Bears Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks
The Chicago Bears managed to make the playoffs in 2020 despite only having an eight-win season. One could argue that the roster hasn't improved over the offseason thus far.
The Bears did find themselves a short-term starting option in quarterback Andy Dalton. They also managed to retain wideout Allen Robinson II with the franchise tag. However, they were forced to part with starting cornerback Kyle Fuller, which could have a huge impact on the defense.
Still, a strong draft class could help Chicago be a more potent presence in the playoff race this season. It could also affect some veterans—either positively or negatively—in a big way.
We don't know exactly which players the Bears will target early in the 2021 draft—slated to kick off April 29. However, we can make some predictions based on team needs and the latest buzz. We will do precisely that here and examine which players could be most affected by Chicago's potential draft haul.
QB Andy Dalton
Will Andy Dalton be an upgrade over the tandem of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles in 2021? It's possible, but it's unlikely that Dalton will be a long-term answer at quarterback. The Bears only signed him to a one-year deal and could look to draft his replacement as early as Round 1.
While Chicago would likely have to trade up from the No. 20 pick to get one of the class' top quarterback prospects, that may be part of the plan.
"Add Chicago to the number of teams trying to trade up for one of the five first-round quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft," John Clayton of 104.3 The Fan wrote. "Andy Dalton is the Bears starter. Nick Foles is still on their roster, but Chicago is looking to get their quarterback of the future."
If the Bears do trade up for, say, North Dakota State's Trey Lance or Ohio State's Justin Fields, it would obviously have an effect on Dalton's long-term outlook in Chicago. However, such a move could also influence how Dalton performs this season.
Dalton didn't have to look over his shoulder with the Dallas Cowboys last season because starter Dak Prescott was on injured reserve. With a first-round quarterback waiting in the wings, however, he could be on a short leash in Chicago this season.
WR Allen Robinson II
Wideout Allen Robinson II, who had 1,250 receiving yards last season, is a big part of Chicago's offense—for now, anyway.
"We're glad he's part of our team," general manager Ryan Pace said, per Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire. "We know he'll be here in 2021. Again, he's a focal part of our offense."
However, retaining Robinson beyond 2021 may not be part of Chicago's plan if it drafts a wide receiver early. This is believed to be an extremely deep receiver class, so that doesn't necessarily mean taking a pass-catcher in Round 1.
Chicago appears to have a budding star in second-year wideout Darnell Mooney. Adding another quality receiver within the first three rounds could make Robinson expendable to the Bears—depending on the price.
Robinson will only be 28 at the start of next offseason, but he could also be too expensive for Chicago to re-sign. According to Spotrac, Robinson has a projected market value of $20 million annually. The Bears probably won't be willing to pay that if they land a receiver with No. 1 potential later in April.
OT Charles Leno Jr.
While targeting a receiver in Round 1 may not make sense, targeting an offensive tackle would. Last season's starting left tackle, Charles Leno Jr., was serviceable at best and was responsible for six penalties and five sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Leno will turn 30 in October and is also in the final year of his contract.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. recently mocked right tackle Teven Jenkins of Oklahoma State to Chicago in the first round. As Kiper pointed out, this would help Chicago replace Bobby Massie, who remains unsigned.
However, if the opportunity to address the left-tackle spot presents itself, the Bears could and probably should pounce. Doing so would help solidify a line that wasn't great in 2020, and it would start closing the window on Leno's tenure in Chicago.
And if a tackle prospect progresses early for the Bears, Leno could be out of the starting lineup before the season is over.