CHICAGO (AP) For the past two years, the Chicago Bears have struggled all over the field.
Finding a pass rusher to pressure quarterbacks, as well as a defensive tackle, a linebacker or defensive back to cover a receiver would seem to be the logical ways for the Bears to go with the No. 7 pick on Thursday.
Except when it comes to this draft, wide receiver is among the deepest position. And the Bears have a big need there, too.
Which way will they go?
”That’s a great question because I think it’s a right question, and it depends on how their board lays out,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.
There are so many ways Chicago can go after going 5-11 and making major changes.
Here are some things to know going into the draft, which is being held in Chicago:
NEW DECISION-MAKERS: They hired general manager Ryan Pace out of New Orleans’ front office and coach John Fox after he was let go by Denver to replace the fired Phil Emery and Marc Trestman. The Bears have new offensive and defensive coordinators in Adam Gase and Vic Fangio, and they are moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 front on defense.
DEFENSE OR RECEIVER?: The Bears have a long list of needs that they only started to address in free agency. The draft is the next step, and it’s a big one for a franchise with too many misses in recent years under Emery and his predecessor, Jerry Angelo.
Defense would certainly be a logical path considering the Bears gave up the two highest point totals in franchise history the past two seasons. But they could use another play-making receiver to go with Alshon Jeffery after trading Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets.
RECEIVER POSSIBILITIES: How about Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White?
A Heisman Trophy finalist and SEC Player of the Year as a junior last season, Cooper led the nation in receptions (124) and finished second in yards (1,727) and touchdown receptions (16). White had a strong senior season, finishing third in the nation with 109 receptions and sixth in yards receiving with 1,447.
Cooper or White could team with Jeffery in a dynamic tandem, with newcomer Eddie Royal and the unproven Marquess Wilson.
”If one of those two wideouts were available and you’re trying to outscore some people, I’d have zero problem with that,” Mayock said.
”But you’ve got to compare it, like for instance if Amari Cooper is there and he’s your No. 2 player on the board and the highest-rated defensive player is seven, you’re probably thinking about taking No. 2 because he’s a better football player obviously than No. 7.
”I think people might be surprised if they go wideout there, but I would not be.”
BOOSTING DEFENSE: While the Bears have a need at receiver, it’s no secret they have big needs on defense the way they struggled the past two years under Mel Tucker.
The Monsters of the Midway gave up 442 points last season, the second-most in franchise history. The club record? They set that in 2013 when they allowed 478. Chicago also joined the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons last season as the only teams to give up 50 points or more in back-to-back games.
Only one team (Oakland) gave up more points and two (Atlanta and New Orleans) allowed more yards per game than Chicago.
Do they go with Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton at No. 7?
Will Southern California defensive end Leonard Williams be available? What about Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley or Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.? How about Missouri defensive end Shane Ray?
ADDING A QB: ESPN analyst Jon Gruden would like to see the Bears draft a potential replacement for quarterback Jay Cutler. And if Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon slips, that could give Chicago another option at No. 7.
Cutler’s future with the Bears beyond next season is murky. Emery signed him to a seven-year contract worth $54 million guaranteed last offseason, thinking he would hold that position for years. But Pace and Fox declined to endorse Cutler before they finally announced in March that he was in the plans for next season.
”Chicago, given the contract that Jay Cutler has, should consider looking for a young arm that has a bright future as a Bear,” Gruden said. ”The body language of the Bear football team wasn’t good last year. Oftentimes, that’s a reflection of the quarterback.”
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