As I got down this list and into the top ten, it struck me that the only player Ryan Pace isn’t responsible for bringing in is Kyle Long. Not only has Pace turned nearly the entire roster over, but he’s brought in almost all of their best players in a short amount of time. And what’s different this year is that some of their best players are actually among the best in the league.
10. Eddie Jackson, S
This is largely a bet on upside. Had he not gotten injured in his final season at Alabama, Jackson would’ve been drafted a lot higher than he was. He has shown the ability to find the ball early in his NFL career and I’m guessing that he’s only going to get better.
9. Roquan Smith, LB
A bit high before he’s had an official NFL practice? Maybe. But Smith is the perfect linebacker for today’s game: fast, heady and packs a punch.
8. Leonard Floyd, Edge
Floyd has shown the ability to dominate when he’s on his game. We just haven’t seen enough of that. I have a hunch that he’s going to breakout this year.
7. Kyle Long, OG
It’s been a few years since Long has actually played at an elite level, but he says he’s ready to go and healthier than he’s been in a long time. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he won’t be great again.
6. Danny Trevathan, LB
It was lost in a little bit of controversy but Trevathan had a great year last year. He isn’t great in any one area, but does a lot of things at a very high level.
5. Tarik Cohen, RB
One of the most explosive players in the NFL, Cohen is playing in an offense that should really play to his strengths. Don’t be shocked if he tallies close to 2,000 all-purpose yards.
4. Cody Whitehair, C
Maybe it was a bit of a down year for Whitehair last year, but he was still really good, all things considered. I think this is the year he takes another step and becomes one of the best centers in the league.
3. Allen Robinson II, WR
It’s been three years since he was dominant, but man was he dominant. I expect Robinson to start a little slow in a new offense, playing with a new quarterback, while coming off of a serious knee injury. But he is one of the few players on the team who can take over a game.
2. Jordan Howard RB
A lot of time has been wasted talking about Howard’s flaws, but through two years he has averaged 4.6 yards per carry and run for 15 touchdowns. He claims he has worked on his hands. If that’s true he’s going to be recognized as one of the three best backs in the league.
1. Akiem Hicks, DL
It’s hard to envision a player being more complete than Hicks was last year. He was dominant against the run and was the team’s best pass rusher. Hicks just doesn’t have a flaw. If the Bears had won more games the last two years, he’d be recognized as one of the five best defensive linemen in the league. His time will come.