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2021 NFL Draft: Top 10 rankings at each position

With the regular season coming to a close, let’s take a look at the 10 best 2021 NFL Draft prospects at each position.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears are still in the thick of the Wild Card race, even after six weeks of one of the more gut-wrenching stretches of football the team has seen in a while.

At 6-7, they typically wouldn’t be under much consideration for a postseason appearance. With the expansion to seven playoff teams per conference and a rather underwhelming competition for the NFC’s No. 7 seed, though, Chicago finds themselves just one game our of a postseason berth.

Regardless of whether the Bears actually make the playoffs or not, there are still quite a bit of issues they will need to fix this offseason, most of them stemming from the offensive side of the ball. That makes it important to keep tabs on the prospects in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

The Bears are on track to have possession of their own first-round pick for the first time since 2018, and they currently possess all of their own selections in the first three rounds for the first time since 2016. No matter if they bring back the likes of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, this offseason could be a make-or-break period for their organization.

To get a general overview of which positions are the strongest and where the Bears could direct their attention, let’s take a look at my top 10 prospects at every position on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Sorry, special teams and fullback. Your time will come soon.

Quarterback

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
  2. Justin Fields, Ohio State
  3. Zach Wilson, BYU
  4. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
  5. Mac Jones, Alabama
  6. Kyle Trask, Florida
  7. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
  8. Jamie Newman, Georgia
  9. Sam Ehlinger, Texas
  10. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

This year’s class brings one of the most talented groups of quarterbacks the draft has seen in quite some time. Lawrence and Fields are both blue-chip prospects, while any quarterback ranked three through six could realistically be drafted in the first round. Wilson and Lance in particular boast strong arguments for being top-10 selections. Keep an eye on Ridder and Newman, too; neither will likely go in the first round, but both have impressive tools and could sneak their way into Day 2 conversation.

This depth bodes well for the Bears, seeing as though quarterback will likely be a position of emphasis for them this offseason.

Running back

  1. Travis Etienne, Clemson
  2. Najee Harris, Alabama
  3. Javonte Williams, North Carolina
  4. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
  5. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
  6. Zamir White, Georgia
  7. Javian Hawkins, Louisville
  8. Michael Carter, North Carolina
  9. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
  10. Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech

This year’s draft doesn’t have a true blue-chip prospect at the running back position, but Etienne has the strongest chance of being selected in the first round. A streak of backs taken on Day 2 could take place, though, as each of the top eight backs could realistically be off the board by the time the fourth round rolls around. Keep an eye on the two North Carolina backs, Williams and Carter—each of them should end up shooting up draft boards over time with how they’ve played this year.

While the Bears do have David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, it might not hurt to take a shot on a back on Day 3.

Wide receiver

  1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
  2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
  3. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
  4. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
  5. Rondale Moore, Purdue
  6. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
  7. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
  8. Chris Olave, Ohio State
  9. Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
  10. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State

Much like the 2020 group before it, the 2021 draft showcases a talented group of wide receivers. Each of the top four receivers seem like locks to be selected in the first round. Waddle and Smith have particularly been impressive, as the former was playing at an incredibly high level for Alabama before he got hurt, and the latter looks like a legitimate Heisman candidate this year. The Day 2 talent looks slightly thinner than last year’s historic class, but there are still roughly a dozen receivers who could be selected in the first two rounds.

If the Bears lose Allen Robinson, they would be wise to take advantage of this year’s stacked receiver group.

Tight end

  1. Kyle Pitts, Florida
  2. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
  3. Brevin Jordan, Miami (FL)
  4. Kylen Granson, SMU
  5. Hunter Long, Boston College
  6. Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  7. Nick Eubanks, Michigan
  8. Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
  9. Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
  10. Quintin Morris, Bowling Green

The 2020 draft was one of the weakest tight end classes in recent memory, but this year’s class packs an incredibly talented group at the position. Pitts is a matchup nightmare, and Freiermuth is the quintessential ‘Y’ tight end for the modern NFL. Jordan isn’t on the same level as the aforementioned two prospects, but he’s still an athletic prospect with a high ceiling. There’s a clear drop-off after those three, but keep your eyes on Granson and Morris, in particular; both are former wide receivers whose ball skills and athleticism have converted to the tight end position.

Though Chicago drafted Cole Kmet last year, don’t rule out the possibility of drafting a ‘U’ tight end to replace Jimmy Graham in that role going forward.

Offensive tackle

  1. Penei Sewell, Oregon
  2. Samuel Cosmi, Texas
  3. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
  4. Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
  5. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
  6. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
  7. Jackson Carman, Clemson
  8. Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
  9. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
  10. Brady Christensen, BYU

The Bears are in drastic need of some offensive tackle help, and luckily for them, they’ll have plenty of options in the 2021 class. Sewell may just be the most complete offensive tackle prospect to enter the draft since Trent Williams in 2010. Cosmi, Darrisaw and Radunz all bring top-notch athletic upside to the tackle position, while Leatherwood, Eichenberg and Carman all possess nice power at the point of attack. Remember the name of the 6-foot-9, 400-pound dancing bear Faalele, as well.

