The Chicago Bears didn't have any outstanding needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, but they did need depth in some areas, and new blood in others. Although the Bears won last year's NFC North title with a 12-4 record, their early playoff exit, combined with struggles at some positions and some intermittent injuries exposed some minor flaws within Matt Nagy's team.
So the Bears set forth to address those concerns despite having a strong free agent signing period last month. It should be pointed out that Chicago didn't have a first- or second-round pick because of the trades last season that got them Khalil Mack and allowed them to move up to draft Anthony Miller. That could partly explain why it appeared the team took the "best player available" approach instead of fully addressing needs. Here is how I graded the Bears' five-man 2019 draft class.
David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State
3rd Round, 73rd Overall
The Bears made a trade with the New England Patriots to move up from the 87th overall pick to grab Montgomery. The three-year starter in Ames is more of a power back then some may realize. While the Cyclones run a form of the spread offense, Montgomery ran between the tackles on most of his carries. He also posted double the rushing yards (2,925) compared to receiving yards (582), and registered about three-times as many carries (624) to catches (71). Plus all of his collegiate touchdowns (26) came on running plays.
Perhaps Nagy feels that he can mold Montgomery into the type of back that he desires. But we won't know if that can happen until Montgomery takes the field for the Bears. I felt that Ryan Pace was better off taking Florida Atlantic's Devin Singletary with this pick, but Montgomery can still be a contributor in this offense.
Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia
Selection: 4th Round, 126th Overall
This was definitely a "best player available" pick. The Bears aren't exactly hurting at the wide receiver position, especially after signing Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, but perhaps the Bears wanted insurance to some degree due to the injury histories of the aforementioned Miller and Allen Robinson. Ridley's a fast and precise route runner, and he's quite effective as evidenced by the 1,015 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns that he caught for the Bulldogs. He also was teammates with Roquan Smith. But the Bears may have a logjam at the receiver position due to Ridley's selection.
Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State
Selection: 6th Round, 205th Overall
If the Bears wanted a defensive back, they should have taken a safety as they could use a few more of those. They already had plenty of CBs on the roster, and perhaps they wanted some more depth, but safety was a bigger need. But Shelley is a solid player who posted 165 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss, eight interceptions, 31 deflected passes, scored two defensive touchdowns, added a forced fumble, fumble recovery, as well as a sack, all against some of the tougher offenses in college football. He also added 320 kick and punt return yards for good measure. Special teams could be his ticket to a roster spot.
Kerrith Whyte Jr., RB, Florida Atlantic
Selection: 7th Round, 222nd Overall
He's not Singletary but Whyte paired with him on the Owls to form quite the 1-2 punch. Whyte was productive with the touches he got, producing 3,700 all-purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns. Whyte didn't get as much attention as Singletary, nor did he play against the type of competition that Montgomery did. But he's similar to Tarik Cohen in many ways and appears to be an ideal fit for Nagy's offense. In my opinion, this is the Bears' best pick.
Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State
Selection: 7th Round, 238th Overall
This Division II prospect is slightly inexperienced as he only played in 26 games for the Blazers. He posted just 41 tackles, four tackles for a loss, eight pass deflections, two interceptions, and played a little wide receiver (337 receiving yards) at VSU. I'm assuming that the Bears liked what they saw on film because they absolutely should have addressed a need with their final draft pick. Not sure where Denmark fits in on this team but we're about to find out.
The Bears didn't draft a tight end, outside linebacker, or offensive lineman, but they did bring in some talented athletes that will help this team. They could have done a better job of addressing needs, and maybe they could have chosen a kicker. But the Bears have a plan and we just have to be patient until that plan unfolds.
Overall Grade: C
— 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.