As day one of the 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, the Chicago Bears made it through the first round without the annual Ryan Pace Draft Day trade. That decision could end up paying big dividends for Pace and the Bears as they have two picks tonight in the second round. Those picks come at the 43rd and 50th spots, respectively the 11th and 18th picks of the night. My mindset towards this evening is "stick and pick," and when I say that, I mean that there is plenty of talent available for the Bears to select at 43 and 50.
When you think of roster needs for the 2020 Chicago Bears, a few positions instantly come to mind. First and foremost, the Bears need help on the offensive line as well as another piece in the secondary. Another position that has lacked in production is the tight end group. The free-agent signing of Jimmy Graham could prove to be beneficial, but he is not the long-term answer. The Bears released Taylor Gabriel during the offseason and could have potentially landed a Gabriel prototype in Jalen Reagor from TCU, but he was taken 21st by the Philadelphia Eagles. Below, I will outline the top five players the Bears should be looking to draft in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Antoine Winfield Jr. (5'10 208 lbs, Safety, University of Minnesota)
When looking at the different positions that were drafted last night, you'll notice that zero safeties were taken off the board. Alabama's Xavier McKinney will most likely be selected by the 43rd pick, leaving Antoine Winfield Jr. most likely available to select at 43. For starters, when cutting the tape on Winfield Jr., he is relatively fast and always seems to be around the football. He shoots the hole like he is shot out of a cannon and lays the boom when he gets there. He's a quality run support safety and possesses the speed to cover NFL receivers.
Winfield Jr. touts elite ball skills and can cover well for a perceived "box safety." He clocked a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which was good for the third-best time. He has the size, speed, and athleticism to come in and compete at the next level. This pick would allow Eddie Jackson to play more of that centerfield type of role, where he flourished during his breakout 2018 season. Winfield Jr. finished his collegiate career at Minnesota with over 100 tackles, nine interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, and a Jim Thorpe Award. He is a flat-out playmaker who the Bears should heavily consider drafting if he is available at pick 43.
Cole Kmet (6'6 270 lbs, Tight End, Notre Dame)
Cole Kmet is the clear-cut favorite as the best tight end in this year's NFL Draft. The Bears had the least productive tight end room in the NFL last season and would benefit heavily by drafting Kmet. For starters, Kmet passes every form of eye test an NFL Scout could throw at him. He possesses the frame of an NFL tight end, he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash, and he followed that up with a 37-inch vertical in addition to a 10-foot-5 broad jump. Kmet killed the combine and did much of the same for Notre Dame in the 2019 season. Kmet is everything that Bears fans wanted Adam Shaheen to be and then some. He finished last season with 43 catches and over 600 yards with six touchdowns.
When cutting the tape on Kmet, the first thing that jumps out is how physical he is at the point of attack. In addition to being an elite pass-catching tight end, Kmet can block with the best of them. He has great hands and is a tough tackle unless you bring a couple of teammates with you. In my opinion, this is the closest Gronk prototype the NFL has seen since the man himself. Bringing in a guy like Cole Kmet knowing that Graham is a two-year rental makes all of the sense in the world. Why wait until a later round to address the position when you know you have a sure thing in Cole Kmet?
Since 2005, every starting Notre Dame Tight End has been drafted. Notre Dame is Tight End University, and Cole Kmet is just the latest graduate and potentially the best of the bunch. If he still available at 43 or 50, this is a safe pick that would put Kmet under the guidance of Jimmy Graham, who has historically produced great seasons at the position.
Lloyd Cushenberry III (6'3 312 lbs, OL, LSU)
The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft saw no shortage of former LSU Tigers selected. The second round could be similar, as a handful of Tigers are still available. One of the top offensive linemen left on the board is Lloyd Cushenberry. Hype surrounds him for a multitude of different reasons, but it starts with his versatility. Cushenberry can play center and guard, doing both at a high level. The Bears' offensive line was abysmal last season and, for the most part, all still cashed in on big contracts. The most logical resolution is to bring in an offensive lineman in this year's draft.
Upon reviewing Cushenberry's tape, the first thing that stands out is his physicality, speed, and footwork. He is physical at the point of attack, gets to the second level in a hurry, and most importantly finishes his blocks. Cushenberry was the anchor of a National Champion offensive line that helped drive one of the most productive offensive units in college football history and protected Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Cushenberry played in the SEC against NFL-level talent every week and would be able to compete for a starting spot right out of the gates. As highlighted earlier, his ability to play guard and center only increases his value and makes it a more valuable pick for Pace and the Bears.
Josh Jones (6'5 319 lbs, OL, University of Houston)
Houston product Josh Jones has the size, footwork, and motor of an NFL interior lineman. His tape reveals that he has a firm base when in pass pro and employs sound footwork to make sure his quarterback has a nice big pocket to throw from. For those who doubt Jones because he played at a "Group of 5" School, I leave you with this.
Jones has a high motor and diligently finishes his blocks. He has shown the ability to get out in space and make key blocks downfield. Jones also had a great Senior Bowl week, which is huge for a small-school prospect. He was able to make two lasting impressions on scouts at the NFL Combine and the Senior Bowl. Realistically, Jones could fall to the Bears at picks 43 and 50, and he would be a great addition to an offensive line that lacked production last season.
Chase Claypool (6'4 238 lbs WR, Notre Dame)
There are a handful of top receivers left on the board for today, but none are more intriguing then Chase Claypool out of Notre Dame. Claypool was the beneficiary of a phenomenal NFL Combine performance in which he clocked a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, produced 19 reps on the bench, and leaped a 40.5-inch vertical jump. Claypool's combine performance landed him with quite some elite company.
Claypool also had a productive career at Notre Dame, finishing with 150 receptions, over 2,100 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, and 19 touchdowns. Claypool is an elite blocking wide receiver, he can run the whole route tree, and he has an insane catch radius matched with the ability to win the 50/50 ball. Claypool has above average size for an NFL receiver, he played at an elite level in college, and he performed well in the combine. If available at 43 or even 50, Claypool would be an absolute steal for the Bears.
The fact of the matter is that the Bears hold two picks tonight as it currently stands. Plenty of talent is available at their positions of need, so the mindset going into tonight should be "stick and pick." The Bears have the chance to address some dire needs, so they cannot afford to get "cute" with these picks. It should be an exciting night that sees the Chicago Bears select players who can make an instant impact on the 2020 season if done correctly.