Bears draft picks a positive during tough season

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Bears draft picks a positive during tough season

Very, very few meaningful positives are to be found in a five-game collapse that cost the Bears a virtual playoff lock. But there actually have been a couple, beyond the odd Kahlil Bell or Josh McCown.

An issue plaguing the Bears for the past decade has been failed draft choices. A combination of indicators suggests that this may be changing, at least slightly.

Of the five Bears selected to this seasons Pro Bowl, four were Jerry Angelo draft choices (Lance Briggs 03, Matt Forte 08, Corey Graham 07, Charles Tillman 03). It is the highest number of Angelo picks ever selected to one Pro Bowl, and Forte is the first Angelo offensive draftee to make a Pro Bowl.

Returner Devin Hester (06) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (09) were among the alternates. Of the combined 11 Bears selected for some level of Pro Bowl honor (five voted, six alternates), only Brian Urlacher was not acquired by Angelo, whether by draft, free agency or trade.

Of the starting offense for much of the offensive surge that contributed to the five-game run to the 7-3 record, seven of the starters were draft picks and that does not include right tackle Gabe Carimi.

Not anything to get particularly excited about, after the general draft malaise of the Angelo era.

But two of the Bears top three 2011 draft picks also were starters before injuries sent them to IR: Carimi and safety Chris Conte, besides defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

The draft choices have been great and our rookie free agents have been awesome too, said Urlacher. Since my 2000 class Mike Brown, myself, Paul Edinger this is one of the better classes Ive seen.

Paeas playing time has increased substantially after dealing with a knee injury in training camp and being inactive for the first five weeks of the season. He has 2 sacks on the season, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 tackles for loss.

Paeas production is notable in part because he has been tasked with playing both nose tackle and three-technique.

The only true difference is youve got to have patience on the nose and on the three youve got to go, Paea said. Ive got to have that mentality.

I hate waiting on the line and having patience. I can get to aggressive and not have patience to play my keys, which is perfect for the under-tackle.

The No. 2 tackler on special teams behind Pro Bowl starter Graham is Dom DeCicco, an undrafted rookie free agent.

I still feel a little like a rookie, DeCicco said, but like Ive learned so much and its night and day from preseason and even the first few games.

Bears challenged to replace coaches involved in three all-rookie selections

Bears challenged to replace coaches involved in three all-rookie selections

As a sign of good things to come, three Bears were selected to the NFL's all-rookie teams. But there's a negative thread running through the honors of linebacker Leonard Floyd being named to the rookie defensive team, and the selections of center Cody Whitehair and running back Jordan Howard to the rookie offensive team.
 
The concern lies not in the players or the personnel department under GM Ryan Pace that designated them for drafting. It is in the fact that the position coaches for all three rookie standouts are all gone from the staff of coach John Fox.
 
Finding talent is difficult enough. Developing it is the crucial next step in the football process, and what was evident in the rookie years of Floyd, Whitehair and Howard was that each developed into NFL-grade players with some very solid coaching.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
 
Offensive line coach Dave Magazu was not brought back, reportedly in favor of former Miami Dolphins assistant offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, as reported by Sirius XM radio and Sporting News.
 
Stan Drayton, who coached Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State, then Howard this year, left for the University of Texas.

Outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt appeared to be exiting for the New York Jets, although sources report that the deal may not go through.
 
Coaches can't create talent but they can certainly foster and maximize it. Replacing the mentors of their three top rookies from arguably the best draft class since 2004 (Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Bernard Berrian, Nathan Vasher) now becomes a talent search in its own right.

Accolades keep pouring in for Bears' 2016 rookie class

Accolades keep pouring in for Bears' 2016 rookie class

The 2016 NFL Draft could be one that will define Ryan Pace's tenure as GM of the Bears.

Just last week, Jordan Howard became the second rookie running back in Bears franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl since Gale Sayers in 1965.

The PFWA released their 2016 All-Rookie Team on Tuesday, and Bears center Cody Whitehair, linebacker Leonard Floyd and Howard all made the list.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Howard, the Bears' fifth round selection (150th overall) out of Indiana, set the rookie franchise record with 1,313 rushing yards on 252 carries and 6 touchdowns. Howard also had 29 receptions for 298 yards and one receiving touchdown.

Floyd, the No. 9 overall selection out of Georgia, registered 33 tackles, 7 sacks and 9 quarterback hits in 12 games.

Whitehair, a second-round pick out of Kansas State, started all 16 games at center for the Bears after spending the majority of the preseason at guard.

The Bears (tied with the Chargers) had the second-highest number of selections behind the Kansas City Chiefs.

Check out the complete 2016 PFWA All-Rookie Team below:

Offense

QB – Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
RB – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys; Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
WR – Sterling Shepard, New York Giants; Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
TE – Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers
C – Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears
G – Joe Thuney, New England Patriots; Laremy Tunsil, Miami Dolphins
T – Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans; Taylor Decker, Detroit Lions

Defense

DL – Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers; DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers; Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs; Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars
LB – Jatavis Brown, San Diego Chargers; Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears; Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
CB – Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars
S – Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders; Keanu Neal, Atlanta Falcons

Special Teams

PK – Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints
P – Riley Dixon, Denver Broncos
KR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
PR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs