The Bears' top remaining need following their heavy lifting in free agency is an offensive lineman, preferably one who can start at right guard on Day 1 and be groomed as a potential starting OT as early as 2021.
With the 43rd and 50th overall selections, then nothing until No. 163, it'd be an upset if the Bears' short list for the first time they're on the clock doesn't include multiple blockers. That's even after Wednesday's low-risk signing of Seahawks former first-rounder Germain Ifedi, the talented Texas A&M product who remains raw despite logging 4,000-plus snaps — and 50-plus penalties — in his first four seasons.
So before we start digging in more closely with film reviews of potential second-round targets like Cesar Ruiz, Isaiah Wilson, Lloyd Cushenberry, Lucas Niang and Prince Tega-Wanogho, among others, let's review a few of new O-line coach Juan Castillo's previous pupils, where they were drafted and how they've fared.
In Castillo's most recent NFL stint, as Bills O-line coach from 2017-18, they drafted Temple product Dion Dawkins (63rd overall in '17) and Wyatt Teller out of Virginia Tech in the fifth round (No. 166 overall) the following year. We understand "2020 extension watch" locally has focused almost exclusively on Allen Robinson, but in Buffalo, there isn't a player on offense more deserving than Dawkins, who should soon become among the game's higher-paid blind-side blockers, after starting 45 consecutive games and getting better in each of his three seasons, albeit enjoying his
Teller, whom Cleveland traded to Cleveland following Castillo's departure last year, finished 2019 on a strong note with the Browns, starting the final nine games and positioning himself to enter this season as the starting right guard. That after obviously putting enough solid rookie film together in seven starts in Buffalo under Castillo to compel Cleveland into sending fifth- and sixth-rounders to the Bills for Teller's services.
Prior to joining Sean McDermott's Buffalo staff in 2017 — and we must note that McDermott fired him after two seasons — Castillo spent the previous four years in Baltimore, one as run game-coordinator before three as offensive line coach. Over that span, the Ravens Rick Wagner (fifth round) and Ryan Jensen (sixth round) in 2013, John Urschel (fifth round) in 2014, and Ronnie Stanley (first round) and Alex Lewis (fourth round) in 2016.
Although only Stanley and Lewis became productive rookie starters — with Lewis recently signing an extension with the Jets, and Stanley even better positioned than Dawkins to soon earn a massive extension — Jensen and Wagner each developed in part under Castillo into plus pros who commanded top-of-market contracts upon hitting free agency.
Dating back to Castillo's long Philly tenure, he oversaw the careers of several great Eagles offensive linemen, including those who contributed right away, from the first round (Tra Thomas) to the seventh (King Dunlap) and everywhere in between (Winston Justice, Mike McGlynn and Todd Herremans).
Obviously, like the rest of us, Castillo isn't perfect. The former longtime Andy Reid lieutenant was in fact fired by fellow Reid disciples John Harbaugh and Sean McDermott prior to linking up with Matt Nagy. And obviously he wasn't making the final calls in the draft rooms in Baltimore or Buffalo — where Ozzie Newsome and McDermott's opinions matter the most.
But as the Bears' need for O-line help in the draft has magnified by their inaction in free agency, it's nice knowing that Castillo actually has a long track record of coaxing early NFL production from rookie draft picks and youngsters. Who knows, perhaps he can even become the first O-line coach to maximize the 25-year-old Ifedi's potential, which ultimately could minimize the pressure on a rookie.