Interior offensive linemen

  1. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
  2. Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
  3. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
  4. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
  5. Trey Smith, Tennessee
  6. Josh Myers, Ohio State
  7. Zion Johnson, Boston College
  8. Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
  9. Landon Dickerson, Alabama
  10. Deonte Brown, Alabama

The emergence of Sam Mustipher could make the interior offensive line less of a priority for the Bears, but they would still be wise to target a guard or a center at some stage of the draft. Slater is a first-round talent regardless of wherever you project him at and is arguably the second-best blocker in the entire class. Davis and Humphrey were highly ranked on my board heading into the year and have likely cemented their statuses as top-30 prospects, while Vera-Tucker, Smith and Myers all hold strong Day 2 grades. Keep an eye on Dickerson, though—he’s been shooting up a lot of boards lately and could go higher than where I currently have him.

Defensive linemen

  1. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
  2. Christian Barmore, Alabama
  3. Jay Tufele, USC
  4. Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
  5. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
  6. Alim McNeill, North Carolina State
  7. Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
  8. Tedarrell Slaton, Florida
  9. Darius Stills, West Virginia
  10. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State

It will be said throughout the next few months that this year’s defensive line class is weak, and it is, in the sense of having bonafide first-round talent. That’s not to say it’s without it’s fair share of potential future starters, though. Nixon has exploded with 13.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks in eight games and may just be the best interior defender in college football. Barmore has also come into his own in an improved role on Alabama’s defense and has put his athletic talents on display. Twyman is a personal favorite, as, though he is undersized, he bursts off the ball with impressive athleticism and can rush the passer.

With Roy Robertson-Harris and Brent Urban hitting free agency after 2020 and Mario Edwards Jr.’s legal status in question, the Bears may want to tap into this year’s defensive lineman market in the draft.

Edge rushers

  1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)
  2. Kwity Paye, Michigan
  3. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
  4. Quincy Roche, Miami (FL)
  5. Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
  6. Jayson Oweh, Penn State
  7. Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
  8. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  9. Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
  10. Joseph Ossai, Texas

If there’s one word to describe the 2021 draft’s group of edge rushers, it’s speed. Rousseau, Sanders, Oweh, Ojulari, Rashed and Ossai are all rare athletes for the position and carry high ceilings at the next level. That speed comes at the expense of polish and power for some of the aforementioned prospects, so it’s unlikely more than two players will go in the first round. However, teams willing to take a bet on upside could love this class.

The Bears have Khalil Mack in tow, Robert Quinn forcing himself onto the roster for financial reasons and Trevis Gipson as a developmental pass-rusher. It’s unlikely they would use premier draft capital on an edge rusher, but it wouldn’t hurt to use a late-round pick on one.

Linebackers

  1. Micah Parsons, Michigan
  2. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  3. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
  4. Dylan Moses, Alabama
  5. Nick Bolton, Missouri
  6. Jabril Cox, LSU
  7. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
  8. Cameron McGrone, Michigan
  9. Kuony Deng, California
  10. Baron Browning, Ohio State

The linebacker position is evolving, and this year’s draft reflects the league’s change towards more athletic linebackers and fewer old-school thumpers. Parsons should still be the top linebacker selected, despite opting out of the 2020 season. Collins is a physical specimen whose campaign this year has catapulted him into first-round territory. Owusu-Koramoah is a small, yet incredibly athletic defender with high upside in coverage. Any of the players ranked four through eight would be able to step in as Day 2 picks who could put up stellar tackling numbers, as well.

Roquan Smith has been playing at an All-Pro level this year, and Danny Trevathan has been serviceable after a slow start to the season. Both are locked in for next season, but the Bears could definitely use some depth at the linebacker position. Don’t be surprised if they target one on Day 3.

Cornerbacks

  1. Patrick Surtain, Alabama
  2. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
  3. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  4. Shaun Wade, Ohio State
  5. Eric Stokes, Georgia
  6. Derion Kendrick, Clemson
  7. Paulson Adebo, Stanford
  8. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
  9. Elijah Molden, Washington
  10. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State

Cornerback is one of the most important positions in football, and this year’s class has its fair share of talented prospects in the secondary. There’s a noticeable drop-off after Surtain and Farley, but the class should still be rich in Day 2 talent. Horn, Stokes and Kendrick are three of the highest risers on my board with their respective performances this season. And, yes, that is the son of Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel in at No. 10: he’s legit.

Unless the Bears trade Kyle Fuller this offseason, cornerback should be one of their strongest positions heading into the draft. They could end up drafting depth on the outside or adding another nickel prospect to compete for the starting job with Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor, though.

Safeties

  1. Jevon Holland, Oregon
  2. Trevon Moehrig, TCU
  3. Caden Sterns, Texas
  4. Andre Cisco, Syracuse
  5. Paris Ford, Pittsburgh
  6. Bubba Bolden, Miami (FL)
  7. Ar’Darius Washington, TCU
  8. Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
  9. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
  10. Tyree Gillespie, Missouri

Though it lacks a definitive blue-chip prospect, this year’s draft class of safeties is loaded with potential starters. Whether you want a hard hitter like Ford, Bolden or Nasirildeen or a rangy playmaker like Holland, Moehrig, Sterns or Cisco, there’s something for everybody in this year’s safety class. Keep an eye on Brisker and Gillespie at the Senior Bowl, as both have fallen well under the radar nationally but have looked really good this season.

Ryan Pace has never been one to use significant draft capital at the safety position, but regardless of who calls the shots for the Bears on Draft Day, it’s unlikely they’ll use heavy draft capital there with their offensive issues. Don’t rule out the possibility of adding someone in the middle rounds if they don’t re-sign Tashaun Gipson, though.