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2018 NFL Draft outlook: Ranking each position for the Bears based off of need

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After an active free agency period, the Bears have considerably less holes than they did before the start of the offseason.

NFL: Combine
Matt Nagy will have a much better roster to work with than he had before free agency, but there’s still some work that needs to be done.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is cooling down, and draft discussion has been heating up. Teams are meeting with players to get a sense of who would fit well with their roster, and smoke screens are popping up more than ever.

These next few weeks will serve as an especially interesting one for the Chicago Bears, who are coming off of an uncharacteristically aggressive free agency. Their roster is in much better shape than it was just a few weeks ago. With a good draft, they could be looking at potential playoff contention in 2018.

Back in January, I ranked all of the Bears’ positional groups based off how big of a need it was. A lot has obviously changed since then, so I decided that it would be a good idea to look at which positions have been fixed and which positions still need fixing.

I did make a few changes to my format, though. There aren’t any free agent options on this list, as there were on my aforementioned earlier article. Also, instead of listing just the top draft prospects at each position, I decided to include a few players who would be good, realistic targets for the Bears, as well as which round they’ve typically been projected to go in.

16. Long Snapper

Current players:

  • Patrick Scales

The Bears opted to bring Scales back, letting their long snapper from last year, Andrew DePaola, sign with the Oakland Raiders. Given that they already have a long snapper on the roster, it’s incredibly unlikely that they’ll heavily consider a replacement.

Realistic draft options:

  • Ike Powell, Auburn (UDFA)
  • Hunter Bradley, Mississippi State (UDFA)
  • Kolton Donovan, Wyoming (UDFA)

15. Kicker

Current players:

  • Cody Parkey

Do the Bears have their first reliable kicker since they cut Robbie Gould in 2016? Judging by the four-year, $15 million contract that Parkey received, they sure think they do. The odds that Chicago will draft a kicker are slim to none.

Realistic draft options:

  • Michael Badgley, Miami (FL) (UDFA)
  • Griffin Oakes, Indiana (UDFA)
  • Drew Brown, Nebraska (UDFA)

14. Quarterback

Current players:

  • Mitchell Trubisky
  • Chase Daniel
  • Tyler Bray

The Bears needed a backup quarterback who could help Trubisky develop as a player, and they secured. Two of them, actually. Daniel and Bray are smart veterans with experience in Matt Nagy’s offensive system. That said, don’t expect the Bears to target a quarterback with any of their draft picks.

Realistic draft options:

  • Riley Ferguson, Memphis (UDFA)
  • Logan Woodside, Toledo (UDFA)
  • Luis Perez, Texas A&M-Commerce (UDFA)

13. Tight End

Current players:

  • Trey Burton
  • Adam Shaheen
  • Dion Sims
  • Daniel Brown
  • Ben Braunecker
  • Colin Thompson (futures deal)

The Bears have a very talented group of players at tight end. Burton and Shaheen form a formidable two-headed monster at the position, while Sims, who was surprisingly kept under contract, will serve as the lead blocking tight end. Brown and Braunecker are two players who have some experience and a little bit of upside, were one of them to stick around as the team’s fourth tight end. If the Bears choose to add another tight end, it will likely be an undrafted free agent.

Realistic draft options:

  • DeAndre Goolsby, Florida (UDFA)
  • Ryan Yurachek, Marshall (UDFA)
  • Jeb Blazevich, Georgia (UDFA)

12. Center

Current players:

  • Cody Whitehair
  • Hroniss Grasu
  • Travis Averill (futures deal)

Whitehair caught fire late last year after a slow start to the season which saw him switch back and forth from center to guard due to injuries. It’s possible that the Bears may move him to guard, in which case the center position would become a much bigger need than it is now. However, it’s likely best that they opt to keep Whitehair where he is now.

