Bears awarded “A-“ grade for 2018 rookie crop

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NFL.com writer Jeremy Bergman has awarded the Bears’ 2018 rookie class an “A-minus,” the top grade among NFC North teams.

Players the Bears chose in last year’s draft were inside linebacker Roquan Smith in Round 1, guard James Daniels and receiver Anthony Miller in Round 2, inside linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe in Round 4, defensive tackle Bilal Nichols in Round 5, outside linebacker Kylie Fitts in Round 6 and receiver Javon Wims in Round 7. An eighth rookie, undrafted cornerback Kevin Toliver II, was also on the 53-man roster.

Smith led the Bears with 121 tackles, three shy of Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher’s rookie record set in 2000. Smith also registered five sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, one interception and five pass breakups while playing in all 16 games with 15 starts. He added a second interception in the Bears’ wild-card playoff loss to the Eagles.

Daniels started the final 10 games at left guard, while Miller led the Bears with seven touchdown receptions, the second most by an NFL rookie behind the Falcons’ Calvin Ridley (10) and the most by a Bears rookie since Willie Gault had eight in 1983.

“Few clubs reaped a better haul from the first two rounds of the 2018 draft than Chicago,” Bergman wrote. “Smith completed a nasty linebacking corps featuring Danny Trevathan and edge rushers Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd, leading the team in tackles (121) and making himself an obvious PFWA All-Rookie honoree. 

“Drafted as a center, Daniels filled in at guard for Eric Kush and started from Week 8 on, holding his own against the likes of Sheldon Richardson and Aaron Donald down the stretch.

“Miller proved a key part of Chicago's revamped receiving corps, leading the team in touchdown receptions (seven) and TD percentage (21.2). A favorite of Mitchell Trubisky's, Miller should be a starter alongside Allen Robinson II in 2019. That trio alone makes this class one of the year's best, regardless of the additions that came afterward.”

Nichols appeared in 14 games with six starts, recording 28 tackles, three sacks, five tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

“Nichols was the only rookie from the last five rounds to stand out in his first season,” Bergman wrote, “racking up as many sacks (three) as interior linemates Roy Robertson-Harris and Eddie Goldman, despite playing fewer defensive snaps than either player.”

Take a look at some of the biggest bear hugs caught on camera from the 2018 Bears defense.

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