Which one of the Chicago Bears’ rookies will have the biggest impact?
A couple of days ago, the Chicago Bears revealed photos of many of their rookies in their new jerseys. The intent was to get fans excited about the upcoming season and the newest crop of Monsters. Well, mission accomplished, because it worked.
It also got the wheels turning, which led to the question, which member of the 2020 NFL Draft class will have the biggest impact this season?
We tackle that question, but the answer will almost certainly surprise you. However, there are a couple of legitimate reasons why I landed where I did, so bear with me while I explain.
First, let’s take a look at the candidates. To begin, I did not include every draft pick but attempted to focus on the realistic candidates. Therefore, I left the pair of seventh-round picks off the list. I also omitted cornerback Kindle Vildor, as he has more obstacles in front of him than the other candidates, including fellow rookie Jaylon Johnson.
The case for Cole Kmet
Kmet might be the popular pick, but he’s not the correct choice. Sure he was the highest selection, taken No. 43 overall in the second round. However, rookie tight ends are historically underperformers in their first season. For whatever reason, it is rare for them to make meaningful contributions. Moreover, you have a shortened preseason in which Kmet will have to take snaps from two different quarterbacks. Not only will he have an accelerated timeline within which to master the offense, but he’ll have to develop a rapport with whomever the starting quarterback in limited snaps.
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The case for Jaylon Johnson
I’m actually incredibly high on Jaylon Johnson. He was terrific value in the second round (pick No. 50). In fact, if he stays healthy, he could have the best career of all of the rookies. However, I think it will take some time for him to supplant Kevin Toliver as the starting cornerback opposite Kyle Fuller.
Johnson is definitely the more talented player, but it will take some time to learn the defense and terminology. Again, this is tough to do with a very abridged preseason. But Johnson has a high football IQ and it won’t take him long to win the job. I predict Johnson will have a very solid year as the second CB, but productivity will be limited by not starting out of the gate.
The case for Darnell Mooney
Darnell Mooney is definitely the sleeper pick. He’s got speed for days, which the Bears need having released speedster Taylor Gabriel this past offseason. The team will need someone to step into that role and take the top off the defense. However, they did sign veteran Ted Ginn Jr., who still has burners himself. The Bears might choose to lean on the savvy vet over the inexperienced rookie in a make or break year for the staff, but Mooney will definitely be a candidate for a couple of big-time plays.
The case for Trevis Gipson
Alright, this may officially count as a ‘hot take’ but my prediction for the rookie who will have the biggest impact this year is edge rusher, Trevis Gipson.
Whereas the lack of a preseason hinders some of the other players, it does not work against Gipson in the same way. Gipson will be used as a situational pass rusher, much the same way Aaron Lynch was. His job will be simple — get to the quarterback. He knows how to do that. He’s been doing it for years. He won’t necessarily need to know the intricacies of the defense to do that.
Look at the impact Khalil Mack had in his first game with the Bears after missing almost all of the preseason. He wreaked havoc on the quarterback. Why? Because he is a dominant pass rusher, and not because he had an in-depth knowledge of the scheme. Now I’m not comparing Gipson to Mack, but rather highlighting that his success won’t be entirely dependent on knowledge of the scheme.
Moreover, Gipson will have the benefit of learning from Mack and Robert Quinn this preseason and will be the benefactor of facing an offensive line that has had to battle with those two monsters for most of the game. It is not unreasonable to think Gipson could rack up a handful of sacks in mop-up duty considering his speed and athleticism. That is why he is my pick for the rookie who will have the biggest impact this season.