On Wednesday, Alex Marvez of Sporting News reported that the Chicago Bears met with North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb. The reported meeting comes as no surprise, as Chubb is the best edge rusher in the 2018 NFL Draft class, and the Bears need help at the position. His combination of size, athleticism, strength and technique have him ranked as a consensus top-five player on many draft analysts’ big boards.
The odds that Chubb will fall to the Bears, who will be selecting eighth overall in the first round, though, are slim to none. He plays one of the most important positions in football, and he’s an extremely talented individual.
However, there is a way that Chicago can acquire the 6’4”, 269-pound marvel: trading up.
General manager Ryan Pace is no stranger to trading up to secure his favorite target. In 2016, he traded up two spots to select Leonard Floyd, jumping ahead of a potential suitor for the edge rusher, the New York Giants, in the process. The following year, Pace gave up two third-round selections and a fourth-round pick to move up one spot and draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
The Bears lack the draft capital this year that they had in both of those seasons: the absence of a third-round pick could affect how good of an offer they could make. They have two fourth-rounders, sure, but it could still be tough to find a suitor. Plus, if they were to stay put at No. 8, they could still find some high-quality talent.
But giving up draft picks would arguably be worth the reward of gaining an elite prospect at a position of dire need.
After Chicago’s aggressive approach to free agency, they really only have two gaping holes in their starting lineup heading into the draft: edge rusher and left guard. The top players at each position, Chubb and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, respectively, will likely both be off the board when the Bears get on the clock. Chubb could go as high as No. 2 to the New York Giants, but, considering the amount of quarterback-needy teams looking to trade up, as well as New York’s own quarterback problem, the Indianapolis Colts at No. 6 or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 7 could be more likely landing spots for him.
There is a severe drop off in top-end talent at both positions after those two. Edge rushers like Harold Landry and Marcus Davenport are very good prospects in their own right, but they would both be reaches at No. 8. The guard position has a lot of late-Round 1 players like Will Hernandez and Isaiah Wynn, but neither would be worth taking at Chicago’s slot.
Many draft analysts - myself included - have linked Virginia Tech inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to the Bears at the eighth pick. There’s no denying that Edmunds has the physical tools and the potential to be a very talented player, and he would potentially be a long-term starter for Chicago. However, he is still raw - his instincts aren’t quite developed and he’s a slow processor at the moment - and would likely require a year of fine tuning before he could really contribute. Plus, inside linebacker isn’t a pressing need for the team right now. Danny Trevathan’s starting spot has been solidified, and Nick Kwiatkoski has shown some promise early on in his young career.
Drafting solely for need is not a wise strategy, as the value on a certain player can often be too tantalizing to pass up. Edmunds, considered by many to be an early first-round pick, would no doubt be a good value pick at No. 8.
If Ryan Pace’s moves in free agency have told us anything, though, it’s that he expects the Bears to compete for a playoff spot this season. They won’t be able to compete if their pass rush is lackluster, which, in its current state, it would be. In my aforementioned mock draft, I have Chicago picking Georgia edge rusher Lorenzo Carter in the second round, but it’s no guarantee that he’ll even be there that late. After fringe first-rounders like Carter, Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard and LSU’s Arden Key, there’s a drop off in talent at the edge rusher position. Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo lacks length, size and superb athleticism. Florida State’s Josh Sweat has injury and durability concerns aplenty. Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr., whom I had going to the Bears in a trade down in the second round of my first Bears seven-round mock draft, isn’t a standout athlete. Needless to say, the options that Chicago may have at edge rusher when they pick in the first two rounds are scarce.
The Bears headed into this offseason with an aggressive approach, and they delivered on that with their haul in free agency. If they want to make one more bold move to solidify their status as a threat in the loaded NFC, then trading up for Bradley Chubb could be the one.