Realistic draft options:

  • Billy Price, Ohio State (Round 2)
  • James Daniels, Iowa (Round 2)
  • Coleman Shelton, Washington (Round 6)

11. Running Back

  • Current players:
  • Jordan Howard
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Benny Cunningham
  • Taquan Mizzell
  • Michael Burton (fullback)

The Bears have a very good running back tandem in Howard and Cohen, and they recently re-signed Cunningham. If they do choose to trade Howard, who isn’t the best fit for their system, then expect a running back to be drafted rather early. However, it’s more likely that they’ll keep him on board and add someone late in the draft or in undrafted free agency.

Realistic draft options:

  • Chase Edmonds, Fordham (Round 7)
  • Mike Boone, Cincinnati (UDFA)
  • Phillip Linsday, Colorado (UDFA)

10. Punter

Current players:

  • Pat O’Donnell

The Bears only gave Pat O’Donnell a one-year contract, signaling that they might not be entirely sold with him as their long-term punter. They may look to bring in some competition for him, although it’s unlikely they’ll actually draft any.

Realistic draft options:

  • Johnny Townsend, Florida (UDFA)
  • J.K. Scott, Alabama (UDFA)
  • Joseph Davidson, Bowling Green (UDFA)

9. Defensive Tackle

Current players:

  • Eddie Goldman

Goldman is a reliable starter when healthy, and has proven to be one of the league’s better nose tackles. However, he has yet to play a full season, and the Bears don’t have anyone behind him, so expect them to look into a late-round prospect or an undrafted free agent.

Realistic draft options:

  • Deadrin Senat, USF (Round 5)
  • Lowell Lotulelei, Utah (UDFA)
  • Poona Ford, Texas (UDFA)

8. Wide Receiver

Current players:

  • Allen Robinson
  • Cameron Meredith (RFA)
  • Taylor Gabriel
  • Kevin White
  • Josh Bellamy
  • Tanner Gentry (futures deal)
  • Demarcus Ayers (futures deal)
  • Mekale McKay (futures deal)

General manager Ryan Pace had one task above all else that was absolutely necessary to help the Bears improve this offseason: surround Mitchell Trubisky with weapons. Judging by the team’s new-look wide receiver group, it’s safe to say that he succeeded in that goal. Robinson and Gabriel are two fantastic additions, while Meredith, assuming the Bears match any restricted free agent offers that come in, will be a welcome addition to an offense that sorely missed him last year. White is a question mark and could very well end up off the team after the preseason, but there could still be some untapped potential in him. The Bears may add one more receiver late in the draft, but don’t expect them to pick one early.

Realistic draft options:

  • Keke Coutee, Texas Tech (Round 4)
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling, USF (Round 5)
  • Richie James, Middle Tennessee State (Round 6)
  • Byron Pringle, Kansas State (Round 7)
  • Jeff Badet, Oklahoma (UDFA)

7. Safety

Current players:

  • Eddie Jackson
  • Adrian Amos
  • DeAndre Houston-Carson
  • Deiondre’ Hall
  • Deon Bush

Jackson and Amos proved to be a solid safety tandem last year, and they will presumably head into the 2018 season with their starting roles in tact. However, with players like Eddie Goldman and Cameron Meredith hitting the open market with Amos next year, the Bears may want to consider drafting a safety at some point this year in case he gets a better deal elsewhere. Plus, the depth behind the two starters isn’t all that great, either. If the value’s there, then a safety could be in play early on, but it’s more likely that they’ll pick one later on in the draft.

Realistic draft options:

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Round 1)
  • Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech (Round 5)
  • Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern (Round 5)
  • Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama (Round 6)
  • Andrew Wingard, Wyoming (UDFA)

6. Defensive End

Current players:

  • Akiem Hicks
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • Roy Robertson-Harris
  • Rashaad Coward

Hicks is the best player of Chicago’s defense, but the defensive end spot opposite from him is a question mark. Bullard and Robertson-Harris are both solid, young players, but neither have proven yet that they are worthy of a full-time starting role. The Bears may take their chances on one of them, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft a lineman late in the draft to give them some competition.

