2017 NFL Draft: Ranking Chicago Bears’ Top Needs After Free Agency
After a busy-but-underwhelming free agency period, the Chicago Bears still have some significant needs to fill when the 2017 NFL Draft rolls around in late April.
The Chicago Bears went into this offseason with some serious ground to gain. However, after spending loads of money via free agency, they still find themselves with numerous needs that must be addressed during the 2017 NFL Draft.
Obviously they filled the Jay-Cutler-sized void at quarterback with the signing of Mike Glennon. They even attempted to make up for the departure of Alshon Jeffery, although I’m not convinced their replacements are capable of making up the production. The Bears are also dealing with a number of issues on the defensive side of the ball.
With free agency all but over, the options to fill their needs are limited at this point. That’s why it’s time for Chicago to turn its attention to the draft, which has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. The Bears currently own seven picks with which to make progress towards being a team worth taking seriously.
With free agency nearly over and the 2017 NFL Draft just over a month away, let’s take an updated look at the Bears’ top five needs. It’s not like they made all of the upgrades they needed since free agency began back on March 9.
Current depth chart (in projected order): Tracy Porter, Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Marcus Cooper, Sherrick McManus
Yes, some free agent additions at cornerback certainly gave the position a little life heading into 2017. Prince Amukamara should serve as a quality starter throughout the season, and I’m a fan of Marcus Cooper as a strong subpackage player with a knack for creating turnovers.
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Still, even with other players like Tracy Porter and Bryce Callahan also available, the position could use some further reinforcements. The jury is still out on youngsters like Cre’von LeBlanc and Deiondre’ Hall, and no one is sure what to expect from Kyle Fuller after he allegedly threw in the towel last season. As for Sherrick McManus, he could become a cap casualty in the near future.
So why not add another young option to the mix? This defense needs to get younger and healthier instead of relying on aging, injury-prone veterans to get the job done. It’s not like the Bears have much to lose after a miserable 2016 campaign that resulted in a 3-13 finish.
The 2017 draft class is overflowing with cornerback talent. As a result, there should be some serious talent still available at the position during the middle rounds. It would be in the Bears’ interests to spend one of their Day 3 picks at the position–you can never have too many capable cornerbacks in today’s NFL.
Current depth chart (in projected order): Mike Glennon, David Fales, Connor Shaw
Once Jay Cutler was shown the door, the Bears immediately turned their attention to overpaying for Glennon. Although I don’t believe the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter will be a bust, I’m not sure if he’s the long-term answer Chicago paid him to be.
On top of that, the depth at quarterback isn’t any better. While I’m a fan of David Fales, it’s become clear he’s nothing more than a decent backup option with limited upside. As for Connor Shaw, he’s in a similar situation in that he realistically can’t be counted on for much more than emergency snaps.
Hence, the Bears need some new faces under center. Especially if Glennon doesn’t pan out as the long-term starter, Chicago needs a young, high-upside signal caller to fall back on in a year or two. While I wouldn’t go as far as spending a first-round pick at the position, a Day 2 selection on a quarterback wouldn’t be the worst idea.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about this quarterback class, especially in the first tier of talent. If one of the top three quarterbacks slides to the top of the second, it wouldn’t be crazy to imagine the Bears scooping them up and developing them as the eventual starter.
3. Defensive End
Current depth chart (in projected order): Akiem Hicks, Mitch Unrein, Jonathan Bullard, Ego Ferguson, C.J. Wilson
Let’s be honest–the Bears’ current defensive ends aren’t all that impressive. Hicks is an exceptional starter on the right side, but the rest of the talent up front is far from impressive. Put simply, another capable playmaker is needed moving forward.
Sure, Chicago could continue to settle on Unrein as the starter opposite Hicks. However, he’s coming off another subpar season during which he failed to make a significant impact as a pass rusher. He can hold his own in the ground game, but is too one-dimensional to help this Bears defense get over the hump. What we saw from Bullard as a rookie didn’t inspire much confidence.
As it happens, there should be a couple of options for Chicago to make an upgrade with the No. 3 overall pick. Chances are both Solomon Thomas and Jonathan Allen will be available at this point, leaving the Bears with their pick of the top defensive linemen—outside of Myles Garrett, of course.
As I mocked earlier this month, Thomas seems like the guy for Chicago at No. 3. I can assure you he’d be a welcomed addition in the Windy City, and one who could immediately give this defensive line a spark it hasn’t seen in years.
2. Offensive Tackle
Current depth chart (in projected order): Charles Leno (LT), Bobby Massie (RT), Tom Compton (RT), William Poehls (LT)
At this moment, the Bears currently boast two serviceable starters at offensive tackle. Unfortunately, neither is exactly a plus starter, and the depth on the edges of the front five is even worse heading into 2017.
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Chicago added Tom Compton during free agency to provide some flexibility. Based on what we’ve seen from him, though, he’s little more than a decent backup and wouldn’t be a reliable long-term starter if Charles Leno or Bobby Massie went down with an injury. As for William Poehls, he’s still a huge work in progress who likely isn’t ready to see significant snaps.
There are still a couple of candidates available on the open market. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago simply waited until the draft to address the position. And yet, that also carries its fair share of issues considering how thin the 2017 offensive tackle class is.
If a quarterback doesn’t work out in Day 2, the Bears could easily grab the best offensive tackle available. In that situation, they’ll find themselves a talent who can push Leno and Massie for a starting job early. At the least, Chicago gets a young, hungry blocker who can step up in a pinch if injuries start to pile up.
1. Wide Receiver
Current depth chart (in projected order): Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy
After the Bears lost Jeffery during free agency, they took a number of fliers to alleviate their need at the position. However, based on what they currently have available at wide receiver, I’m convinced they still need more help.
Especially if Chicago wants Glennon to succeed under center, they need to give him as many weapons as possible. I can assure you that relying on Kevin White, Cameron Meredith and Kendall Wright isn’t an ideal situation to be in. The Bears absolutely must add a high-upside prospect out wide to take some of the pressure off this rebuilding offense.
That’s not to say what they currently have can’t keep the passing game afloat. Meredith was a pleasant surprise a year ago, and White has flashed potential when healthy. Even Wright has shown starting-caliber ability, but watched his stock steadily drop during his five years with the Tennessee Titans.
The Bears could use a developmental talent with the upside to grow into a true No. 1 receiver. Luckily for them, this class is loaded with capable pass catchers with the tools to make that type of impact at the next level.