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2021 offseason outlook: Ranking each position for Bears by need pre-draft

With the 2021 NFL Draft right around the corner, let’s rank each position by need for the Bears.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The heat of the 2021 NFL free agency period has died down, and anticipation for the 2021 NFL Draft is picking up.

The Bears find themselves in a different position from where they were before, for better or worse. Andy Dalton was brought in as the team’s new starting quarterback — for now — Kyle Fuller is no longer on the roster, and other complementary contributors have either departed in free agency or been let go.

Heading into the draft with eight picks in every round but Round 4, they have the chance to add some young talent to a roster that is one of the older units in the NFL.

To preview what the Bears might do in the 2021 draft, I decided to rank each position by need after free agency and before the draft. In addition, I will include numerous draft prospects who could be interest to the team at each listed position. In the case of special teamers, I just included the prospects I’ve watched.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

14. Long snapper

Roster:

  • Patrick Scales

Scales has been with the Bears since 2015 and has been incredibly consistent since then. With him having been extended again, it would be shocking to see Chicago draft a long snapper this year.

Bears draft targets:

  • Thomas Fletcher, Alabama (Round 6-7)
  • Camaron Cheeseman, Michigan (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Ryan Langan, Georgia Southern (Round 7-UDFA)

13. Kicker

Roster:

  • Cairo Santos

The Bears extended Santos this offseason, securing their commitment to him in the long run. They won’t make any major moves at kicker in the draft, or undrafted free agency, for that matter.

Bears draft targets:

  • Jose Borregales, Miami (FL) (Round 5-6)
  • Riley Patterson, Memphis (Round 5-6)
  • Evan McPherson, Florida (Round 6-7)

12. Punter

Roster:

  • Pat O’Donnell

O’Donnell has been solid since he arrived with the Bears in 2014. He hasn’t necessarily been an elite punter, but he hasn’t been a bad one, either. Having extended him for another year, it’s unlikely they’ll make any major additions to the punter position.

Bears draft targets:

  • Max Duffy, Kentucky (Round 5-6)
  • James Smith, Cincinnati (Round 6-7)
  • Adam Williams, Memphis (Round 7-UDFA)

11. Running back

Roster:

  • David Montgomery
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Damien Williams
  • Artavis Pierce
  • Ryan Nall

With Montgomery coming off of an impressive Year 2 and Cohen locked in for at the very least another year or two, the Bears are unlikely to make the running back position a priority. Williams gives them a stronger third-string running back than most teams, too. If Chicago does add a running back in the draft, it could be someone with kick return experience to replace Cordarrelle Patterson in that role.

Bears draft targets:

  • Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech (Round 5-6)
  • Chris Evans, Michigan (Round 5-6)
  • Javian Hawkins, Louisville (Round 5-6)
  • C.J. Marable, Coastal Carolina (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Greg McCrae, UCF (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Otis Anderson, UCF (Round 7-UDFA)
  • Brenden Knox, Marshall (Round 7-UDFA)

10. Edge rusher

Roster:

  • Khalil Mack
  • Robert Quinn
  • Trevis Gipson
  • Jeremiah Attaochu
  • James Vaughters
  • Ledarius Mack (futures)

Mack remains one of, if not the best player on the Bears’ roster, and the team is financially tied to Quinn for 2021 after a disappointing season. Chicago has Gipson in the wings as a high-upside backup option, as well as Attaochu as a replacement for their Barkevious Mingo role from this past year. If the board plays out in such a way, the Bears could draft an edge rusher, but it likely won’t be until Day 3 at the earliest.

