By Bryan Dietzler
The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and there are a lot of people who are frustrated with the players the Bears picked. From the first to the fifth round, there doesn’t appear to be a player that any of the Bear’s fans appear to agree upon, so far. But there is one guy that was drafted in the latter half of the draft that might have the most impact, at least this season. The rest have some work to do to become effective contributing members of the team.
The Bears had only five picks in the entire draft and had to maximize the potential of each. Some people don’t believe that the guys from the Division II schools that the Bears picked up will be able to do much. But these guys have potential and may be able to have an impact at some point. We are all hoping they will.
Let’s take a look at the last three picks for the Bears, in the 2017 NFL Draft. We will see what they bring to the team, what they need to improve upon, and what their roles might be in the future.
With the 112th pick in the draft, the Bears selected Alabama safety, Eddie Jackson. There are many experts, including this writer, that feel Jackson may be the best pick the Bears made. But he also has his critics, and some feel the pick could end up a disaster for the Bears.
Jackson was a four-year starter at Alabama who had a chance to come out after his junior season but chose to stay put and enhance his draft stock. However, he broke his leg in the eighth game of the season and missed the rest of his senior year. His draft stock fell a bit because of that.
He has good athletic ability, his range is decent, and he can stick with wide receivers and tight ends in coverage. His previous experience as a cornerback will help him in coverage, and that had to be attractive to the Bears. His special teams ability, in his ability to return punts, will be very valuable to a team that has struggled with that. Another thing that they should like about Jackson is his leadership ability. He was a great leader at Alabama and could eventually be one in Chicago.
Of course, his injury history does send up some red flags. He tore an ACL and has a rod inserted in that leg. Jackson does have an ankle issue on his medical report as well. Some fear that he could get hurt and miss a significant amount of time.
As far as his ability to play, Jackson has some problems tackling with proper form and will miss tackles at times (16 missed tackles in three years). He doesn’t hit with authority, and some runners can break free from his tackles because he doesn’t wrap up well. With good coaching, he should be able to clean up some of his issues with instincts and reading the play to become more effective.
It’s possible Jackson could become the best player out of this draft, for Chicago, in the short term, if he can stay healthy and make some adjustments. He definitely appears to be the most pro-ready of the five draftees. Look for him to get a start on special teams returning punts and then work his way into the lineup sooner than later.
A little later in the fourth round, at number 119, the Bears took North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen. Cohen, a Division II player, has been called a “human joystick” by some. He is certainly an interesting player that appears to be a gadget guy rather than an every down starting running back. Cohen is well known for the “hype” video showing him doing a backflip while catching two footballs.
There is a lot to like about Cohen. Some of his upside includes his ability to move in open space. He can get moving one way and then change, suddenly, and go another leaving the defender grasping for air. He can cut well and moves from side to side with ease. Cohen sees the field well and catches the ball effectively.
His size is the number one issue that can be considered a negative with his experience being a close second. He was a man among boys on the football field in college, but that was against lower level competition. Some worry how he will stack up against bigger and just as fast or faster NFL defenders. Cohen doesn’t always follow his blockers and will try to do a lot on his own. He may only be good for just a handful of plays in a game taking up a roster spot that could be used for a player that could contribute in more situations.
A thought that arose from some that felt that Cohen could be used as a kick and/or punt return specialist. However, he lacks experience there and may not work out as a return specialist.
So what place could Cohen have on the team? It’s likely he will make the active roster in 2017 and could be used as a “gadget” guy. They could get him out on the edge and throw the ball to him, get him in on reverse plays or make up some special packages for him. He won’t see that many touches but his impact on a game could be sound.
I will have more on Cohen and the running back situation, overall, a little later.
The final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears selected Kutztown offensive tackle Jordan Morgan out of tiny Kutztown. It should be noted that Morgan is not going to be an offensive tackle but will, instead, play guard.
Some of the upside that Morgan has includes his size and body composition. He’s a big guy with a thick body. His arm length is sound which is good for a guard. Morgan keeps his feet moving at all times and moves very well side to side. His knees bend well blocking, and he gets his hands in proper position on the defender’s body. If you have watched any of histape (even looking at his highlight reels on YouTube will help), he finishes plays. Morgan stays on his man until the play is over which indicates that a hard worker.
Of course, his experience is a drawback and one he will have to overcome with NFL coaching and playing time. His mechanics could use some fine tuning, and he will need to adjust to the nuances of being a guard. Morgan may hit a wall, at first, going against NFL defenders but could quietly end up being a solid player in two to three years.
Morgan, provided he can develop well, could be a solid starter with the Bears sometime in the future. If he doesn’t get rushed into action and has time to learn the NFL way he could be good. He has the basics, and now he just needs the refinement.
Taking so many Division II players had a lot of experts scratching their heads and wondering what the Bear’s plans were. But there must be a method to Ryan Pace’s madness. We will find out over the next couple of seasons.
And practically none of the players drafted in this draft, except perhaps Jackson, will be contributing much, if at all in 2017. This draft was for the future and not for the here and now. So we will have to wait a year or two to see how these picks pan out.
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