Chicago played host to the NFL Draft this weekend for the first time since 1963 and Grant Park was transformed into Draft Town, a football fan’s dream.
While everyone filed into the nearby Auditorium Theatre Thursday night for the draft itself, fans were treated to to a three day event which can only be subscribed as Disneyland for football lovers. There, fans could participate in combine-style events, visit tents hosted by their favorite NFL teams and get autographs from NFL players past and present.
The Bears’ fan base was the most present this weekend, but there was an undeniable camaraderie amongst fans of other teams. Fans from all 32 teams were represented and there was a lot of love shared as they connected in matching jerseys and hats.
There was electricity in the air all weekend. It was palpable. The city of Chicago and the NFL really got this one right. It was a fun, safe, family-friendly event with something for everyone.
A few current Bears were present and held Q&A sessions with fans, including Kyle Long, Martellus Bennett, Robbie Gould and Eddie Royal. They were all smiles and excited to be there repereseting the host franchise. And while the questions remained understandably light-hearted, it was clear this new regime has already been a welcome change.
“The new GM and new coaching staff has a new philosophy on drafting,” Long said in his Q&A.
The current Bears players who spoke at Draft Town were not only energized by the outpour of support from fans, but also by the chance to start over in a new year with a new GM and coaching staff.
“Attitude”, Long said, is the one word that stays on the board in the back of their locker room. One of many areas that will hopefully see drastic change this season.
If the selections the Bears made in the draft this year looked familiar, its because they were. In both 2014 and 2015, the Bears took a defensive tackle in round 2, a running back in round 4 and a safety in round 5. A look at the picks the Bears made this weekend:
Round 1: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
What it means: It means the Bears are still more concerned with finding Jay Cutler weapons in an attempt to save face on their “franchise” quarterback than they are with fixing their defense. White will attempt to fill the void left by Brandon Marshall.
Round 2: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
What it means: The Bears are not confident they have the personnel to transition into a 3-4 defense, but confident enough to pass on a potentially better player at the position in the first round. It also means Ryan Pace and Co. are not confident in Ego Ferguson, last years big, run stopping second round draft pick.
Round 3: Hroniss Grasu, OT, Oregon
What it means: Two offensive players in the first three picks tells me the Bears are still invested in Cutler. It also tells me that Will Montgomery, who was signed in the offseason to replace Roberto Garza, will have competition for the starting job.
Round 4: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
What it means: The Bears already have depth at this position, but it appears Matt Forte’s days in a Bears uniform may be numbered. With Forte’s contract expiring in a year, and John Fox being a fun-first head coach, this could be a look into a future where the Bears are once again defined as a bruising force in the run game.
Round 5: Adrian Amos, S, Penn State
What it means: The Bears have not had luck finding a safety in free agency the last few years, so perhaps they see Amos and last year’s selection Brock Vereen as their young safety core of the future.
Round 6: Tayo Fabuluje, OT, TCU
What it means: Hard to say with a sixth round pick, but it does mean the Bears spend four of their six draft picks on offense. Hey, at least it wasn’t a punter!
I don’t think it makes sense to grade a draft because its impossible to know if these picks pan out until you see them play, but I did not like that the Bears focused so much more on offense than defense. I was surprised, actually, since the defense has been in such shambles and John Fox is a defensive coach. What it does say to me is that Ryan Pace stuck to his guns and went for the best available player instead of stretching for need. Or so it appears. I am more than willing to give Pace the benefit of the doubt in his first draft, if for no other reason, because it couldn’t possibly get worse. Right?