Chicago Bears: Looking back at the 2016 NFL Draft three years later

    After years of poor drafting by the Chicago Bears, general manager Ryan Pace seems to have the franchise headed in the right direction. His 2016 draft class, in particular, looks quite strong three years later.

    As we sit here in the dead season waiting for training camp to begin, I decided to take a look back on recent drafts for the Chicago Bears. First of all, the rule of thumb is that you can’t truly grade a draft class until after three seasons of play. Don’t get me wrong, every situation is different, but for the most part, going into the fourth season, you have an idea of what type of player you really have.

    With that, let’s dive into the 2016 Chicago Bears draft class.

    Round 1, Pick 9: Leonard Floyd – OLB

    On draft week, interest around Leonard Floyd was gaining steam. The rumor was the New York Giants were locked in on him with the 10th pick, and a couple more teams were looking to potentially trade up. The Bears were able to move from the 11th pick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at pick nine, to jump the Giants and get their guy. The Bucs drafted Vernon Hargreaves and used the 106th pick they got from the Bears to package in a deal that turned into kicker Roberto Aguayo.

    During the draft process, Floyd’s most common player comparison was Aldon Smith. The Bears made him a Top-10 pick with high hopes of getting a sack specialist like Smith. With sack totals of 7.5, 4.5, and 4 in his first three seasons, the Bears didn’t land the sack artist people were predicting. BUT, Floyd has proven to be an all-around defender who can play all three downs in today’s league. He’s been reliable versus the run and grades out well in coverage. All in all, the Bears didn’t get the Smith type sack artist, but they did get a quality starting edge rusher who is showing improvement year by year.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: B-

    My grade after three years: B

    Round 2, Pick 56: Cody Whitehair – Offensive Line

    After trading up for Floyd in the first round, the Bears ended up trading back twice before taking Cody Whitehair with the 56th pick.  Whitehair started his rookie year as a backup guard, but with Hroniss Grasu tearing his ACL, he was pushed into the starting role at center. Once he got that job, he never looked back. Whitehair quickly became one of the leaders of the offensive line and has the look of being a decade long starter in this league. After a Pro-Bowl year at center in 2018, Coach Nagy announced Whitehair will be moving to left guard and James Daniels to center.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: B+

    My grade after three years: A

    Round 3, Pick 72: Jonathan Bullard – Defensive Line

    Unlike the first two selections, Jonathan Bullard has been a big disappointment. There was plenty of hype around Bullard going into the 2016 draft, and when the Bears landed him in the third round, fans were ecstatic.  Pro Football Focus named him the best value pick in the entire draft. After three seasons and only five starts, Bullard seems like he won’t be emerging into the player most people have thought he would, especially with the improving play of Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols. In fact, Bullard will potentially be fighting for his roster spot this pre-season.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: A

    My grade after three years: F

    Round 4, Pick 113: Nick Kwiatkowski – Linebacker

    For value in round four, Nick Kwiatkowski was a very solid pick by Pace. Unfortunately, in 2018, the team decided to spend a top-10 draft pick on the talented Roquan Smith to play alongside Danny Trevathan. This left Kwiatkowski’s playing time limited. In his third season, he only had one start but has shown starting caliber flashes. Ultimately, Kwiatkowski will be a very solid depth guy for the 2019 Bears and will be able to step right in when his chance rolls around.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: B

    My grade after three years: B-

    Round 4, Pick 124: Deon Bush – Safety

    Through three seasons, I feel pretty confident in saying that Deon Bush is a career back-up. When filling in the final three games of the 2018 season, Bush didn’t quite jump out and impress. However, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson roaming the back end of Pagano’s defense, there could be a role for Bush to play the run-support and short pass role that Adrian Amos did last year. At the end of the day, Bush is a depth guy who will be playing for his second contract.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: B

    My grade after three years: C-

    Round 4, Pick 127: Deiondre’ Hall – DB

    The third pick in the 4th round is my choice for the worst draft pick of the Bears 2016 draft class. Deiondre’ Hall was never able to put his physical tools together and never got to see the field much. After two seasons only producing seven tackles in the ten games he appeared in, Chicago decided to trade him to the Philadelphia Eagles. There he managed four tackles in his 13 games with the Eagles and said beating the Bears in the playoffs was the best moment of his career. Oddly enough, Eagles fans are still holding out some hope on the 4th year guy as he is getting some first-team reps in OTA’s.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: B+

    My grade after three years: F

    Round 5, Pick 150: Jordan Howard

    In his rookie season, Jordan Howard managed to rush for the second most yards (1,313) in the NFL behind only Ezekiel Elliott. In his second season, he put up another 1,000 yard rushing season and added nine touchdowns on top of that. Unfortunately going into season three, the rumors started that Howard wasn’t a good fit for Coach Nagy’s offense and he was traded to Philidelphia after the 2018 season. In the end, Howard produced like a first round talent in all three seasons in Chicago.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: A

    My grade after three years: A+

    Round 6, pick 185: Deandre Houston-Carson – Safety

    This was a late day-three pick and the third safety drafted by the Bears in this class. Deandre Houston-Carson had zero tackles in his first two seasons, but in year three, he became a special teams stand out with ten total tackles. Chicago rewarded him and re-signed him to a one year contract. As a 6th round pick still on the team four years later and producing on special teams, that’s a win in my book.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: A-

    My grade after three years: B-

    Round 7, Pick 230: Daniel Braverman – Wide receiver

    A Chicago Bears camp sweetheart in 2016, Daniel Braverman disappointed by only appearing in three games with just 17 offensive snaps. Braverman did not catch a single pass in the NFL, and he didn’t last long being released in September of 2017. The wide receiver is now playing football in Canada.

    Initial draft grade by NBC Chicago: B+

    My grade after three years: F


    Overall grade: A

    After some of the worst drafting in the past decade, it is safe to say that Pace hit it big with his second career draft class. The 2016 Chicago Bears draft class is off to a great start these first three seasons. Floyd, Whitehair, and Howard are all above average players in the NFL. Anytime you can say that about a draft class it’s a win. Kwiatkowski, Bush, Bullard, and Houston-Carson are all good depth pieces and still have room to improve.

    Jeremy Hoffman is a writer for PFN covering the Chicago Bears. You can follow him at @HoggNFL.

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