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Ranking The Bears: Potential Starters

| July 27th, 2016

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Here are players who could be competing for starting jobs this season.

42. Khari Lee, TE. Most fans didn’t like giving up a 2017 draft pick to acquire Lee, but the Bears like him. He was a solid blocker last year and has potential as a receiver. Most fans underestimate how difficult it is for tight ends to make an impact as rookies but don’t be surprised if he takes a big step up this year.

41. Ego Ferguson, DL. When he played, Ferguson was immovable in the run game, but didn’t provide any pass rush. He was a starter, but they’ve added a lot to the position this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make the team.

40. Sherrick McManis, CB. Should never play defense again but he’s a terrific special teams player.

39. Ka’Deem Carey, RB. A tough runner who keeps his legs churning. Will need to improve on specials and in pass protection to make the team this year.

38. Joshua Bellamy, WR. Made some big plays in the offense and is a quality special teams player. With Marquess Wilson likely to be out all of camp, Bellamy could have an impact on the outside again this year.

37. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB. I don’t expect the fourth-round pick to play a lot in the defense as a rookie but he should make an impact on special teams. Needs to get stronger, but showed good instincts in college and is an above average athlete.

36. Sam Acho, LB. Doesn’t do anything at a very high level, but he’s OK at everything. A solid defensive player and a quality special teams player. Still might have a hard time making the final roster.

35. Jordan Howard, RB. One of the most powerful runners in the draft. Showed good vision and was productive.

34. Deiondr√© Hall, CB. The fourth round rookie has a lot of qualities the Bears look for in their defensive players. He’s been compared quite often to Peanut Tillman. I have to see him play in the NFL before I put him on track for the HoF.

33. Hroniss Grasu, C. Maybe his struggles were because he was a rookie? Maybe he just can’t play? We’ll know after this year. The fact that he struggled wasn’t a complete surprise. We saw in preseason that he wasn’t strong enough. He’s supposedly stronger this year but we won’t really know until the pads come on.

32. Harold Jones-Quartey, S. I’m not sure if he has the speed to be a great safety, but he’s an explosive athlete who can hit. Considering the level of college he was coming from he should have redshirted. He did show the ability to make plays late in the year.

31. Deon Bush, S. It shouldn’t be a surprise if the fourth round rookie from Miami starts and, even if he doesn’t, I expect him to play a lot. He’s a terrific athlete who packed a punch in college.

30. Marc Mariani, WR. He was better as a receiver than he was as a return man last year. Mariani has glue hands and consistently made first down catches on third down. Has made the Pro Bowl as a return man, but was horrible in that role for the Bears.

29. Brian Hoyer, QB. If not for a horrendous showing in their playoff game, Hoyer would still be the Texans starting quarterback. He’s one of the better backups in the league, having thrown 31 touchdowns the last two seasons.

28. Bryce Callahan, CB. I’m a bit conservative on Callahan because I want to see more. What we did see last year was an aggressive and athletic player who made the defense better just by being on the field.

27. Ted Larsen, C/OG. Larsen has never been an ideal starter, but he has started a lot of games. At the very least, he won’t kill the Bears if he’s in the game, which is a pretty big upgrade from what they had going on last year.

26. Will Sutton, DL. There have been some who have suggested that an early-season elbow injury was a problem for Sutton all year. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now because of how well he played before he injured the elbow.

25. Mitch Unrein, DL. All of the team’s defensive linemen ranked below Unrein have major question marks, but I know what Unrein is. He’s going to hold his spot at the point of attack and can occasionally chase the quarterback, although he’s unlikely to ever actually get his hands on him. He provided the team’s goal line offense with a boost at fullback too.

24. Marquess Wilson, WR. Wilson made a lot of big plays for the Bears when nobody else was available. When the protection broke down and Cutler had to scramble, Wilson was consistently able to find a hole on the defense for a big play. He struggles with the little things like blocking and doesn’t make any exceptional catches, but there was a significant gap between him as a receiver and the guys behind him. But will his latest injury keep him off the roster?

23. Charles Leno Jr., OT. Leno was fine last year. He was better blocking the run than he got credit for and worse in the pass. He had his ups and his downs, but the Bears were confident enough to leave him on an island most of the time.

22. Cody Whitehair, OG. Considered by many to be the best guard in the draft but some had concerns about his strength. I expect him to start at left guard and be a solid player from Day 1.

21. Tracy Porter, CB. Porter played well last year, but after re-watching all of their games, I came away thinking he wasn’t as good as some thought. He got beat quite often and is a bad tackler, but he made more big plays than anyone else in the secondary. He should start this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hall eventually took his job.

20. Jonathan Bullard, DL. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the field for every key down by the end of the season for the Bears. It’s hard to know what to expect from rookie defensive linemen but Bullard is a very physical player who tested as a great athlete.

19. Bobby Massie, OT. He was really good in the second half of the season for Arizona. He really shut down the Packers’ pass rushers who went against him twice, but has had his fair share of struggles in the past. A powerful run-blocker, who the Bears need to be just good enough in pass protection.

18. Kyle Fuller, CB. Had an awful start to last year, but got better. Had too many mental mistakes. Terrific tackler and has shown ball skills in the past. It’ll be very interesting to see what the Bears coaching staff can do with Fuller. He could still end up being one of the best corners in the league.

17. Robbie Gould, K. Position value puts him down a little. Missed some big kicks last year, but he made some big ones too. Still one of the more accurate kickers in the league when you factor in extra points.

16. Akiem Hicks, DL. Hicks is a bull against the run, but he hasn’t provided much in terms of pass rush. He was at his best when he played less than 50 percent of his team’s snaps. If the Bears can keep him in a rotation, he’ll have more of an impact.

15. Zach Miller, TE. When he started, Miller made a lot of big plays. He’s very athletic and showed really good hands. Just as importantly, he seems to have the trust of his quarterback. He’s an OK blocker, better than he gets credit for, but not great. Can he stay healthy? That’s the biggest question.

14. Jeremy Langford, RB. The potential to be a star is there. Langford has elite burst and good vision, but he needs to get stronger. It isn’t unreasonable to expect that he did so in his first full offseason as a professional.

13. Leonard Floyd, LB. It’s hard to project how much of an impact Floyd will have as a rookie, but I have to believe the Bears wouldn’t have drafted him so high if they didn’t think he was going to play. Early on, I see him as being a passing-down specialist who gives the Bears a lot of versatility with his ability to get after the quarterback and drop into coverage.

12. Lamarr Houston, LB. Had a rough first year with the Bears after signing a big contract and looked like a sure bust halfway through last year, but he finished strong. While he wasn’t able to generate pressure as well as some other guys higher on this list, Houston led the team with eight sacks.

11. Eddie Royal, WR. He couldn’t stay healthy last year, but made plays when he was on the field. Gives the Bears someone who can destroy defenses after the catch.

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