I know what you’re going to say.
Yes, the 2022 NFL Draft isn’t for another 6 months. No, this isn’t my subtle way of implying I think the Bears’ season is over; in fact, at 2-2, I think quite the opposite. But with a rookie quarterback in tow, these next few drafts could decide which young players Justin Fields develops alongside and how effective the team could be during his rookie contract.
The Bears currently don’t have a pick in Rounds 1 or 4 due to the trade-up for Fields, and they swapped their seventh-round pick for an addition fifth-rounder in the Anthony Miller trade. While they appear a bit thin on draft capital again this year, that doesn’t mean they can’t add some quality talent in the 2022 draft.
Chicago has found solid contributors in the second round under Ryan Pace, including the likes of Eddie Goldman, Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Jaylon Johnson. It remains to be seen how Teven Jenkins will fare in the NFL once he recovers from injury, and Cole Kmet’s development isn’t going along as fast as some expected, but Pace’s success rate is generally pretty high in Round 2. That bodes well for the Bears, with their top pick in next year’s draft coming in that round barring a trade.
The Bears aren’t a team without flaws, but the 2022 draft should provide them with plenty of chances to improve on either side of the ball. Here are a handful of notable prospects they could consider targeting should they be available in Round 2.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Sam Mustipher has struggled out of the gate for the Bears at center, and while his cheap contract should help him stick on the roster in the long run, they may look for an upgrade in the starting lineup this offseason.
Tyler Linderbaum will very likely carry a first-round grade from me when it’s all said and done, but interior offensive linemen do have a tendency to fall down boards a bit. He is a fantastic athlete who offers very good lateral mobility and rare value as a pulling center, as his acceleration to the second level is impressive. He is a technically-savvy player with refined placement in his hands and consistently low pad level. His low pads allow him to maximize the strength in his frame, as he offers nice power in his anchor and packs a solid jab at the point of attack.
Though undersized for an NFL center at 6-foot-3 and about 290 pounds, he is a Day 1 starter who could be a stalwart to a team’s offensive line for years to come. If he falls into Round 2, he’s a name for the Bears to consider.
Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA
The Bears drafted Teven Jenkins to become a long-term starter at tackle, and while the assumption should remain the same once he comes back from injury, their long-term plan at the opposite tackle position is unknown. Larry Borom has certainly shown flashes, but he is highly unproven and was a fifth-round pick for a reason, while both Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi are on one-year deals.
After a strong 2020 season and a nice start to the 2021 season, it’s safe to tout Sean Rhyan as one of the top offensive line prospects in the nation. He possesses numerous similarities to Jenkins coming out of Oklahoma State: both are bulky, nasty blockers with bear traps for hands and the ability to churn his legs through contact to finish off a defender. He is also a quality pass protector, showcasing impressive temperance in his pass sets and taking precise angles in both vertical and jump sets.
Rhyan may be a little stiff in the hips, but his raw power and flashes of athletic potential make him a player worth considering as a starter in the long haul. Should the Bears also see him as such, he would be an intriguing candidate for them in Round 2.
Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
When addressing their offensive line, the Bears have brought in some linemen with the ability to play multiple positions, so it might make sense if they add yet another blocker with that same versatility.
Is Darian Kinnard a tackle at the next level like he currently is at Kentucky? One might hesitate to say so, but it’s clear that he’s a talented offensive lineman. He has a thick frame that packs roughly 345 pounds of force behind it, and it shows in his sturdy anchor in pass protection and the power he packs in his jabs. For a blocker as hefty as he is, he offers pretty good burst coming into his kickslide in pass protection and has also shown improvement in his hand placement.
Kinnard’s lack of lateral mobility could see him kicked inside, but he is a mauler with mean intentions who would be a nice addition to the Bears’ offensive line.
John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
They say to scout the player and not the helmet, but it’s no coincidence so many of the wide receivers that come out of Alabama play well in the NFL.
John Metchie leads Alabama in receptions as of this writing, and it’s no surprise Bryce Young has come to rely on him often this year. The wideout is a crafty route runner who does a great job of utilizing different variations of releases off the line of scrimmage and has an acute understanding of how to attack leverage points in coverage. He is explosive coming out of his breaks and has good deep speed to stretch the field vertically. With the ball in his hands, he is elusive and tougher than one would expect for his size.
He may be a bit skinnier and lacking in the physicality department, but Metchie’s athleticism and route-running savvy makes him an intriguing talent should he be available for the Bears in Round 2.
David Bell, WR, Purdue
Should Allen Robinson depart in free agency, the Bears could be in the market for a boundary ‘X’ receiver in this year’s draft.
David Bell fits that mold to a T as a 6-foot-2 weapon with above-average length and a pretty well-built frame for the wide receiver position. He has impressive hands, showcasing the ability to make catches in contested situations and box out at the catch point. He does a good job of adjusting to the ball in the air and squaring up to it, and he also showcases very good fluidity across the middle of the field. Bell is a refined route runner, as well, as he is able to use his hands to separate against press and does well attacking leverage points in coverage.
Evaluators looking for a receiver with home-run hitting athleticism may not fawn over Bell, but he is a quality possession weapon on the boundary who offers very good starting upside at the next level.
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
For as promising as Sean Desai looks as the Bears’ defensive coordinator, a glaring weakness of theirs has been their secondary, and investing more in their defensive backs should be a priority this offseason.
Some have McDuffie as one of the top overall players in the 2022 draft, but the general consensus seems to view him as either a late Round 1 or early Round 2 option. Regardless of where he ends up, he is a gifted defensive back with starting upside. He offers very good hip fluidity and the ability to work across his body to change direction and mirror route concepts. McDuffie showcases comfortability in zone coverage, offers polished footwork, ideal acceleration coming out of his breaks, and a football IQ that has shown significant improvement over the last few seasons.
McDuffie doesn’t have top-notch physical attributes or much value in press coverage, but his ability to play off coverage and his athleticism would make him a very good fit on the outside to complement Jaylon Johnson.
Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
Though his absence from play has seen him drop slightly down draft boards to start the year, Sevyn Banks is still an incredibly gifted prospect worth remembering.
With a 6-foot-1 frame, Banks offers very good length for a cornerback and puts it to good use. He uses his hands well in press coverage and plays with an aggressive edge playing through a receiver’s stems. He blends that physicality with very good athletic tools, as he accelerates well upfield coming out of his breaks and has the lateral mobility needed to mirror route concepts in man coverage. His ball skills and ability to track down the ball in the air gives him added value as a disruptor, too.
Banks is still a work in progress from an instinctual and tackling perspective, but his immense upside in coverage makes him a name the Bears should do their homework on.
Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern
The duo of Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts in 2021, and with Gipson on a one-year deal, they might look to add a new face to the safety room.
Brandon Joseph broke out for Northwestern with 6 interceptions in 2020, and his tape from that season was one of the most fun seasons from a defensive back in recent memory. His intelligence is uncanny, as he does a great job of recognizing route concepts and reading the eyes of the quarterback to anticipate when to break on the ball. He gets the most out of his athletic traits, as his playing speed runs red hot and sees him play with fluid hips and good downhill acceleration. The Wildcats standout takes precise angles in run support and can also play out of the slot effectively.
He may have average long speed and could improve his form a bit as a tackler, but Joseph’s high football IQ and fluidity in coverage should have him on the Bears’ radar in the 2022 draft.