What we're hearing about the Bears' 2019 NFL Draft class

With the help of Bears brass, their scouts and our sources, here's the buzz on Chicago's rookie class — and how we're interpreting it

Last Updated:

With the help of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, three Bears area scouts and our own sources, let's look at each draft pick individually and share what they do best, where they must improve and why they fit in Chicago.

Iowa State RB David Montgomery

The "whole package," according to Matt Nagy, "Montgomery makes defenders miss inside the tackle box. He extends runs with his sheer power. He has a tremendous ability to feel when that next guy is coming, that peripheral vision. And then on top of all that, we've just done so much research on all these guys and we've always talked about high character guys, high character football players that you'd like to go to that as much as you can, and this guy's at the top of the line with that. He has the hands. He's a three-down back. ... He's everything that we're looking for."

Clearly, the Bears are enthralled with Montgomery's three-down skillset, and they weren't dissuaded by his ordinary combine workout. Still, the most logical area where Montgomery, described by Pace as "extremely driven," "professional" and "infectious," must continue to improve is in the passing game.

Area scout Scott Hamel explained that the Bears think it's an "underrated" part of Montgomery's game, that "there are guys in the building there in Ames who think he has the best hands on the team." Nagy singled that out as the first quality he looks for in college backs, but also pointed out the fact that few college teams are running as wide a variety of routes as backs are asked to in the pros.

We expect Montgomery to lead the Bears in rushing as a rookie, but Nagy suggested those with that line of thinking slow their roll, reminding us that Kareem Hunt — whom Montgomery does compare to, Nagy confirmed — only earned his rookie opportunity, parlaying it into a rushing title, following a torn ACL to starter Spencer Ware.

The Chiefs traded up in Round 3 for Hunt, just as the Bears did with Montgomery, but otherwise the situation has some differences, the coach said.

Georgia RB Riley Ridley

Pace said the Bears were surprised to see Ridley on the board at No. 126, the epitome of a best-player-available scenario unfolding. Like Montgomery, his workout won't wow the way his tape does, revealing, "route running, hands, catching radius. Ability to win 50-50 situations. ... When the ball is in the air, he's going to win it."

Although wideouts shouldn't be drafted for their blocking ability in 2019, it's one area our Greg Gabriel higlighted as a weakness for Ridley, who joins a feisty group of Bears wideouts in that department, starting with Allen Robinson.

Ridley's 4.58 speed is what it is, but area scout Sam Summerville thinks their are other traits that can help compensate. "I love this player," Summerville said. "He’s so competitive and he oozes the energy that you like to see. I think he’s going to be a great player."

Ridley's arrival, paired with the signing of UDFA Emanuel Hall, who has Day 2 talent but comes with concerns regarding his durability and willingness to play through nagging injuries, should make the WR position the Bears' most fiercely contested this summer. Think about that for a minute. Within the span of 13 months, Pace turned arguably the NFL's weakest pass-catching corps into a team strength and one that will require some truly difficult decisions.

Javon Wims surely was "estatic" to "rekindle some of that Georgia love" with his ex-Bulldogs teammate, Summerville said. That may be true, but his battle to make the team as a sophomore will now be fought uphill.

Kansas State CB Duke Shelley

Said Pace: "He’s so scrappy. If it’s completed, it’s earned. He’s very sticky in coverage. He’s highly, highly competitive. He’s just very athletic. When you look at his PBUs and his interceptions, they’re coming in a very athletic manner. It’s not gimmies. So I would say his competitiveness and how athletic and how sticky he is in coverage."

The four-year starter with the Wildcats wasn't invited to the combine and had his senior season halted abruptly by a toe injury.

That injury, area scout Breck Ackley explained, wasn't the reason for his combine snub, but Shelley's response to it was a strong indicator of his football character.

"The pro day was a week after the combine, right off the bat, and he had just gotten cleared medically the week before," Ackley said. "So he really didn’t have to run. A lot of these guys won't and they’ll schedule something later, but he wanted to. He said this is my only shot. He was good at his pro day, he pushed through, he had a heck of a workout and that was one of those things that showed his football character, him wanting to do that."

Ackley compared Shelley to Steelers nickel Mike Hilton and the Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman — there's little doubt regarding the role Chicago envisions for him: the potential heir to Buster Skrine, who takes over for Bryce Callahan.

 

Florida Atlantic RB Kerrith Whyte

"Standout speed" is what first pulls you in when studying Whyte, the other FAU running back who caught the Bears eye this draft season. In what felt a bit like a banana in the tailpipe trick after everyone thought the Bears were courting Whyte's teammate Devin Singletary, Pace explains it was the speed and bonus special teams prowess that attracted them to the lesser known of the two.

"We were aware of him, but naturally when you’re watching the tapes, you’re watching two really good running backs, but two different styles and they both jumped out in different ways.
"And I just think his speed just jumps out when you’re watching the tape. And then you throw in the special teams value that he brings, too. I know I feel like with him, that’s one where the scouts, the offensive coaches and the special teams coaches are all excited about, because he brings that kind of versatility."
It's possible, then, that Whyte becomes the emergency KR specialist behind Cordarrelle Patterson and the long-range replacement plan. In the interim, he gives Matt Nagy and s/t coordinator Chris Tabor to sprinkle in this season.
"In my opinion they're all weapons, they can play on every down, you feel good about where they're at, and as coaches we've got to figure out exactly what it is, and then there's only so many touches so we have to balance that," Nagy said. "And that is the difficult part, but it's a lot easier to do when you have that with these types of guys with different strengths."
 

 Valdosta State CB Stephen Denmark
Denmark's "ridiculous measurables," including a 4.48 40-yard dash and 43.5-inch vertical at 6-2 ½ and 220 pounds, make for "tremendous upside, Pace said. They also mitigate any concerns regarding Denmark's limited experience at corner after spending his first two seasons at wide receiver.
So too did Denmark's private workout with personnel man Champ Kelly and new CB coach DeShea Townsend, apparently.
"All we see is a guy with these kind of measurables and this kind of talent, and you turn on the tape and — whoa — it catches your eye. Then we send Deshea and Champ Kelly down there to work him out at Valdosta. And they come back, and they also had the video. We can test him in things we want to see.
"How does he flip his hips? How does he transition? And then on tape, for a guy that just switched to that position, his ability to track the ball—he has ball production, interception production," Pace said. "His ability to stay calm on a deep ball and get his head around with poise and track the ball is very intriguing. So this late in the draft, it’s just a very interesting, intriguing prospect for us to take. I can tell you this: When we go to the rookie minicamp, he’s going to be one of the guys I’m going to be most interested in watching, just because of the traits that he possesses."
Those traits could even make Denmark a future safety, where the Bears depth chart is as full as it as corner, but lacks the same type of promise and current investments. If one player from this draft class is poised for a rookie redshirt, it's Denmark.
But as Pace said, there might not be one who offers more intrigue, especially paired with DB-whispering Chuck Pagano and Townsend, the former Steelers Super Bowl champion junkyard dog.
Pro Football Weekly