Bears draft targets:

  • Cameron Sample, Tulane (Round 4-5)
  • Janarius Robinson, Florida State (Round 4-5)
  • Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame (Round 5-6)
  • Chris Rumph II, Duke (Round 6-7)
  • Romeo McKnight, Charlotte (Round 6-7)
  • William Bradley-King, Baylor (Round 6-7)
  • JaQuan Bailey, Iowa State (Round 7-UDFA)

9. Inside linebacker

Roster:

  • Roquan Smith
  • Danny Trevathan
  • Christian Jones
  • Josh Woods
  • Joel Iyiegbuniwe

Smith is coming off of a second-team All-Pro nomination, while Trevathan had a rocky, yet overall solid season and is locked in for 2021. The Bears don’t tend to sub out linebackers on defense, but they still made a nice upgrade to their depth by bringing back Jones. It’s unlikely they’ll make a big move at linebacker in this year’s draft.

Bears draft targets:

  • Justin Hilliard, Ohio State (Round 4-5)
  • Garret Wallow, TCU (Round 5-6)
  • Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State (Round 5-6)
  • Tony Fields II, West Virginia (Round 5-6)
  • Grant Stuard, Houston (Round 5-6)
  • Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M (Round 6-7)
  • Derrick Barnes, Purdue (Round 6-7)

8. Defensive line

Roster:

  • Akiem Hicks
  • Eddie Goldman
  • Bilal Nichols
  • Mario Edwards Jr.
  • Angelo Blackson
  • LaCale London (futures)

The Bears have as intimidating of a defensive line as nearly any team in the league, especially with Goldman coming back to help boost their run defense. The starting three are basically set in stone, but there are minor questions about their depth this year. They brought in Blackson and re-signed Edwards, but the likes of Roy Robertson-Harris, Brent Urban and John Jenkins have all signed elsewhere. Defensive line probably won’t be a major point of emphasis in the draft, but the Bears could still make a move with Hicks and Nichols both entering the last year of their contracts.

Bears draft targets:

  • Alim McNeill, North Carolina State (Round 2-3)
  • Tommy Togiai, Ohio State (Round 3-4)
  • Darius Stills, West Virginia (Round 4-5)
  • Payton Turner, Houston (Round 4-5)
  • Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M (Round 5-6)
  • Carlo Kemp, Michigan (Round 6-7)
  • Mustafa Johnson, Colorado (Round 6-7)

7. Interior offensive line

Roster:

  • Cody Whitehair
  • James Daniels
  • Sam Mustipher
  • Alex Bars
  • Arlington Hambright
  • Dieter Eiselen (futures)

Daniels’ strong 2020 pre-injury and Whitehair’s resurgence when placed at guard helps the Bears’ interior offensive line tremendously, while Mustipher’s solid play at center makes the interior much less of a need than it projected out to be several months ago. Given the latter’s relative inexperience, though, they may want to add a player who can push Mustipher for that final starting role.

Bears draft targets:

  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC (Round 1)
  • Landon Dickerson, Alabama (Round 2)
  • Trey Smith, Tennessee (Round 2-3)
  • Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater (Round 2-3)
  • Kendrick Green, Illinois (Round 3-4)
  • Drake Jackson, Kentucky (Round 5-6)
  • Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh (Round 5-6)

6. Tight end

Roster:

  • Cole Kmet
  • Jimmy Graham
  • J.P. Holtz
  • Darion Clark
  • Jesper Horsted (futures)

With Kmet projecting as the Bears’ hopeful ‘Y’ tight end of the future, it does appear fairly unlikely they won’t go all-out in adding talent at the position this offseason. Graham is still on the roster after being a rumored cap casualty, but he’s entered the final year of his contract and is aging. Chicago doesn’t have a ‘U’ tight end they can consistently line out wide to replace him in the long run. If the right value is there in the draft, they could draft a tight end in back-to-back years.

