The Chicago Bears have a quarterback problem. Stop if you’ve heard that (a million times) before. It’s been the case for many years now. It’s not like the team hasn’t tried to fix it. They’ve spent big money and big picks on the position. Jim McMahon, Jim Harbaugh, Cade McNown, Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, and Mitch Trubisky. For one reason or another, none of them lived up to their billing. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. knows this well. He’s watched most of it unfold over the years.
The longtime draft expert spoke with Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-times about the state of the Bears. It was made perfectly clear from the start. Drafting a quarterback is hard enough when you have a top pick. See Trubisky. However, it gets even harder outside the top 10. A place the Bears currently sit in the latest projections (16th).
Their list of options there isn’t great.
He sees Trey Lance of North Dakota State and Mac Jones of Alabama as the two most likely options open to them at that spot. While both have talent, the big concern for each is their lack of experience. Lance started just 17 games at the FCS level. Jones has started only 10 dating back to last year. This makes properly evaluating them difficult. Remember that Trubisky only started 13 games before going pro.
It is for this reason he feels the Bears might want to consider alternatives. Chief among them being a trade to acquire New York Jets starter Sam Darnold. The Jets are on course to draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence #1 overall next April. That will make Darnold available. In Kiper’s mind, he still has plenty to offer. The Bears need to seriously consider taking a look.
“They’re gonna have to trade him,” Kiper said. “That makes it very interesting to teams like the Bears.”
“Every team’s gotta decide, looking at a quarterback: Would you be better off with Sam Darnold than Trey Lance, Sam Darnold than Mac Jones?” Kiper said.
“Would you rather have to give up a 2 and a 4 to get Darnold, and then you [use] a first to help your quarterback?’’
Mel Kiper knows Darnold is a risk but not a crazy one
A few things to remember here. Darnold has played three seasons in the NFL. That experience is valuable. What makes it more enticing is he’s 23-years old. That is the age a lot of rookies are when they reach the NFL. It’s true of Joe Burrow, Carson Wentz, and Ryan Tannehill. For him to still be so young is potentially a big advantage for any team that acquires him.
The big question is obvious. Did the Jets ruin him? Darnold has endured a lot during those three years in New York. He’s absorbed some questionable coaching and taken a ton of hits. He’s yet to finish a full season due to injuries and now is dealing with an injury to his throwing shoulder. The poor guy has looked shellshocked at times. No doubt a result of standing behind a swiss cheese offensive line.
Is his confidence shot?
That is the risk teams are taking in a trade. That they aren’t getting the charismatic and confident kid that came out of USC. They’re getting his shell. That said, the talent is still there. Darnold has a live arm and can make some truly ridiculous throws at times. He’s also quite mobile, able to take off for big runs. It comes down to whether a coach can get him to play with more efficiency.
It also will depend on if the Bears can do any better blocking for him. Their offensive line is just as bad if not worse than the Jets’. They’d have to invest in it heavily after acquiring him, likely using their 1st round pick on the best blocker possible. A lot would have to go according to plan. Something that is rarely the case with this team.
Is Mel Kiper right? Should Darnold be their priority? That will entirely depend on who the GM is at the start of next offseason.