By Michael Fitzpatrick
Trading up to take quarterback Justin Fields at pick No. 11 stole the headlines from the Chicago Bears’ 2021 draft, but general manager Ryan Pace had a very strong draft overall. He filled needs on the offensive line, at receiver, and on the defensive line.
Pace’s best non-Fields pick of the draft was his next one. He traded up to grab offensive tackle Teven Jenkins from Oklahoma State at pick No. 39. Pace was aggressive in getting his guy in the second round and got a tackle who many expected to go in the first round. Per Pro Football Focus, Jenkins’ pass blocked on 1,129 snaps in his career at Oklahoma State and allowed only two sacks.
The offensive line was a weak point for the Bears in 2019. They cut Bobby Massie earlier in the offseason to free up cap space and Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson were expected to battle for the right tackle spot. Immediately after the draft, it seemed as though Jenkins would take over as the starting right tackle. There was a possibility that after starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr.’s contract expired at the end of the 2021 season, Jenkins would shift over to left tackle based on a quote from Pace after the draft.
“That's the great thing about him is he's played both guard spots and both tackle spots there,” Pace said. “There's plenty of left tackle tape, so we feel that he can play both tackle positions, and we've just got to sort through that.”
The Bears expedited the process of moving Jenkins to left tackle by cutting Leno Jr. immediately after the draft. It seems like a risky move for Chicago. Jenkins has minimal experience on that side of the line, and he’s being thrown directly into the fire. Giving him a year of NFL experience at a position he knew seemed ideal, but the Bears have confidence in their second-round pick.
The Bears had to have seen the Cincinnati Bengals let Joe Burrow get beaten to a pulp behind a subpar offensive line last year, but it mustn’t have phased them. Assuming Fields is the Bears’ Week 1 starter next season, they better hope Jenkins is ready to go or Fields will be running for his life.
In addition to Jenkins, Pace grabbing electrifying slot playmaker and return man Dazz Newsome in the sixth round was an outstanding value. With Anthony Miller’s future in the Windy City uncertain, Newsome gives head coach Matt Nagy a big-time playmaker to utilize in the offense. With Tarik Cohen tearing his ACL on a punt return last season, it’s likely the Bears wouldn’t risk losing someone so vital to their offense on special teams again, so Newsome could take over as the return man.
Fields, Jenkins, and Newsome all have the potential to be key building blocks for the future of the Bears offense, and that was quite the haul for Pace in the 2021 draft.