221: WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina
Drafting a receiver made sense for Chicago, since Anthony Miller and Javon Wims are big question marks entering the 2021 season. Newsome didn’t produce amazing numbers at North Carolina, and he served as his team’s second receiving option behind Dyami Brown.
His pro day results weren’t great. In fact, they were rather poor. But if you watch his tape, Newsome excelled at the little things. He’s very good at finding space against zone defenses, and he has very good speed at the receiver position. Newsome also showed elite skills at making defenders miss, producing a ton of yards after the catch.
He joins a speedy receiving group that already has Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. Newsome brings a lot of punt return experience, as Chicago might look to move on from Cohen at that spot. Keep in mind that Cohen suffered a season-ending injury while calling a fair catch as the team’s punt returner last season. Newsome owns an 11.1 punt return average, and he even returned a punt for a touchdown during his sophomore season. Overall, this pick makes sense, and Chicago added valuable depth to their wide receiver position.
Round 6, Pick 228: CB Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon
Graham Jr. was ranked as PFF’s 78th-best player entering the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Bears selected him 228th overall. That alone should tell you the Bears selecting Graham Jr. in the sixth round is an absolute steal.
The highly-rated CB has a lot of experience playing the slot position – something the Bears desperately needed after cutting Buster Skrine this offseason. The Oregon product saw a ton of production in his three seasons, playing for the Ducks before opting out of the 2020 season. During his college career, he recorded 183 total tackles, eight interceptions and 32 deflected passes in 40 career games played.
He will now battle Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley for the starting nickel cornerback spot. Graham brings a lot of the same characteristics as Bryce Callahan did for the Bears a few years ago. He’s not a great man-to-man corner, but in a defense that loves to run a lot of zone schemes, Graham should excel and find himself on the field rather early.
Round 7, Pick 250: DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU
The defensive line was not a position of concern entering the draft, but the Bears did lack a true nose tackle that can play behind Eddie Goldman. Both Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols play a lot better at the end positions, so to find a young piece to serve as Goldman’s backup is a win-win.
Tonga didn’t dominate at the collegiate level, but he brings great experience and great size (6-4 and 321 lbs) to Chicago’s D-Line. You can’t expect a lot from a seventh-rounder, and Tonga will battle for a roster spot/backup position for Chicago.
He shows great run-stuffing abilities, and as mentioned before, he’s a big body for the D-Line. Tonga has also shown that he can get after the quarterback. He recorded 8.5 sacks during his four-year collegiate career.
Overall, this is a great Bears draft class, on paper. As mentioned at the beginning, it’s hard to tell before the players even take the field. Nonetheless, Chicago brought in their future franchise quarterback. They bolstered their offensive line. The Bears also added some nice depth pieces to their RB, WR, CB and DL positions.
Overall Bears Draft Grade: B+