An NFL first-round pick is among the most valuable assets a team can possess. Players drafted within the first 32 slots are supposed to be the cornerstones of a franchise. They don’t necessarily have to be superstars who can tilt games on their own. Those kinds of talents don’t grow on trees, if you could even will them into existence. If everyone had the capacity to be a star in a diluted space, then no one could be a star.
First-round picks do, however, have to be valuable starters at important positions (quarterback, offensive tackle, cornerback, top pass target). Miss on a first-rounder as a general manager, or don’t have a first rounder entirely, and you’re putting your roster behind the eight-ball when it comes time to fill in the gaps. There’s no such thing as a sure thing in the lottery (casino nowadays) of the draft, but a player selected early is supposed to be as close as he can be to the idea.
After surrendering their 2019 and 2020 first-round selections (for the privilege, I might add) to roster a pass rusher like Khalil Mack, the Bears are back in business with premium selections. For the time in three years, Chicago is scheduled to pick on Night 1, this time at No. 20 overall. Knowing who their general manager is, they’re scheduled to pick at No. 20 overall likely only for now.
If we operate on the idea that the Bears will be making a pick at some point of the earliest portions of the 2021 NFL Draft, there’s a litany of options to consider. In a problem now as synonymous with the franchise as any major accomplishments or traditions, they are still quarterback-deficient. The massive bodyguards protecting the quarterback, the offensive line, could also use a considerable boost. Barring the status of one Allen Robinson II, a high-level, matchup problem of a pass catcher has a high chance of being in the cards, too.
The possibilities are endless! Well, unless they’re all traded away for a star signal-caller. But no one hold their breath. Seriously, that’s unhealthy. I wouldn’t advise it.
Today’s 2021 off-season roundtable primer centers on Chicago’s draft plans and whether they should mortgage for a future for a man who can read a defense, or burrow in for a foundation first. All scenarious plausible and welcome.
Isn’t it fun to be on this draft roller coaster again?
Anyone? Bueller? Ryan? Matt?
In case you missed it:
What are the Bears addressing in the draft, and why?
Erik Duerrwaechter: To put this simply: Whichever quarterback is available and will give the Bears their best chance at finding their first ever franchise quarterback. The 2021 Draft class is a Godsend when looking at the glut of talent expected to be available. I personally want the prophecy of the return of a (s)punky BYU QB to lead the Bears in the incarnation of Zach Wilson. Trey Lance would be an outstanding choice as well. Justin Fields is likely gone in the top five picks. Trevor Lawrence, the top three. Then there’s my guy in Kyle Trask, who should be available between the second and third rounds.
Ken Mitchell: An offensive tackle to replace Bobby Massie, a wide receiver to replace Allen Robinson and a quarterback. Then offensive line, offensive line, offensive line.
Josh Sunderbruch: If and only if there’s a decent quarterback left on the board, I can see a swap-of-picks style trade (for example, trading No. 20 and No. 52 to the Vikings for No. 14 and No. 90 - this gets the Bears into striking distance and lets the Vikings back into Round 2, so it’s reasonable). I’m still nervous over Ryan Pace being the person evaluating the quarterback, but I understand that’s how it is. Otherwise, I’d love a Christian Darrisaw-type, who I’ve seen projected as maybe lasting to 20. Otherwise, besides linebacker they basically need help everywhere, so I think a quarterback somewhere in the top 120 for the sake of taking a swing and otherwise only invest in the trenches.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Their top two needs are quarterback and offensive line, so those better be drafted at some point. If one of the top quarterbacks starts to fall in the draft I would expect Pace to go get him. If not then he better take the highest offensive lineman on his board. Besides those two positions, which should be taken when it makes sense, they need to go best player available. This .500 team needs help all over the roster.
Will Robinson: Unless they make a trade up into the top-15 for Trey Lance (if he’s even still there at that point), Mac Jones in the first makes sense. Hopefully they can find a partner to trade back a few spots, still pick up Jones, while adding an extra pick or two. In the second, go for the best offensive tackle available. It looks to be a fairly deep draft at that position, and they can probably find quality talent without necessarily having to use their first-round pick on one. Consider a guy like Liam Eichenberg, or maybe Jalen Mayfield if he falls.
Past that? I don’t know. A receiver and an inside linebacker in the middle rounds, a guard and tackle prospect late, and I’m sure a defensive back or two worked in somewhere wouldn’t be terrible ideas.
Robert Schmitz: Great question! I have no idea (ask Jacob or EJ!). I certainly hope it’s almost entirely a crop of offensive players, but which positions those players play will be entirely determined by what happens before the draft. Do they trade for a quarterback? It sounds like they’re drafting a tackle, tight end, and or receiver. Did they fail to acquire a starting-level passer before the draft? It sounds like they’re trading up for Trey Lance, Justin Fields, or Zach Wilson. Without knowing what happens in March it’s almost impossible to predict April and May.
I do hope the Bears take an offensive linemen with either their first or second-round pick though — Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher are solid depth players but the Bears need true starters at those positions. Both guys deserve a shot at the role after an off-season of growth, but both guys also already had an off-season under their belt in 2020. I’m not expecting explosive growth from either of them. With Massie cut, taking a tackle prospect and an interior prospect somewhere further down the draft makes a lot of sense. I would also love to see youth at inside linebacker to spell Danny Trevathan.
Bill Zimmerman: The first-round choice for the Bears should be a tackle or a quarterback. You can make the argument for a wide receiver, but to me, it’s a no brainer on those two positions. If the Bears worked some magic and landed Deshaun Watson or someone special, focus on finding some beef up front to protect him in round one. If the Bears have Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Gardner Minshew paired with Nick Foles, the plan better be the catapult into landing one of the top-four quarterbacks. They could hope Mac Jones falls to 20 and Jones could be a capable NFL quarterback, but there needs to be a big swing at quarterback. If Zach Wilson doesn’t go in the top five, that’s the guy for me.
If the Bears do grab a top-tier veteran quarterback, I still think they should draft a quarterback, albeit not in round 1. I’d target a midround passer. A guy that keeps standing out to me is Jamie Newman. Newman has impressive tape from Wake Forest and will most likely fall after sitting out the 2020 season. Newman needs to be coached up, he has footwork issues, and his eyes glue onto his first option way too often, but he has special arm talent, mobility, and a lot a coaching staff can work with.
Jack Salo: The Bears probably aren’t in position to trade up high enough for one of the four NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft (Lawrence, Fields, Wilson, Lance). But they could probably trade back, acquire a few more late-round picks, and still get Mac Jones later in the first or early in the second round. I don’t think they’ll go that route, as I really think they’re looking for Kyle Pitts. I think Matt Nagy wants a top-five NFL tight end, and especially one who can line up at different receiver positions to allow for more creative pre-snap motions while still having big bodies downfield. Will Pitts fall to No. 20? If not, I think Pace pulls one of his infamous trade-ups.
From there, the Bears need a quarterback and Trask or Kellen Mond will likely be available on Day 2. This would be a time to trade back, stop the bleeding from the Pitts trade-up, and take a quarterback to plug in once Foles screws up.
On Day 3 they probably draft multiple offensive tackles to battle it out for the right tackle spot. Keep in mind if the Bears bring back Jason Spriggs, then they have him and Lachavious Simmons already on roster to battle it out. Spriggs is a better backup left tackle than a starting man on the right, in my opinion, so the other spot is up for grabs.
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