Four Positions Where Bears Draft Picks Could Start

Gene Chamberlain

No less a football expert than Bill Belichick once said of rookies: "They have no idea what they're getting into."

Buddy Ryan disdained rookies and refused to play William Perry initially, so Mike Ditka used him as a fullback.

The tough adjustment to the NFL from college prevents many rookies from seriously challenging veterans for starting spots. Rookie draft picks will have a chance to make a big impact with the Bears at several positions this year but the odds aren't with them.

This year's Bears training camp should look entirely different than last year's and it has nothing to do with the location moving from Bourbonnais to Halas Hall or the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year the Bears came into training camp with a set lineup across the board with the exception of kicker.

This year they think they have their kicker and it's almost every other position where there are challenges, at least after the bulk of free agency has finished.

It's possible the two Bears second-round picks would be good enough to challenge for starting spots, and maybe even their Day 3 picks.  

Cody Whitehair challenged for and won a starting spot as a second-rounder. Safety Eddie Jackson was the rare fourth-rounder who won a starting spot coming out of his first training camp.

It happens.

Here are the four position battles ranked in order where a rookie rates a chance to become a starter:

1. Cornerback

It's probably the second-most important starting battle after quarterback, but at the moment the combatants are not what you'd call the lock-down variety.

Undrafted free agent Kevin Toliver II knows the defense and has been inconsistent in past opportunities to play. Tre Roberson is a former CFL player who excelled up north but had a shot with the Minnesota Vikings earlier, struggled and was cut. And there is Steelers 2016 first-round draft pick Artie Burns, who has never lived up to his draft status and really tailed off last year in Pittsburgh.

They'll have to bring in a cornerback at some point in the draft to join this competition, possibly even in Round 2.

The credentials of the current combatants, or lack thereof, suggest the rookie has a shot.

2. Right Guard

It looks like a battle between former Seahawk Germain Ifedi and Rashaad Coward, who started 10 games last year because of Kyle Long's injury situation. Ifedi struggled throughout his Seattle career but most of it was at tackle. So both have experience, albeit not successful experience.

"We're excited to get him where we got him," GM Ryan Pace said. "(It) is just to really add competition to the offensive line. That depth there is important and we'll let that play out."

Undrafted Alex Bars is a wild card in the background after watching from the practice squad most of last year before being activated for five games in a backup role. He could be ready to challenge after coming off an ACL tear last year.

It has to be assumed they'll bring in another competitor at some point, and a guard drafted early enough could turn both Ifedi and Coward into guard/tackle backups and Bars into a practice squad player for another year.

Or does all this become a moot point and the Bears throw a curve ball at everyone? 

They could draft a starting center and move Whitehair to guard. It might be the reason they haven't already announced a definite change of positions, with James Daniels taking over at center and Whitehair moving to guard.

3. Safety

Much like with cornerback, the combatants are not established. 

At least Deon Bush has played the position before in this defense, with eight starts in his four seasons. However, six came in 2016 before Jackson arrived. Like Toliver at cornerback, Bush has been inconsistent in rare starting opportunities. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likes has touted Bush's abilities in the past, and last year after doing it the Packers burned Bush for a touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to win the season opener.

Bush does have the big experience edge on his current competitor, former Chiefs backup Jordan Lucas. For one, he knows the defensive scheme and Lucas does not. The Chiefs might be the team Matt Nagy's offense is trying to mimick but the defense isn't similar to Kansas City's.  

DeAndre Houston-Carson has been in Chicago as long as Bush but has never been able to pull ahead of Bush, so it's anticipated it will be Lucas and Bush, with a likely draft pick thrown into the fray as well.

If the rookie is good enough, he could do what Jackson did and start from Day 1.

4. Wide Receiver

This will be tougher for a rookie to win, even if he comes in with speed in the sub 4.4 range for the 40-yard dash. Both Javon Wims and Riley Ridley have been with the team and were talented players at Georgia. If a speed receiver comes in, one of the Georgia receivers could win out at least for opening day based largely on experience in the offense.

It would have to be a special rookie to win this spot, and it's what the Bears are hoping to find when they begin drafting in Round 2 at pick No. 43.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

Comments (2)
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Gene Chamberlain
Gene Chamberlain


See my mock draft. Ezra Cleveland was my first pick at No. 43.


We still need a GOOD offensive tackle!!!