The Bears entered free agency with major needs at wide Receiver, cornerback, and edge defenders. As free agency winds down, one of these positions remains uncontested at the top of the Bears’ need chart.
While the 2017 Bears did manage to tie for seventh in the NFL with 42 total sacks, the sack leader was All-Bear interior defender Akiem Hicks. The most productive edge rusher was Leonard Floyd, with a disappointing 4.5 sacks before an injury shortened season. The next top contributors—Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston with 4 a piece—are no longer on the roster. And while I’m bullish on the upside of free-agent acquisition Aaron Lynch, he’s on a one-year deal and hasn’t proved he can be counted on as a down-to-down defensive staple.
Thank goodness for the draft! The Bears have a top-10 pick again and are running lower on needs than usual this April. So let’s take a look at what some of their options could be to help solidify the edge position.
1) Given where the Bears are picking and when this year’s edge defenders are expected to be drafted, when do you think they’re most likely to draft one and what prospect(s) do you hope they’ll consider there?
Patti Curl: Good question. The value of edge talent doesn’t line up well with the picks the Bears have in the first two rounds. Pick No. 8 overall lands right between the expected value of North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb and Boston College’s Harold Landry. While pick No. 39 overall is probably too late for the next tier of rushers like Josh Sweat and Marcus Davenport. Because of this, I think the fourth round may be the most likely spot for the Bears to find an edge contributor. Luckily there are a number of players I like for the Bears expected to go in the middle of the draft, making me confident they can land one of them.
I previously mentioned Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor in my mock draft (which I will not link here as some errors in the course of reality have caused some details of my prediction to be “inaccurate”). He’s a mediocre athlete who makes up for it with great technical skills. Such players tend to be undervalued by the NFL which I assume is because coaches overrate their own ability to teach technical skills. I think he’ll be a steal if he falls to the Bears in the fourth.
Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay is an explosive athlete with the right physical profile to play 3-4 outside linebacker who may fall to the fourth because he’s raw as a pass rusher, has a history of shoulder injuries, and had disappointing production in his last two years at college.
Ole Miss’ Marquis Haynes is considered undersized for an NFL linebacker but showed impressive pass-rush production at the collegiate level, tying the SEC career sack record with 32. People have called him a one-trick pony because he’s unlikely to hold up against the run in the NFL, but when your one trick is getting to the quarterback, I’m not going to complain. It’s kind of like saying “hey, that pony only has one trick: all it does is poop gold.” He’ll be a rotation player in the NFL, and I for one would love to see him rotating in navy and orange.
Jacob Infante: As Patti mentioned, the value at edge rusher doesn’t line up well with where the Bears’ pick. Outside of Chubb, there are no top-tier prospects at the position that are worth picking at No. 8. There’s a lot of talent outside of the top 10, though, with players like Landry, Sam Hubbard and Davenport all likely to be first-round picks. Depending on whether or not the Bears choose to trade Jordan Howard, a possible trade up for Chubb - a possibility I looked into recently would make some sense and line up with their aggressive, “win-now” approach to the off-season thus far. If they choose to stay put at No. 8, though, then it’s much more likely that they’ll take an edge rusher in the second round. At No. 39, Lorenzo Carter and Sweat make sense and have the athleticism to succeed in the NFL. I wouldn’t be shocked, though, if they look to trade down in the second round for the third year in a row and snag someone like Dorance Armstrong Jr. or Turay while acquiring more draft picks. Arden Key could also be a potential second round target, although he has enough red flags to make the Bears think otherwise.
Erik C. Duerrwaechter: Unless there’s someone who they like within their “cloud” of players available at No. 8, I feel the Bears will draft an edge player at No. 39 or later. It’s not a particularly strong class of players in this positional group, and there’s no need to reach for a player when potential blue chips at defensive back and on the offensive line could be available early. You can never have too many pass rushers, though, and players I would hope they consider include Chubb in the first round (provided he falls that far), along with Key and Davenport if they elect to wait later.
