Ronnie Stanley Would Complete the Foundation of the Chicago Bears Offense
Charles Leno is in line to be the Chicago Bears starting left tackle this season. Unless Bobby Massie was signed to be a starting left tackle, he shouldn’t have been, the Bears are still looking for answers for Jay Cutler’s blindside.
More questions than answers are available on the free agent market at this stage of the offseason. Will Beatty is the only realistic option who could come in and start for a season or two, but Beatty is a free agent because of his health. Beatty played in every game from 2012 to 2014, but suffered a broken leg at the end of 2013 and a torn rotator cuff ahead of the 2015 season. He missed all of the 2015 season because of he latter.
Beatty’s health issues have made teams wary of committing to him. Any deal he signs should be incentive-laden while he should go to a roster that isn’t desperate for him to play a full season.
One way or another, the Bears are going to find their starting left tackle during the draft. Picking 11th overall means that the Bears can’t guarantee themselves one of the top tackles. If each of the top two tackles go in the top 10, the Bears will likely need to consider a trade. They will either trade back a few spots before taking Taylor Decker or they will look to pick up a tackle from one of the teams that drafts a tackle ahead of them.
The worst case scenario for the Bears is if the Cleveland Browns take one of the top two tackles in the top 10. If the Browns take Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley, they will either start at right tackle from day one or the Browns will trade Joe Thomas. Thomas won’t come cheap. He will only be worth acquiring for a team that is fully focused on winning the Super Bowl right now. The Bears aren’t in that situation so they couldn’t justify that investment.
If the Browns don’t take a tackle then it is much more likely that the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers or Philadelphia Eagles do. King Dunlap of the Chargers, Joe Staley of the 49ers and even Jason Peters of the Eagles would all be more realistic targets for the Bears in a trade to solve their starting left tackle problem.
Realistically, the Bears can’t hope for Tunsil to fall to them. They can hope for Stanley though.
Stanley is projected to go anywhere between the sixth overall pick and the 15th overall pick in the first round. With the Tennessee Titans rumoured to be looking at potentially moving up for a tackle, the threat for Stanley to go off the board just before the Bears are on the clock is palpable. The Bears themselves could move up slightly to assure themselves of his services as the draft develops.
Ryan Pace and John Fox should be willing to chase Stanley if they must. He would offer them a piece who could be part of a long-term foundation while still offering an immediate impact at a needed position.
The Bears need defensive pieces but Pace did a good job in free agency adding players on that side of the ball. Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathon and Akiem Hicks should be reliable starters in the front seven, lessening the need to address those positions. In this draft, the Bears could focus on adding talented defensive pieces, preferably a cornerback or two, in the second, third and fourth rounds. Stanley in the first round would round out their foundation on offense.
Adding Stanley to the offensive line would give the Bears four projected starters who will be 27 or younger at the beginning of this season. Kyle Long and Bobby Massie are established starters on the right side at this point, while 24-year old Hroniss Grasu is in contention to start at center. Throw in 26-year old Alshon Jeffery and soon-to-be 24-year old Kevin White to give the Bears a foundation on offense that is read to compete now while growing over the coming years.
That is exactly what the Bears need on that side of the ball.
Although Jay Cutler will turn 33 this month, he should be a capable starter over the coming three or four seasons. Cutler is physically gifted and smart enough executing his offense to be relied upon once his physical talent begins to slide. He shouldn’t follow the abrupt and depressing path of Matt Schaub. Cutler prevents the Bears from entering a full-on rebuild and gives them hope as they try to compete in the NFC North.
With Cutler, White and Jeffery, the Bears are still very much built to be a passing offense. Even with the departures of Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, the Bears should gameplan expecting Cutler to be the foundation of their success. That type of offense will perfectly fit Stanley’s skill set.
Stanley is an assignment blocker in the running game. He’ll get to his spot and find the man he’s supposed to find, but there is no impact. He won’t clear out running lanes or locate defenders in space on the second level to lead block for the ball carrier. He is a passive blocker who is hoping to get in the way rather than engage and impose his will. Fixating on his inability as a run blocker would be a mistake though.
As a left tackle, your primary job is to protect the quarterback. While Stanley’s run blocking prevents him from sharing a tier with Tunsil, it’s his pass blocking that separates him from Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin and the other offensive tackles in this class.
On this play, Stanley is facing projected first-round pick Shaq Lawson of Clemson. He makes a mental error to begin the play, staying in his stance long after the ball is snapped. Despite this mistake, something that’s not a constant issue with him, Stanley is able to very comfortably shift his weight and recover to lean on Lawson and push him past his quarterback in the pocket.
It should be mentioned that Lawson isn’t a speed rusher, he is primarily praised for his explosive power rather than his acceleration and ability to bend the edge. Despite that, it’s still a very impressive play from the Notre Dame left tackle.
Stanley is one of the smoothest tackles to come out of the draft in a long time. His feet are as light as a slot receivers and he knows how to use them. He transfers his weight with ease dropping back into his sets while showing comfort setting and resetting his feet to mirror his assignment in space. While he doesn’t possess powerful, painful hands, he does show off quick hands that allow him to control edge rushers and always keep his body between his assignment and his quarterback.
These traits are what make Stanley such an impressive pass blocker. He is the type of player that will be left alone in one-on-one situations in space against dangerous pass rushers on the next level.
Stanley needs to be the Bears’ number one priority in this draft. If he isn’t available when they go on the clock, there will be a plethora of talented defensive players to ease the impact of that loss, but he is the one player who addresses a need while offering a big impact for the short and long term. Based on those criteria, he is a perfect pick for the Bears even if he is an imperfect prospect.