Bears' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

Bears' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    It's probably fair to say that the Chicago Bears have had an underwhelming offseason thus far.

    They re-signed players like Mario Edwards Jr., Artie Burns and Allen Robinson II (via the franchise tag), while adding the likes of Damien Williams and Andy Dalton. However, Chicago also parted with starting cornerback Kyle Fuller and swung on and missed Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

    There remains hope, though, that the team could still trade for Wilson.

    "I'm told that the Bears still are paying attention to Russell Wilson and have not abandoned hopes that they could eventually trade for Russell Wilson," ESPN's Adam Schefter recently said on Get Up. "And I think that everybody needs to stay tuned to Russell Wilson's situation up to and during the NFL draft."

    However, the Bears are over the salary cap and unlikely to make any more major moves before the draft. With the start of the draft quickly approaching—Round 1 begins April 29—let's take a look at the biggest needs Chicago should fill during the annual selection process.


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    Kellen Mond
    Kellen MondLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Can Dalton be a serviceable starter for the 2021 season? Sure, but the tandem of Dalton and Nick Foles isn't ideal for the franchise's long-term big picture. It would suit the Bears to target a quarterback of the future now given the depth available at the position in this draft.

    The bad news is that Chicago won't have a crack at one of the draft's top quarterback prospects. They own the 20th pick in the first round, and the San Francisco 49ers' recent trade up to No. 3 virtually guarantees that three or four quarterbacks will be off the board in the round's first half.

    However, Chicago could still take a flier on a signal-caller like Texas A&M's Kellen Mond or Florida's Kyle Trask at the bottom of Round 1 or later.

    The issue with ignoring the quarterback position is this: The 2022 class isn't expected to be particularly strong at the position, and with Dalton under center, the Bears will probably be just good enough to not land a high first-round pick.

    Chicago could look to free agency next year to address the position, but that's the sort of gamble that leads to bringing in a mid-level starter like Dalton.


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    Patrick Surtain II
    Patrick Surtain IIRon Jenkins/Associated Press

    A cornerback should be a viable target in Round 1, as prospects like Alabama's Patrick Surtain II, Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley and South Carolina's Jaycee Horn could be pushed down by an early quarterback run.

    This is a position that Chicago should target early too, as the loss of two-time Pro Bowler Fuller will be felt in the secondary.

    Chicago did bring in veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant, but that isn't the sort of move that will outright replace Fuller in the defense. Trufant appeared in just six games last season and allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 111.3.

    Defense was a team strength for Chicago last season—it ranked 11th in yards allowed. If the Bears hope to keep it a team strength, they need to find a quality replacement for Fuller in the secondary.

Offensive Tackle

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    Rashawn Slater
    Rashawn SlaterCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    With the 20th pick, the Bears aren't likely to have a chance to draft the perceived top tackle prospect, Penei Sewell of Oregon. However, they may be able to trade up for a prospect like Northwestern's Rashawn Slater or grab a guy like Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg.

    Targeting a tackle early would be a smart decision. If the Bears hope to set up Dalton for success, they need to improve their O-line, specifically at left tackle.

    2020 starter Charles Leno Jr. was serviceable at best and was responsible for six penalties and five sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. While Chicago allowed just 36 sacks on the season, its run blocking was also suspect.

    Chicago averaged a mere 4.2 yards per carry as a team, 21st in the NFL. It's past time for the Bears to find their next franchise offensive tackle.

Wide Receiver

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    Elijah Moore
    Elijah MooreRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Dalton and the Bears offense would also benefit from upgrading the receiving corps. While bringing back Robinson on the franchise tag was a great first step, the receiving corps as a whole was underwhelming in 2020.

    Robinson led the team with 1,250 receiving yards. Rookie Darnell Mooney was next among receivers with just 630 receiving yards. As a team, the Bears ranked 22nd in passing yards.

    This is expected to be a deep receiver class, and the Bears should take advantage. Whether that means using a first-round pick on a prospect like Mississippi's Elijah Moore or grabbing a guy like North Carolina's Dyami Brown on Day 2 is a decision the Bears will have to make during the draft.

    However, it would behoove the Bears to add another pass-catcher relatively early on draft weekend. This would both help the team in 2021 and provide insurance in the event that Chicago isn't able to lock up Robinson long-term.