Andrew Link: My guess is that the Bears are almost forced to take an edge rusher at No. 8. If that’s the case, and assuming Chubb is gone, that basically leaves Landry and Davenport. Those are both reaches, in my opinion. If the Bears want more impact in 2018, then draft Landry, who I don’t think will be a full time NFL player. If they are thinking long term, then Davenport is a better option and with higher upside.
Robert Zeglinski: This is a weak edge class overall, with no true blue chip prospects outside of perhaps Chubb worth a top-10 selection. Unfortunately, as the Bears sit at No. 8, they sit on the precipice of losing the opportunity at getting Chubb barring an unprecedented quarterback run. For that reason alone, I don’t see the Bears addressing their edge need with their first pick.
Ultimately, I think the Bears attack their defensive edge need with someone like Carter or Sweat in the second round: two guys that fit the typical length and athletic production needs the Bears have for the position. I prefer Sweat to Carter as he’s a much better pure pass rusher, but would have no problem with either being drafted by Chicago.
2) Who’s a prospect you think would make a great target that the Bears would likely have to trade (back or forward) to pick at their expected value?
Patti Curl: I don’t think it’s crazy to consider moving up in the first for Chubb. The logistics may be a little rough, with the Bears lacking a third round pick, but if perhaps the Colts are willing to move back, the price could be worth it. Chubb has the best last name of any edge in the draft, and while some will say he’s a better fit for a 4-3 defense, he’s shown he’s capable of dropping into coverage. I think he’s the perfect MC Skat Kat to Leonard Floyd’s Paula Abdul. While Floyd is a lanky 6-foot-6 speed rusher who, coming into his third season, is still developing towards his ultra-high ceiling, Bradley—at two inches shorter and 30 pounds “Chubbier”—is a do-it-all edge who’s as NFL ready as they come. The only question that remains is what nickname this dynamic duo goes by as they hold down the edge of the Bears’ next historic defense for years to come. “Flubb”?
Jacob Infante: Ultimately, I expect the Bears to stay put in the first round, but I would not be opposed to trading up to the No. 6 overall pick and snagging Chubb. He’s without a doubt the most refined edge rusher in this class, and he has the size, speed, strength, instincts and hand usage to be a consistent double-digit sack machine in the NFL. He’s arguably the best run-defending edge rusher in this year’s draft, and he’s a dangerous pass rusher who made a name for himself being a constant force in the backfield in college. Edge rusher is one of the few big needs that the Bears have on their roster at the moment, and Chubb would provide instant improvement at the position.
Erik C. Duerrwaechter: If Chubb is available at No. 6, and the Colts want more picks, then I’d have no problems if Pace traded up yet again to snag the blue-chip edge player. Likewise, if the Bears negotiate a deal to move back in the first round, then players like Landry or Davenport would be solid choices. I wouldn’t hate it if Pace selected Landry at No. 8, but I feel he and Davenport can be had within the teens.
Andrew Link: If the Bears want to move up, the only player that makes sense is Chubb. I view him as being similar to the Pernell McPhee we saw in his first eight games as a Bear. That power would play nicely across from Floyd. As for trading down, I still think you can land either Landry or Davenport later in the first. Sense a theme here? Edge is by far the biggest team need and it absolutely must be addressed in round 1, and later as well.
Robert Zeglinski: If the Bears were to maneuver a trade down into the mid-teen’s or even 20’s, I would love if they could somehow nab Landry. He’s a special edge rusher that was being touted as a top-10 pick in the preseason before injuries slowed his senior season. Given his fantastic athletic testing at the Scouting Combine and at his Pro Day, he’s an easy projection to be a star at the NFL level. Landry isn’t likely to last until the 20’s, so if the Bears wanted him following a trade down, they’d have to move quickly. This might even be the ideal overall, regardless of a reach with the first pick. An excellent overall value and talent.
The consensus so far is that the Bears aren’t perfectly primed to land their dream edge rusher, but there are several options including later round values, trade backs, and trade ups. Stay tuned for part two, where the discussion surrounds additional prospects, drums up controversy, and creative ways to use the draft to improve the Bears’ sack attack.