Brad Biggs: Cole Kmet and Jaylon Johnson provide the Bears with what they needed Friday — two players who can help them this season

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CHICAGO — The Bears are back to having 10 tight ends on the roster after they used the first of two second-round picks Friday on Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet.

It’s a ridiculous number and reflective of the mess the position has been and the resources the Bears have wasted. The upside is Kmet, a St. Viator High School product and Arlington Heights resident who was chosen 43rd, has the ability to stabilize the depth chart before this starts to resemble the 2019 kicker competition.

Seven picks later on Day 2 of the NFL draft, general manager Ryan Pace added the leading candidate to start at cornerback opposite Kyle Fuller when he chose Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12 who likely would have been a first-round pick had he not undergone surgery on his right shoulder after the scouting combine.

It turned into a good round for Pace, who had been drilling the idea of getting the extra pick from the Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack trade for years. Pace didn’t know at the time of that trade what this round would look like, but with a deep class of talent, the Bears had to know after Round 1 Thursday that they were in a good spot.

One talent evaluator said it was a remarkable draft in terms of depth after the top-tier players, saying it was strong through the middle of Round 3 “before it goes off a cliff.” Pace wound up getting the first tight end in the draft and then the top pick of cornerbacks on Day 2 as there was a predictable run on wide receivers and safeties and two running backs came off the board.

The Bears had a pressing need for a cornerback. They were light on depth and didn’t have a clear starter across from Fuller, with Kevin Toliver and veteran Artie Burns maybe the only two real options. When their pick came at No. 43, the 11th of the round, no one had taken a cornerback, which had to provide confidence that they’d be able to get one at No. 50. So not only was it a strong board entering Day 2, things broke well for the Bears. By staying put, they drafted two players that should be in position for a starting role or significant playing time.

It will be a long wait now — the Bears don’t choose again until the middle of Round 5 at No. 163. Watching more than 100 names come off the board in that span will be tough, but to this point it’s mission accomplished for Pace and coach Matt Nagy. They get a player who can help build a foundation at a position where Jimmy Graham, even if he works out, is only a temporary fix. They also should have a starting cornerback.

Kmet really helped himself at the scouting combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.70 seconds. He has enough quickness to get open in the middle of the field and he’s a very good athlete. He can play the Y position as a blocker or detach from the line of scrimmage and will arrive with a more advanced route tree than most rookies at the position.

He grew up a Bears fan, and his family was thrilled he’ll be even closer to home than he was in South Bend, Ind. His favorite Bears player growing up?

“When I really started to play tight end, it was Greg Olsen for a little bit before they traded him,” Kmet said. “But you know, for me, watching Brian Urlacher was a lot of fun on defense. He was a guy I really loved watching growing up.”

Looking at the position now, the Bears will have three newcomers with Kmet, Graham and Demetrius Harris. Figure they will keep one or two others depending on special teams needs, and it looks completely different than the group that combined for 46 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Johnson helped himself at the combine too, putting up 15 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds with only one good shoulder. He waited until after the showcase to have surgery. When he will be cleared for football action is unknown, but the scouting director for another club said the medical information regarding Johnson wasn’t something considered troubling.

Johnson has good size at 6-foot, 193 pounds, and he’s physical. He’s only the second cornerback the Bears have drafted in the first three rounds since Devin Hester in 2006, and Hester was quickly moved to offense.

The Bears didn’t take care of everything they needed Friday, but that was impossible. But they found two players who can make an impact this season, leaving them with five late picks Saturday to consider a wide receiver, safety and linemen on both sides of the ball.

They’ll be able to clear spots for undrafted free agents, if needed, by trimming a tight end or two now that they have Kmet.


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