Mike McGraw ranks the best Bears players of 2020
The 2021 Bears season featured some good times, an unhappy six-game skid and the seventh playoff berth since the Mike Ditka Era ended.
After a full season of Bears film study, let's take what we've learned and use that info to rank the 25 Most Valuable Bears of 2020, in case Ryan Pace and crew need some extra feedback.
1. LB Roquan Smith: With Chuck Pagano retiring, this might be the perfect time to switch to a 4-3 defense and turn Smith loose as a true middle linebacker. He clearly had his best season, ranking second in the league in solo tackles, and the Bears missed him in the playoff game.
2. RB David Montgomery: Running behind a shaky offensive line, Montgomery still managed to finish fifth in the league with 1,070 rushing yards, his receptions more than doubled over his rookie year and he fumbled once in 301 touches. He made the best of limited open space.
3. WR Allen Robinson: His 102 catches rank as the third-best season in Bears history, while his 1,250 yards are sixth. Sure, it would be nice if he was more of a breakaway threat, but Robinson was remarkably productive.
4. OLB Khalil Mack: Yeah, I saw that Pro Football Focus had him as the highest-graded edge rusher in the league. But Mack is supposed to be about creating havoc and turnovers and there wasn't enough of that.
5. DT Akiem Hicks: His elbow injury torpedoed the 2019 season, but his return didn't bring back 2018 form. Hicks was still very good -- his 21 QB pressures led the team -- but at 31, not as dominant as he was.
6. CB Kyle Fuller: This was literally a quiet year for Fuller, who saw just 83 targets (down from 121 in 2018). Teams started out testing the rookie on the other side, then decided to pick on Buster Skrine and Danny Trevathan almost exclusively. Fuller does a nice job of run support.
7. CB Jaylon Johnson: The numbers weren't great, maybe. He gave up a 107.5 passer rating when targeted, but was sixth in the league in passes deflected. The eyes say Johnson had a solid rookie season, and it would be a huge boon to the Bears if they're set long-term at both corners.
8. WR Darnell Mooney: He was able to succeed in a lot of areas this season -- good hands, speed, smart, could block, ran good routes, was a threat as a runner. The fifth-rounder from Tulane already ranks as one of Pace's better draft picks.
9. S Eddie Jackson: Finished third on the team in tackles, but it seemed like Jackson missed opportunities to bring down ball carriers in some key moments. He just wasn't the disrupter he was in past years.
10. LB Danny Trevathan: Against the run, he was solid. Against the pass, offenses sought out Trevathan early and often. His lack of speed in pass coverage is a problem the Bears need to address.
11. DT Bilal Nichols: Maybe the most improved player on the roster, he was second on the team with 5 sacks.
12. S Tashaun Gipson: Considering he was cut by the Texans last year, Gipson performed pretty well for the Bears. He forced one turnover against the Saints on Sunday with a rare blitz and almost got a second one on a pass deflection. Still, an elite safety would be a nice add for the Bears defense in the coming months.
13. TE Jimmy Graham: At 34, Graham stayed productive and finished second on the team with 8 touchdowns.
14. TE Cole Kmet: The jury's probably still out on his potential. He had 28 catches for 243 yards as a rookie, while his blocking skills advanced from bad to OK.
15. QB Mitch Trubisky: Not much has changed since 2018. Trubisky has the talent to make big plays with his arm and legs, but still doesn't see the field as well as he should.
16. KR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson: Led the league in kickoff returns, took one to the house and was a capable No. 2 running back, despite playing receiver most of his career.
17. K Cairo Santos: Not much to complain about -- 30 of 32 field goals, perfect inside the 40 and one missed extra point. All after starting the season as a fill-in for injured Eddy Pineiro.
18. QB Nick Foles: It's probably not fair to point to Foles' 2-6 record as a starter since it seemed like he played against all the good teams, while Trubisky got mostly bad opponents.
19. NB Buster Skrine: Tied for fourth on the team in total tackles, so he clearly made a positive impact. Skrine had a frustrating habit, though, of slipping when a receiver made a sharp cut.
20. (Tie) OL Charles Leno Jr. and Germain Ifedi: No one on the offensive line played great this season, but these guys deserve some credit for leading the team in snaps played with 1,066. Leno was the Bears' best blocker early in the season, then played through an injury and clearly wasn't himself. Ifedi shifted from guard to tackle out of need.
21. OLB Robert Quinn: It's hard to separate production from expectations here. Quinn did plenty of good things, but he was signed as a free agent to give the Bears a devastating pass rush and that didn't happen.
22. C Sam Mustipher: After a year on the practice squad, Mustipher was the team's most pleasant surprise as a fill-in who probably secured the job heading into next year. He's good at double-teaming the nose guard, then bouncing out to seal off a linebacker.
23. OLB Barkevious Mingo: Expectations were low for this top-10 pick turned journeyman. But he played well as the fill-in edge rusher and still has abnormal speed for a guy his size.
24. OL Cody Whitehair: He's had better years, but was reliable while moving from center to guard and coming back from an injury.
25. (Tie) DL Brent Urban and Mario Edwards: Both these guys had a good ratio of impact plays per snap, since neither of them were on the field more than 35 percent of time. The Bears have some free agents to deal with, but the defensive line depth could be good if Eddie Goldman returns in the fall.
• Want to share your thoughts on this list, whether you agree or disagree? Send an email or tweet Mike McGraw at @McGrawDHBulls.