Gabriel: Analyzing Fit Of Bears' Draft Class

The Bears added several players who should contribute soon.

Greg Gabriel
April 29, 2019 - 3:04 pm
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(670 The Score) When an NFL team enters a draft without a first- or second-round pick, it can be difficult to find instant contributors, let alone starters.

Such was the case the Bears found themselves in this year. As we analyze how they fared, I believe they added three players who will contribute as rookies and two others who will need development before they're ready for the big stage. Let's break down the selections.

3rd round, No. 73 overall: David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

I had Montgomery rated as the third-best running back in this class behind Miles Sanders of Penn State and Josh Jacobs of Alabama. Jacobs was drafted by the Raiders the first round at No. 24 overall, while Sanders was chosen by the Eagles in the second round. The only other back I had close to Montgomery’s talent was Darrell Henderson of Memphis, and he was selected a few slots ahead of Montgomery in the third round.

Montgomery is an ideal fit for the Bears offense in that he's a tough inside runner who can create when the hole isn’t there. He has the size and power to get yards after contact and while he didn’t time fast (4.62 at the NFL Combine, 4.57 at his pro day), he plays faster and has a burst to get outside. He's quick-footed and can make defenders miss in tight or in space.

As a receiver, Montgomery is excellent and can adjust to the ball well. If you want a comp, look no further than Kareem Hunt, who was spectacular in this offense when Matt Nagy was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City. The styles of Montgomery and Hunt are similar.

4th round, No. 126 overall: Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia

Receiver wasn’t a primary need for the Bears, but Ridley was too good to pass on. Some analysts projected him to go in the second or third round, so the Bears viewed his addition as a bargain.

Ridley timed a 4.58, but he plays faster and is smooth. He's a good route runner who consistently got separation coming out of cuts because of his good body control and burst. He has excellent hands, with the ability to snatch the ball to make difficult plays. His run-after-the-catch skills are good because of both his instincts and elusiveness.

Ridley reminds of new Bears teammate Allen Robinson when he was coming out of college. They have similar size, speed and athleticism, and their route-running skills as college players was similar.

Being that receiver is already a strength for the Bears, Ridley might not be more than a No. 4 on the depth chart. Still, he has the potential to become a productive starter down the road. If the Bears lose one of their top receivers to injury, they will be glad they have Ridley.

6th round, No. 205 overall: Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State

If you put on Kansas State tape and didn’t know his size, you would think Shelley would be a solid third-round pick. He's quick, fast (4.48), productive (eight career interceptions) and fearless. His problem is his size. At 5-foot-8 1/2 and 175 pounds, Shelley is small. What stands out is he's tough, and his 31.5-inch arms help him play taller than he measures.

Shelley had 56 total tackles in 2017. He then had 33 total tackles in just seven games in 2018, when he missed part of the season with a toe injury.

Shelley is limited to being a slot cornerback because of his size. His game is similar to that of Bryce Callahan, whom the Bears let walk in free agency in March. Shelley will compete with free-agent addition Buster Skrine for the slot cornerback position. Because of his size and positional limitation, Shelly also needs to prove he can be a solid special teams contributor in order to make the team's 53-man roster this season. The worst-case scenario is he's on the practice roster this year.

7th round, No. 222 overall: Kerrith Whyte, RB, Florida Atlantic

Whyte played in a rotation with follow running back draftee Devin Singletary at Florida Atlantic, forming one of the better backfield tandems in the country. Whyte ran for 866 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 10 passes for an additional 160 yards. He also averaged better than 28 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown.

Whyte isn’t big at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, but he's fast and explosive (4.38 speed, 42-inch vertical and 11-foot standing long jump). As a runner, he shows good vision and when he sees a seam, he’s gone. In a way, he's similar to Bears running back Tarik Cohen, though not as elusive. He may have a little better after-contact ability than Cohen.

Where Whyte has to make his mark is as a returner and spot player. It’s obvious that the Bears coaching staff is looking for more speed in the offense just by looking at the player acquisitions this spring. Whyte has the speed and the college production. Now he has to prove's is ready for the NFL.

7th round, No. 238 overall: Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State

The least known member of the Bears' draft class is Denmark, who played at Division-II Valdosta State and wasn't invited to the combine. At the Valdosta pro day, Denmark was exceptional and started to get a lot of interest from around the league. He measured 6-foot-2 1/2 and 220 pounds while running a 4.48. He also had a vertical jump of more than 40 inches. That speed and jumping ability is hard to find for 220-pounders, which caused teams to take a look.

Denmark’s tape is impressive, and he dominated against D-II competition. He’s a physical press cornerback who can play the ball and support the run. By NFL standards, he's raw, so he may need a year on the practice squad. If he shows the physicality in camp that he showed on tape, he may stick as a special teams player. At this time, he's the least likely to make the roster, but he boasts some clear upside.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.