General Ryan Pace a curveball when he selected Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith No. overall Thursday evening. Many thought that there was no way the pick wasn’t going to be either a guard or outside linebacker. On the surface, inside linebacker didn’t appear to be a huge need for the team. Judging by the smile on defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s face, he thought differently.
The oddity of the first round was that due to the top end being somewhat weak, several teams reached for players or made head-scratching decisions. A fairly high amount of first round talent is still available, and should be there if the Bears stay at pick No. 39. So where does that leave us heading into Day 2 of the draft? If inside linebacker was a sneaky need, what are the glaring ones?
Outside Linebacker (Edge)
This is the biggest roster need. Can the Bears afford to ignore this position on Day 2? I don’t think so. Not unless they believe that they can find six to 10 sacks on the tertiary free agent market. At this point, the complete edge players are gone. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t go after a pass rush specialist.
If the Bears stand pat, keep an eye out on Boston College’s Harold Landry, Florida State’s Josh Sweat, and Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard. If they trade down—which has happened in the past two Bears drafts—then you might see guys like Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter or Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor as possibilities. If the Bears don’t take an edge in the second round and don’t trade down, their next opportunity would be the fourth round. Pretty slim pickings once you get there but still some talent. The Bears could get lucky and find guys like Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo or Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay. I also really like Tulane’s Ade Aruna in the 4th or 5th.
Depending on how you view Cody Whitehair, the Bears could hypothetically add either of the two interior offensive line positions. The value took a slight hit when four interior offensive linemen went in the first round, but this was a really deep class there. With Kyle Long’s health status in doubt and no clear-cut starter at the other guard (or center) spot, this is clearly a need. The Bears would do well to take advantage a deep draft.
The tackle class is a different story, as evidenced by there being two selected in the first round. The Bears could use a young tackle to try and supplant Bobby Massie and solidify that position for the foreseeable future.
The first thought many will have is taking UTEP’s Will Hernandez at No. 39. I don’t think he is a fit for this offense but the value is high. If the Bears want to go the guard and center route then Iowa’s James Daniels is solid pick here. If they want a tackle in the second, then Pittsburgh’s Brian O’Neill could be a winner. Later on there is plenty of talent too. Michigan State’s Brian Allen is another center to watch for. Nevada’s Austin Corbett, Appalachian State’s Colby Gossett, and Virginia Tech’s Wyatt Teller are mid-round guards that make sense. North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker, TCU’s Joseph Noteboom, and a possible swing at the free-falling Orlando Brown from Oklahoma are more options at tackle.
We always figured that the Bears would take a wide receiver at some point in this draft but after the Cameron Meredith decision, this looks like a bigger need than before. The good news is, there are still a ton of talented wide receivers available.
I question the fit of a player like Courtland Sutton, but did anyone honestly think he would be sitting on the board right now? If the Bears stick to No. 39, then guys like LSU’s D.J. Chark and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk would make sense. In a trade-down scenario, I could see Memphis’ Anthony Miller being a player the Bears like. Beyond that, the mid-round guys to keep an eye on are Colorado State’s Michael Gallup, Texas Tech’s Keke Coutee, Middle Tennessee State’s Richie James, Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson, and Missouri’s J’Mon Moore.
At first blush, this feels about the same need level as inside linebacker but cornerback is such a high-value position that you need to constantly re-stock. Prince Amukamara won’t be around for more than two seasons, so the time could be right in a fairly deep cornerback class. There are a surprising amount of big names available.
The first name that jumps out is Iowa’s Joshua Jackson. There were people that were fine taking him at No. 8 overall. I wasn’t one of those people, but I understood the logic. The next group of players that could be in play at No. 39 are Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver and Auburn’s Carlton Davis. Should the Bears trade back or wait for value, there are some solid options out there in Texas’ Holton Hill, Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden, Stanford’s Quenton Meeks, Tulane’s Parry Nickerson, Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips, and Boston College’s Isaac Yiadom.
The Bears clearly have some needs left to fill, and we need to be patient as the draft unfolds to see the grand plan. We are entering the sweet spot to find some good players for excellent value. This draft was always going to bear the most fruit in the second and third rounds.
The amount of needs remaining isn’t concerting but the odds of hitting on them would be greatly improved by trading down. Does Pace have another trade planned in the 2nd round later today? Let’s see the drama unwind.