Nov 26, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates in the end zone after throwing his second touchdown of the first quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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Yes, the 2016 NFL season isn’t quite over yet but for the Bears, it pretty much looks like it is. They aren’t going to make the playoffs. What they are going to get is a pretty high pick in the draft. With a pick that high, they need to do something valuable with it.
There are several different positions that the Bears could use some help with. In fact, nearly every position on the team is in need of some kind of help. There has been so much attrition with injury that it’s going to be difficult to see who just might be back next year. And how will these returning injured players perform? Will they be able to play at 100%? Those are key questions.
Chicago needs more help than perhaps even they realize. They are going to have to work hard in free agency to pick up some of the talent they are lacking but for a long-term effect, the draft would be a great place for them to go and get some assistance.
General Manager Ryan Pace will be going into his third draft and hasn’t quite found that impact player that most find in their drafts. The jury is still out on Kevin White and Leonard Floyd is getting better but has been stunted by injuries. The best player out of Pace’s drafts, so far, may be Cody Whitehair.
This will be a make or break draft for Pace. If he can’t get several starters (in the near or long-term) out of this draft, he may be a “bust” as a GM. The time for Pace and the Bears is now.
So, what positions are the most in need of help? What positions should they fill through the draft as opposed to free agency?
Let’s take a look at the top five needs for the Bears in the 2017 NFL Draft. These are listed in no particular order. They are easily the five most important areas the Bears could fill in next year’s draft.
Nov 5, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) throws the ball during the forth quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 48-20. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
There are a lot of people out there who believe that long-time starting quarterback Jay Cutler will not be back next season. Depending on who you talk to, he will either be there or won’t be there. Right now the crystal ball is cloudy. If he isn’t there then the Bears need to do something and drafting a quarterback would be a step in the right direction.
The Bears will probably pick in the top five in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. If they want to pick up a quarterback that may be their “franchise” starter then this would be the place to do it. But picking a quarterback in the first round is risky. No matter who has been the general manager in the past for the Bears, they tend to not take big risks. So will they actually pick a quarterback in the first round?
If they do, there are some prospects that could be appealing in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The top three, as it stands right now prior to bowl games, all-star games, the Combine and workouts are (and not in any particular order):
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
DeShaun Watson, Clemson
These are the three quarterbacks that are the most highly ranked by NFL draft experts. The Bears could quite possibly have their choice of any one of these players.
But would it be smart for the Bears to take a quarterback so early? The “bust” potential is high and they definitely don’t want to waste a draft pick. Perhaps a quarterback in the second to fourth round would be a better plan. But who would that player learn behind? A story for a different day.
Nov 11, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Travis Rudolph (15) dives for a third quarter touchdown against the Boston College Eagles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State won 45-7. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports
You must admit, using the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery may not have been a great idea. Granted, no one knew that the Bears would have problems at quarterback or Jeffery would get suspended. But if the Bears can’t work out a long-term deal with him this offseason, they will probably let him walk. That leaves them with a big question mark in Kevin White. Marquess Wilson seems to be perpetually injured and Cameron Meredith is never going to be a number one option.
Granted, a good quarterback should come before a wide receiver but the Bears may be in the market for a receiver and could find one in this draft. Would they take on in the first round? Probably not but a second or third round selection would not be out of the question.
Some of the second to third round rated prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL draft include (in no particular order):
Zay Jones-East Carolina
Curtis Samuel-Ohio State
Travis Rudolph-Florida State
Isaiah Ford-Virginia Tech
Carlos Henderson-Louisiana Tech
Cooper Kupp-Eastern Washington
James Washington-Oklahoma State
Keep an eye on these guys. You never know, the Bears might be interested in someone to throw the ball to even if they aren’t sure who is going to throw it yet. As stated, a lot of this has to do with what they do with Jeffery. They also did draft White last year but he’s been a bit of an injury bust. Could even more new blood help them out?
It will be interesting to see how the “other” receivers do the rest of the season. The performances of guys like Joshua Bellamy and Daniel Braverman may show us what the Bears could do in the draft at this position.
Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (83) dives short of the end zone against Texas A&M Aggies in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
When the Bears traded Martellus Bennett they let one of their best tight ends in a while, go. Zach Miller is nice but he’s not a number one tight end in this league. He is also an injury risk as we have seen yet again this season. The Bears could use someone to throw the ball too that is a threat like a Jimmy Graham or former Bear Greg Olsen. But that tight end needs to be a good blocker as well. That’s a plus.
A dynamic tight end that can stretch defenses is a must. Someone who can block would also help. Remember how Bennett could do that? The perfect package is hard to find but those players are out there.
But in what spot would it be wise for the Bears to take a tight end. That answer could depend on where the Bear’s decide to take a quarterback, or if. Chicago would be guaranteed to take a quarterback somewhere between the first and third rounds of the draft. So, that means a tight end could be taken somewhere in the fourth round or lower.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Bears skip picking a tight end in the first and second round and look at taking one in the third or fourth round. Looking at some of the scouting reports and talent available, I have compiled a list of some tight ends that could be both available and worthy of a third or fourth round selection. Here is the list, in no particular order:
Blake Jarwin-Oklahoma State
Durham Smythe-Notre Dame
Maybe one of these guys could get drafted and help the Bears. It’s clear the Bears could use a tight end and the draft would be an excellent place for them to get one.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; USC Trojans offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (72) blocks Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Quite frankly, Charles Leno Jr. looks like a decent left tackle and while he is solid, he is not spectacular. But good left tackles are hard to come by. They need to be developed. What the Bears really need is a decent right tackle to help them improve their offensive line. The line was a shambles this season due to injury so some starting power or at least some depth could help.
The 2017 NFL Draft will have several promising prospects at the tackle position. There are a few that grade out to second to third rounders and the Bears might be interested in one of them. While Chicago could use a strong right tackle, they may choose to try to upgrade the left tackle position. But, they might be ok with Leno Jr. for at least one more season.
Picking a tackle could be a bit of a stretch but the Bears need some additional depth on their offensive line. It’s worth at least looking at some guys to see who is available.
The most promising tackle prospects that are rated as second/third rounders right now include:
Taylor Moton-Western Michigan
Roderick Johnson-Florida State
Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame
Avery Gennesy-Texas A&M
Chicago’s offensive line is stronger than it looks. There is depth but a little bit more punch at right tackle would help. Perhaps they would even want some depth at the left tackle position. They are set at both guard positions (when health permits) and have some strong players at center. But the tackles could use some work.
Will Chicago do something about that in the next year’s draft?
Jan 1, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (1) and defensive back Marcus Maye (20) combine to tackle Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) during the second quarter in the 2016 Citrus Bowl at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Saying that some new blood here is going to be a little controversial. The Bears have drafted at safety the past two seasons. They have Adrian Amos and now Deon Bush but there have been mixed results. Amos had a nice season last year but has been mediocre, perhaps less, this season and has had some poor performances.
The jury is still out on Bush as he hasn’t played enough to show much yet. Let’s see how he does the rest of the season. It’s been promising but it’s still too early to tell.
Depth at this position is a little sketchy. Harold Jones-Quartey is a solid hitter and plays the run well but isn’t strong in coverage. He is not a starter. Chris Prosinksi is never going to be a starter in the NFL again. His value is on special teams.
This position has been a sticky spot for the Bears for several seasons. If you have noticed, they just can’t seem to get it right. Granted, they haven’t used some their higher draft picks here (first to second rounders) but how many teams spend such a high pick on a safety anymore? There have been some great first round safeties, don’t get me wrong. You have Earl Thomas and the late Sean Taylor both of whom were first rounders. They had a great impact. But you don’t typically build your team around a safety.
Therefore, using a first round pick on one is not a great idea.
Obviously, it would be nice if they could get someone like Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. That won’t happen. There is no way the Bears would use their first-round pick on him. Instead, they could look somewhere between the four and fifth round for a player at the safety position.
Who could be available that the Bears could take in the middle rounds? Who could help bolster their safety position? I came up with a few names that could be of interest. They include:
Lorenzo Jerome-Saint Francis (Pennsylvania)
Honestly, there aren’t a lot of great safeties in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bears may want to skip the position instead of drafting someone. Perhaps they could make due with Bush and Amos? But you never know what they might decide to do. This area may still remain a position of need, like it has for a long time, into the 2017 season.