Realistic draft options:

  • Andrew Brown, Virginia (Round 4)
  • Kentavius Street, North Carolina State (Round 4)
  • Breeland Speaks, Ole Miss (Round 6)
  • Bilal Nichols, Delaware (Round 6)
  • Sebastian Joseph-Day, Rutgers (UDFA)

5. Cornerback

Current players:

  • Kyle Fuller
  • Prince Amukamara
  • Bryce Callahan (RFA)
  • Cre’Von LeBlanc
  • Marcus Cooper
  • Sherrick McManis
  • Jonathon Mincy
  • Doran Grant (futures deal)

The Bears have their starting cornerbacks lined up, and they have two solid nickelbacks on the roster at the moment. If Callahan ends up leaving as a restricted free agent, then LeBlanc could easily step in and do well in his place. Cooper is a solid backup at his discounted price, and McManis is a reliable special teams cornerstone. However, the Bears could still improve the depth at cornerback, and they could be in play to look for a new starter alongside Fuller if the value is right.

Realistic draft options:

  • Carlton Davis, Auburn (Round 2)
  • Quenton Meeks, Stanford (Round 2)
  • Duke Dawson, Florida (Round 4)
  • Kameron Kelly, San Diego State (Round 4)
  • Christian Campbell, Penn State (Round 6)

4. Offensive Tackle

Current players:

  • Charles Leno Jr.
  • Bobby Massie
  • Bradley Sowell
  • Brandon Greene

The Bears have their starters at both offensive tackle spots in tact for the 2018 season, and Leno seems to have the blind side under control. However, Massie may not be on the team beyond this coming year, since his contract expires next offseason. If the value’s right, don’t be surprised to see them target an offensive tackle early on Day 3.

Realistic draft options:

  • Joseph Noteboom, TCU (Round 4)
  • Desmond Harrison, West Georgia (Round 4)
  • Alex Cappa, Humboldt State (Round 4)
  • Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T (Round 5)
  • Toby Weathersby, LSU (Round 6)

3. Inside Linebacker

Current players:

  • Danny Trevathan
  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • John Timu
  • Jonathan Anderson

With Jerrell Freeman and Christian Jones gone, the Bears are suddenly a lot more thin at inside linebacker. They still have relatively decent depth, but it would be smart of them to target another player in the first four rounds at least, especially if they feel less than confident about starting Kwiatkoski in the long run.

Realistic draft options:

  • Roquan Smith, Georgia (Round 1)
  • Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (Round 1)
  • Jack Cichy, Wisconsin (Round 5)
  • Tegray Scales, Indiana (Round 5)
  • Genard Avery, Memphis (Round 5)

2. Offensive Guard

Current players:

  • Kyle Long
  • Eric Kush
  • Jordan Morgan
  • Cameron Lee
  • Will Pericak (futures deal)

This all depends on how confident the Bears are in Morgan, who redshirted his rookie year. If they feel like new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand can develop him into a starter, then offensive guard could become less of a need. On paper, however, it’s a gaping hole in an otherwise impressive offense. Long is a talented player when healthy, but he has struggled with injuries over the past few seasons. Kush is best served as a versatile backup, while the other two guards on the roster likely won’t make the 53-man roster come September.

Realistic draft options:

  • Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Round 1)
  • Isaiah Wynn, Georgia (Round 2)
  • Austin Corbett, Nevada (Round 2)
  • Tony Adams, North Carolina State (Round 5)
  • Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech (Round 7)

1. Edge Rusher

Current players:

  • Leonard Floyd
  • Aaron Lynch
  • Sam Acho
  • Isaiah Irving
  • Howard Jones

With the wide receiver position pretty much fixed, edge rusher solidifies itself as the biggest need on Chicago’s roster. As of now, the Bears’ starting edge rushers come Week 1 will both be injury-prone players. Floyd has yet to live up to his top-10 pick status, while Lynch hasn’t played in more than seven games in a season in three years. Acho is a underrated rotational player, but the rest of the depth pieces - in addition to starters at the position - still need work.

Realistic draft options:

  • Harold Landry, Boston College (Round 1)
  • Marcus Davenport, UTSA (Round 1)
  • Lorenzo Carter, Georgia (Round 2)
  • Josh Sweat, Florida State (Round 2)
  • Ade Aruna, Tulane (Round 5)