The Bears are one of five NFL teams to receive an "A" grade for their 2016 rookie class from NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Conor Orr.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd showed promise as a dynamic pass rusher off the edge.
"Don't let the Bears' 3-13 record detract from the outstanding performance of their emerging young nucleus," Brooks wrote.
"Fueled by the surprising play of Jordan Howard as the team's [starting running back], the Bears' offense started to make strides as a smashmouth unit. The hard-charging runner churned out 1,313 rushing yards and six touchdowns as a surprise starter. Howard also added 29 receptions for 298 yards and another score.
"Cody Whitehair played a role in [Howard's] success as a rugged blocker at the point of attack. On defense, Leonard Floyd showed promise as a dynamic pass rusher off the edge. If he can avoid injuries and stay on the field, he could be a difference maker on a defense that's beginning to make strides."
Howard, Whitehair and Floyd all were voted to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. Other rookies who were regular contributors for the Bears in 2016 included linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, defensive end Jonathan Bullard, cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc and safety Deon Bush.
The Bears earned an A- from Brooks and Orr, who also assigned top grades to the Falcons (A+), Cowboys (A+) Chiefs (A-) and Chargers (A-).