Chicago Bears go heavy on offense with first picks in NFL Draft

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The Chicago Bears are coming off a NFC North title with a 12-4 record. Although losing in the Wild Card round to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears had their first season over .500 since 2012 and first playoff appearance since 2010. They ranked 9th in scoring at 26.3 points per game and 1st in fewest points allowed at 17.7 points per game. The Bears didn’t have a pick until the 3rd round of the NFL Draft but addressed some offensive needs. Here’s a breakdown of their draft selections.

Round 3 (73rd) David Montgomery (RB) Iowa State

Making an immediate impact as a freshman, Montgomery rushed for 563 yards for a 5.2 average and caught 13 passes for 129 yards. Increasing his production to 1146 rushing yards and 296 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, Montgomery was named first-team All-Big 12. He was second-team all conference last year after gaining nearly 1400 yards from scrimmage and 13 scores.

After the trade of Jordan Howard to the Eagles, the Bears were in desperate need to upgrade at running back. The Bears traded up with the Patriots to select Montgomery, who will be in the mix with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen for carries. While likely not seeing the bulk of the carries this season, Montgomery should be a significant contributor from the get go.

Round 4 (126th) Riley Ridley (WR) Georgia

Ridley showed glimpses as a freshman, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch on 12 receptions for two touchdowns. In 2017, he started seven games and showed his great promise in the national title game, hauling in six for 82 yards. A starter in 12 of 14 games last season, Ridley had his most productive season, catching 44 passes with nine touchdowns.

Ridley displays the ability to run crisp, precise routes which is vital in the Bears’ offensive scheme. While Ridley’s numbers at Georgia weren’t outstanding, much of that is due to the fact that Georgia had such a widely diverse offensive attack. Ridley joins a group of receivers that includes Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Javon Wims and has a chance to be productive in his first season.

Round 6 (205th) Duke Shelley (CB) Kansas State

Shelley played in eight games as a freshman, recording 28 tackles and one for a loss, including seven passes defensed. His production increased in ten games as a sophomore in 2016, intercepting three passes, returning one for a touchdown and 40 tackles. As a junior, Shelley had two more interceptions, another touchdown, a forced fumble and 56 tackles. Although playing in only seven games as a senior, Shelley intercepted three more passes.

At a relatively diminutive 5’ 9” and 180 pounds, Shelley likely will be asked to cover smaller slot receivers than big receivers on the outside. He has a nose for the football, as his eight college interceptions indicate. Coming off toe injury his senior season, Shelley was not at the combine, but the Bears feel he can add depth to an already strong defensive secondary.

Round 7 (222nd) Kerrith Whyte (RB) Florida Atlantic

Whyte did not play as a freshman in 2015 and had only 43 carries for 145 yards in 2016. Still playing sparingly in 2017, Whyte averaged 6.3 yards on 55 carries with two touchdowns.  Seeing his most action last season, Whyte showed some promise, rushing for 866 yards on 6.5 per carry with eight touchdowns and an addition two receiving touchdowns. He excelled during his career as a kickoff returner, averaging 26.1 with two touchdowns.

Whyte comes in as a long shot to make the roster with the Bears already having a solid mix after drafting Montgomery in the 3rd round. However, because of his return skills, Whyte could do enough in the preseason to make the roster on special teams or as a project on the practice squad.

Round 7 (238th) Stephen Denmark (CB) Valdosta State

Denmark was a receiver during his freshman and sophomore season, catching a combined 29 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Seeing minimal time in 2017, Denmark was moved from receiver to corner back as a senior. He thrived at the position after recording 55 tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defended. Denmark earned second-team All-Gulf South Conference honors for his efforts.

Denmark possesses great size for a corner at 6’ 3” and 212 pounds. The pick is very intriguing for the Bears who see great upside with his size and athletic ability. Being that Denmark has little experience on defense, he is a practice squad candidate who could develop into a contributor down the road.

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