The Chicago Bears didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2019 or 2020 NFL Drafts because of former general manager Ryan Pace’s trade to acquire Khalil Mack. They didn’t have a first-round pick in 2022 because of the trade Pace made in 2021 to move up for Justin Fields. But the lack of first-rounders on the roster doesn’t mean the Bears haven’t made good draft selections in recent years.
The 2020 NFL draft stands out as incredibly successful for the Bears despite not having a top-32 selection. Here’s a recap of their draft haul that year:
Round 2, Pick 43: Cole Kmet, TE
Round 2, Pick 50: Jaylon Johnson, CB
Round 5, Pick 155: Trevis Gipson, Edge
Round 5, Pick 163: Kindle Vildor, CB
Round 5, Pick 173: Darnell Mooney, WR
Round 7, Pick 226: Arlington Hambright, OL
Round 7, Pick 227: Lachavious Simmons, OL
That’s quite the draft class. Four players from the Chicago Bears’ 2020 draft will have significant roles as starters in 2022: Kmet, Johnson, Gipson, and Mooney.
It gets better. Two of those Bears’ draft picks have played so well that they’ve become first-rounders in a 2020 NFL Draft redo by Pro Football Focus: Johnson and Mooney.
Johnson comes off the board at No. 22 to the Minnesota Vikings.
“This selection doesn’t fill the Vikings’ need for a wide receiver to pair with Adam Thielen, but Minnesota has also had a revolving cast of cornerbacks in recent years,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “Johnson has responded well to the No. 1 role he’s been forced into on the outside. There’s still some room for growth, but Johnson has been active at the catch point for Chicago, as his 15.3% forced incompletion rate ranks sixth among 64 cornerbacks with at least 100 targets since 2020.”
Mooney, meanwhile, is the Green Bay Packers’ pick at No. 26.
“Mooney isn’t best suited as the No. 1 option he currently is in Chicago, but he does represent a nice complementary piece to a passing attack that can stress defenses vertically,” Linsey wrote. “Mooney’s 0.4 wins above a replacement since 2020 rank sixth among wide receivers in the draft class — just behind Claypool in Pittsburgh.”
Chicago Bears fans crushed Pace for his missteps during his tenure as general manager. And most of the criticism was warranted. Sure, hitting on picks like Johnson and Mooney is excellent, but missing on quarterback Mitch Trubisky was fatal. He was an absolute train wreck in free agency, too.
Still, the 2020 NFL Draft was good to the Chicago Bears and will continue paying dividends in 2022 and beyond.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today. His NFL Draft and Bears coverage has also been featured on The Draft Network.