2021 NFL draft grades: Experts are loving what the Bears did

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Alyssa Barbieri
·9 min read
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The 2021 NFL draft is officially in the books, and the Chicago Bears came out of it with some great prospects, including their potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields.

General manager Ryan Pace was praised for his selections of Fields and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins in the first two rounds, and Pace finished off Day 3 with some great value picks that have experts everywhere singing his praises.

Here’s a collection of all of the grades for the Bears’ draft class from various sports outlets and, spoiler alert, everyone thinks Chicago won this draft.

NFL.com: A

What they said:

The Bears have needed a playmaking quarterback for decades. Trading up to land Fields was well worth the price. Upgrading the offensive line was also a priority, so trading up for a player of Jenkins’ caliber at a reasonable price made sense. Borom was a solid selection in the fifth round because of his pure power coming off the ball. He could work his way into a contributing role. Herbert will make plays as a rusher and receiver for the Bears as a rookie. Newsome is a solid late-round receiver who brings toughness and elusiveness rather than pure speed. Graham could be a good third or fourth corner in 2021. When Tonga plays low, his width and foot quickness make him a tough ask for offensive linemen.

ESPN: B+

What they said:

What a move by the Bears, trading up for Justin Fields. I love the kid. You can read more of my thoughts in my post-Round 1 column, but this is a young quarterback with absolute star potential. Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are under pressure, and they needed to make a big move to get a frustrated fan base off their back. The Mitchell Trubisky pick didn't work out, but Fields is going to be an upgrade. This makes them better in 2021 and beyond. I have to give them a good grade here, even though they gave up some big-time picks (Nos. 20 and 164 this year, plus a first- and fourth-round pick in 2022) to move up. Elsewhere, Pace & Co. got an instant right tackle starter in Teven Jenkins (39), who I had pegged to the Bears in Round 1 in a couple of my mock drafts. It was a clear need for them, and they got him in the second round. Chicago's next pick wasn't until Round 5, but Larry Borom (151) is the type of swing tackle prospect that makes sense on Day 3. Their other picks afterward were late-round grades for me.

Pro Football Focus: A+

What they said:

Day 1: The Bears underwhelmed when they settled for Andy Dalton earlier in the offseason, but they redressed the situation with an aggressive move for Justin Fields, the No. 3 player on PFF’s Big Board. Fields has special talent and back-to-back seasons with a 91.0-plus PFF grade. His ceiling is as high as any passer in this draft, and he’s a real threat in the run game. Day 2: Buried in the celebrations of Chicago selecting quarterback Justin Fields was the state of the team’s offensive line on paper, but the Bears are making a major move to address that with a trade-up for Teven Jenkins. One of the best run blockers in the draft, Jenkins also pass-blocked well but had an extremely limited number of true pass-blocking plays to judge from. Day 3: Thomas Graham Jr. opted out of the 2020 season, but it is still surprising to see him drop this far, given that he has three seasons of quality play as a starter on tape. He earned 80.0-plus PFF grades in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons for Oregon and has a versatile, scheme-diverse skill set.

Sports Illustrated: A-

What they said:

There is a loud segment of the Bears fanbase that was wary about Ryan Pace making yet another franchise altering decision, and certainly the argument can be made that selecting Justin Fields is nothing more than the desperate flailing of someone trying to punch their way out of the scrap heap. I would argue the opposite. Pace drafted the polar opposite of Mitch Trubisky and, hopefully, refined his personal process during that time. Some of the league’s best general managers have made horrific drafting mistakes and went on to have successful careers. Playing the board like they did and landing Justin Fields, who could end up being the second-most talented player in this class, may be a springboard into a fine second act for the GM. While the Bears finds themselves backed against the wall equity-wise for a deeper draft in 2022, they hoarded offensive line talent from the 2021 draft’s remaining strength and will turn over two outsized tackles to O-line coach Juan Castillo. The Bears, who have made the playoffs twice during the Matt Nagy era while limping offensively, now have a transformed offense with a mobility component at the quarterback position that can transform even a middling weapon set.

