Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet headlines this year's selections
The Chicago Bears, like the rest of the NFC North, had major holes to fill during the 2020 NFL Draft. The Bears were without a first or third-round pick as the final compensation for the Khalil Mack trade and both of their fourth-round picks were part of trades as well, but general manager Ryan Pace did some maneuvering later in the draft to improve his positioning in one instance and to pick up an extra selection in another. In the end, Chicago drafted seven players. Here's how those picks grade out.
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
Round 2, 43rd Overall
Not a single tight end was taken in the first round, so the Bears jumped at the chance to take the one considered by most as the top prospect at the position. After two unproductive seasons, Kmet finally broke through as a junior, posting 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns. He played against some of the best defenses in college football every week while showcasing an ability to make tough catches in double coverage, tight spaces, or in a jump-ball situation. He has appealing speed (4.7 40-yard dash) for his size (6-6, 262) and isn't easy to bring down. Notre Dame has a solid reputation when it comes to producing NFL-caliber tight ends and Kmet has a chance to be the next.
Chicago is not lacking for tight end options, signing both Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris in free agency, along with six others currently on the roster. But last year's starter, Trey Burton, was released prior to the draft and the remaining holdovers have either disappointed with their production or are unproven. A Chicago-area native, Kmet will certainly get his chance to impress and claim a key role in the passing game. I strongly believe that head coach Matt Nagy is already drawing up plays that feature both Kmet and Graham on the field at the same time.
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Round 2, 50th Overall
Safety was a more pressing need than cornerback entering the draft, but no one can fault the Bears for landing a talent like Johnson in the middle of the second round. A player some assigned a first-round grade to, Johnson was highly productive during his three seasons at Utah, collecting 102 tackles, seven interceptions, and 21 pass breakups in 40 games. His long arms allow him to play bigger than his actual size (6-0) and he possesses outstanding athleticism. Part of the reason he fell in the draft is due to some injury concerns, as he had surgery in early March to repair a torn labrum, but there's no questioning his toughness since he played through it this past season. Solid in both coverage and run support, if healthy, Johnson should join the two-deep at cornerback if not get a chance to compete to start opposite Kyle Fuller.
Trevis Gipson, DE/LB, Tulsa
Round 5, 155th Overall
Gipson didn't really start producing for the Golden Hurricane until his final two seasons. But when he finally put it all together, he was quite productive, finishing his time at Tulsa with 114 tackles, 13 sacks, 25.5 tackles for a loss, and eight forced fumbles in 39 games. Gipson's size (6-4, 253) probably has him ticketed to play outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano's 3-4 scheme. While you can never have enough pass rushers, it's perfectly fair to question why Gipson over some of the other options on the board at the time. That is especially the case when you factor in that Ryan Pace had to send a 2021 fourth-round pick to division rival Minnesota to take Gipson in the first place even though they were just eight picks away (No. 163). The Bears obviously like Gipson's potential and upside, but for now, this pick doesn't really move the needle.
Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern
Round 5, 163rd Overall
Another cornerback even though safety was a bigger need entering the draft. Vildor is a small-school corner (played in the Sun Belt) but he held his own in matchups against tougher competition (LSU, Minnesota) his senior year. He finished with nine interceptions and 24 pass breakups in 48 career games and possesses some size (5-11, 190) as well as speed (4.44 40-yard dash). He won't back down from anyone but with so much competition at the position, he'll likely be relegated to special teams duty as a rookie while getting acclimated to the pro level.
Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane
Round 5, 173rd Overall
Speed, hands, and precise route-running are what Mooney brings to the table. He ranks sixth all-time in Tulane history in receiving yards (2,572), eighth in touchdown catches (19), and was part of an offense that averaged 33.1 points per game last season. What he lacks in size (5-11, 174), he makes up with blazing speed (4.38 40-yard dash), and he'll have an opportunity to claim a role as a slot receiver following Taylor Gabriel's departure. Mooney will have a lot to prove, especially given how deep this year's wide receiver class was, but the Bears traded up in the fifth round to get him, so they're hoping he pans out.
Arlington Hambright, OL, Colorado
Round 7, 226th Overall
Offensive line is a group that really needs to improve this season and Chicago waited until the seventh round to address it. Hambright has some size (6-5, 300) but he made several stops (junior college, Oklahoma State, Colorado) during his college career, making just 17 starts in total. He missed half of the 2018 season due to injury.
He displayed power and at times showed a mean streak but he has plenty of work to do when it comes to footwork and his pass-blocking technique. He played tackle in college but could end up at guard. Either way, he's more of a project for new offensive line coach Juan Castillo, but if he takes to instruction well and can make the adjustment to NFL, the Bears might have found another seventh-round steal, just like they did with starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in 2014 (No. 246 overall).
Lachavious Simmons, OL, Tennessee State
Round 7, 227th Overall
Simmons played everywhere on the line in college, except center. Where he winds up remains to be seen but he gives the Bears another big body (6-5, 315) up front. There are plenty of questions about Simmons' readiness for the NFL, who even more so than Kindle Vildor must shake the small-school label since he played for an FCS program that didn't have much success (20-23) during his time there. But his versatility should come in handy for a position group that's under a lot of scrutiny headed into the season with a new position coach calling the shots.
The Bears got the top tight end in the draft and used the limited number of picks they had to address some other needs. They took first-round talents with their second-round picks and may have found some potential diamonds in the rough elsewhere. However, the order in which they addressed some positions is certainly up for debate, as well as the fact that they ignored a couple of others. Ryan Pace also traded valuable draft capital for some of his later selections, so he and Bears fans have to hope those end up working out. It was a productive draft in some ways, but the jury is still very much out on this class.
Overall Grade: B-
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of und.com)