With two-thirds of the 2020 NFL Draft officially in the books, the Chicago Bears, who have traded up or down in every draft since 2016, stayed firm. The Bears had seven picks entering the draft, and many thought GM Ryan Pace would trade one of the team’s two-second rounders in order to acquire more trade capital. He did not.
Instead, Pace and Bears head coach Matt Nagy stayed put, utilizing their two second-round selections on Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet and Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson. The Bears have five remaining picks on Day 3 of the draft, but here’s how we’re grading their first two.
Tight End Cole Kmet
Let me preface this by saying Kmet is a great player. My hope is that as a Chicago-area native and lifelong Bears fan, he proves the naysayers wrong and becomes a Zach Ertz-like player in this league. That’s my hope. But the reality is that the Bears could have selected Grant Delpit and instead they chose a position of need they still could have easily filled in the later rounds.
The Bears chose Kmet at No. 43, and the Browns swooped in and snagged Delpit at 44. Delpit won the 2019 Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back. Kmet is a fine tight end — widely considered to be the best in his class — but with the addition of Kmet, the Bears have 10 tight ends on their roster, which is just mind-boggling to think about.
Still, I’m not giving them a failing grade here because Kmet has an impressive skill set and loads of potential. He’s a legit red zone and third-down threat, and his hands and route-running are solid. He will automatically make the Bears offense a bit more dangerous when he’s in the lineup, and while his impact may not be huge right away, he could very well go on to become a fan favorite in Chicago.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson
A shoulder injury plagued Johnson this past year, but Pace doesn’t seem too concerned about that. Pace told the media he was very comfortable with adding Johnson despite Bears’ team doctors being unable to examine him yet. Johnson had surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder two months ago, but Pace cited the cornerback’s toughness as one of his more prominent traits, and he’s not wrong.
Johnson’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, revealed that Johnson had played through a torn labrum he got back in September, missing just one game on the season. “He wanted to play for his team last season and not let them down,” Hendrickson said, before adding something that should excite Bears fans: “The guy’s tough as nails for fighting through that the whole year, and he wanted to compete at the combine at the highest level.” Johnson did participate at the combine this year and had surgery immediately following the event.
Johnson’s addition to the Bears’ secondary will likely result in his being a full-time starter by the middle of the season — if not by Week 1. He will battle anyone he faces hard on the perimeter, and his long arms make his wingspan absolutely ridiculous. Plus, he has pluck and spunk for days.
As Pace said of Johnson after the pick: “Jaylon has a really good combination of size, athleticism, and awareness. He’s that physical, press corner that uses his size really well. He uses his strength to his advantage, to re-route receivers. Jaylon is a really intelligent player, plays the game with excellent instincts and awareness, and you can see it in the way he plays. And Jaylon’s another guy with outstanding football makeup, really high football character.”
The surgery Johnson had on his shoulder was his third, however, so that is going to be something to watch moving forward. Still, this was an excellent pick for the Bears.