Conventional wisdom says that the long-term solution to improve any NFL franchise is by building through young players. The Chicago Bears currently have 23 rookies hoping to make the 53-man roster in September. Most of these players won’t be around by then, but some are expected to carry this franchise in the future. Here are five newbies in particular who are expected to make an impact right away.
1. Roquan Smith, LB
Once this year’s eighth overall draft pick officially signs his contract he’s expected to contend for a starting position. Injuries and roster changes have created concerns about depth at the position, and Smith can help relieve some of those concerns.
2. Anthony Miller, WR
His lightning-quick speed, solid hands, and highlight reels from college make him a strong candidate to be a top slot receiver in this offense. Learning this offense however is what he needs to master over the next month to get that opportunity. He’ll also get his chances on special teams.
3. James Daniels, OL
Despite being one of the top centers in college, the Bears are trying the former Iowa standout at guard this year. Perhaps he’ll switch back to center someday, but for now he brings depth to a position that’s been ravaged by injuries over the last couple of years.
4. Kylie Fitts, LB
The sixth-round pick switched back and forth between defensive end and linebacker in college. The Bears are hoping that he can make the switch to being a full-time pass rusher in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's 3-4. Even though he was drafted, being selected in the sixth round means that Fitts isn’t guaranteed a roster spot. So he’ll have to prove he can make the adjustment and give the Bears the depth they need at the position.
5. Bilal Nichols, DT
At Delaware Nichols was earned first-team All-CAA honors. But coming from the FCS ranks, Nichols (6-4, 290) had a distinct physical advantage and the competition isn't considered as fierce compared to the FBS. So Nichols will have to prove that he can take on bigger blockers that played at larger and higher profile programs. Fangio likes to rotate defensive lineman and if Nichols plays his cards right, he can be in that rotation.
-- 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 www.chicagobears.com)