USA Today: A

What they said:

It’s not often that NFL personnel executives survive to make two bold draft moves for a quarterback, but apparently Ryan Pace is the Rasputin of GMs. Four years after his failed gambit for QB Mitchell Trubisky, who’s now in Buffalo, Pace successfully maneuvered Thursday for Justin Fields – who looks to be an infinitely better prospect than Trubisky and arguably the steal of this draft. Less notable but perhaps as important, Pace also traded up for RT Teven Jenkins in the second round. Of course Pace, now without his first- and fourth-rounder in 2022, better be right.

The Ringer: A+

What they said:

The Bears went with quality over quantity, trading up twice over the draft’s first two days to nab a pair of instant-impact players in Fields and Jenkins. Fields has the potential to change the entire trajectory of the franchise, as his abilities as a dual-threat passer make him well worth the cost Chicago paid to move up and take him. And despite the Bears saying Andy Dalton remains their starter heading into the season, I expect that Fields will get the keys to the offense sooner rather than later. Jenkins, meanwhile, is a physical and feisty right tackle who brings first-round talent to this offensive line. The arrow is pointing up in Chicago.

Draft Wire: A

What they said:

This class had a strong chance of earning a strong grade after the first pick, but the Bears made back-to-back bold moves to steal top talent with Justin Fields in the first round and Teven Jenkins in the second. Without a pick in the third or fourth rounds, it was important for them to find value in the sixth and seventh, and they did just that with four straight bargain picks (Khalil Herbert, Dazz Newsome, Thomas Graham Jr., Khyiris Tonga). This all comes back to Fields, though, as the Bears got the steal of the entire first round with this year’s second-best quarterback.

Sporting News: A

What they said:

The trade up for Fields was a shrewd move for pressured GM Ryan Pace, without giving up the farm. He is the special dual threat who can help solve QB for Chicago in the right way for a long time. They also landed a first-round pedigreed starting right tackle in Jenkins and the big-time slot receiver upgrade in Newsome, an absolute late-round steal.

The Draft Network: A+

What they said:

Justin Fields is going to be a stud. Stop listening to the trolls and casuals, and turn on the College Football Player semifinal game against Clemson this year and you tell me how you feel about him as a prospect. Fields slander is a lazy—and yet, unsurprising—take. Oh, and general manager Ryan Pace took Teven Jenkins? Yeah, A+ here.

Pro Football Network: A+

What they said:

After trading up to secure the quarterback of the future, the Chicago Bears were off to a great start. Adding Teven Jenkins provides protection for Justin Fields, and the Bears also added some great value in the later rounds.

Touchdown Wire: A

What they said:

The Bears traded up from 20 to 11 to try and reverse a quarterback curse that goes back to Sid Luckman and the end of World War II by selecting Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Beyond all the garbage analysts were putting out about Fields before the draft, he might be the best prospect at the position outside of Trevor Lawrence, and he should thrive in Matt Nagy’s motion-heavy, RPO-centric passing game. Offensive line was also a need, and the Bears selected Oklahoma State’s Tevin Jenkins, perhaps the predominant ass-kicker in this class, in the second round. Jenkins will eliminate anyone directly in front of him, but will struggle around the arc and when mirroring quicker edge-rushers. This may force a move to guard over time, but this is a good spot for him. General manager Ryan Pace, who’s pretty much fighting to keep his job at this point, also got two third-day steals — Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert in the sixth round, and BYU defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga in the seventh. The Bears went up in the draft when they needed to, and hung around to pick players where they belonged otherwise, and that’s all you can ask for.

Bears Wire: A

What they said:

While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves before any of these players actually hit the field, it’s hard not to wonder if, when all is said and done, this winds up being one of Pace’s better draft classes. Not only did the Bears land two of the top-rated prospects in this draft class in the first two rounds in quarterback Justin Fields and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, but Pace found some great value picks in the later rounds, which is where he tends to find some of those late-round gems.

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