Bears draft targets:

  • Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame (Round 3-4)
  • Kylen Granson, SMU (Round 5-6)
  • Tre’ McKitty, Georgia (Round 5-6)
  • Quintin Morris, Bowling Green (Round 5-6)
  • Zach Davidson, Central Missouri (Round 6-7)
  • Shaun Beyer, Iowa (Round 6-7)
  • Pro Wells, TCU (Round 6-7)

5. Safety

Roster:

  • Eddie Jackson
  • Deon Bush
  • DeAndre Houston-Carson
  • Marqui Christian
  • Jordan Lucas

Though Jackson is coming off of a disappointing season, there is reason to hope that new defensive coordinator Sean Desai can get the most out of the two-time Pro Bowler in 2021, seeing as though Desai’s scheme will likely reflect Vic Fangio’s more than Chuck Pagano’s. Tashaun Gipson played well at strong safety, but he still hasn’t been re-signed. Ryan Pace generally doesn’t make splashes at safety, so expect him to go cheap alongside the expensive Jackson.

Bears draft targets:

  • Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State (Round 2-3)
  • Talanoa Hufanga, USC (Round 3-4)
  • Jamar Johnson, Indiana (Round 3-4)
  • Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri (Round 4-5)
  • James Wiggins, Cincinnati (Round 4-5)
  • Jamien Sherwood, Auburn (Round 4-5)
  • Marcus Murphy, Mississippi State (Round 5-6)

4. Wide receiver

Roster:

  • Allen Robinson
  • Darnell Mooney
  • Anthony Miller
  • Javon Wims
  • Riley Ridley
  • Reggie Davis (futures)
  • Jester Weah (futures)
  • Rodney Adams (futures)
  • Thomas Ives (futures)

Robinson is still in the fold for 2021 after being franchise tagged, and unless the Bears intend on tagging-and-trading him, they have a strong No. 1 weapon. Mooney stepped in as a solid secondary option in his rookie year, as well. The rest of the roster leaves a lot to be desired, though. Miller is still on the roster as of this writing but is currently the subject of trade talks. Wims isn’t much more than a low-end roster spot at this point, and Ridley hasn’t proven worthy of a bigger role yet. Whether it be a traditional slot weapon to replace Miller or just the best available receiver, expect the Bears to make an addition or two to the position in the draft.

Bears draft targets:

  • Rashod Bateman, Minnesota (Round 1)
  • Kadarius Toney, Florida (Round 1)
  • Elijah Moore, Ole Miss (Round 1-2)
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC (Round 2-3)
  • D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan (Round 2-3)
  • Amari Rodgers, Clemson (Round 3)
  • Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State (Round 3-4)

3. Cornerback

Roster:

  • Jaylon Johnson
  • Desmond Trufant
  • Duke Shelley
  • Kindle Vildor
  • Artie Burns
  • Tre Roberson
  • Michael Joseph
  • Teez Tabor (futures)
  • Xavier Crawford (futures)

Kyle Fuller is no longer a Chicago Bear, leaving the team with a huge hole in their secondary. Trufant is a solid placeholder option alongside the young and talented Johnson, but with his age and injury issues, he shouldn’t be counted on to be a Plan A at the field-side corner position. With a battle between Shelley and Vildor for the starting nickel role, Chicago could also stand to improve in the slot. Outside cornerbacks are more likely to be targeted in the draft, though.

Bears draft targets:

  • Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (Round 1)
  • Greg Newsome II, Northwestern (Round 1)
  • Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (Round 1)
  • Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State (Round 2)
  • Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (Round 2-3)
  • Tyson Campbell, Georgia (Round 2-3)
  • Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky (Round 3)

2. Offensive tackle

Roster:

  • Charles Leno Jr.
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Elijah Wilkinson
  • Lachavious Simmons
  • Badara Traore (futures)

The Bears didn’t bring Bobby Massie this offseason, and though they re-signed Ifedi to presumably take on the right tackle role, he is a much better fit as a guard and is only on a one-year deal. Offensive tackle is a major need for Chicago that hasn’t been addressed through the draft during Pace’s tenure as general manager. Given their need and the depth of this year’s draft class at the position, it would be surprising if they came out of Day 2 without a new offensive tackle.

Bears draft targets:

  • Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech (Round 1)
  • Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State (Round 1)
  • Samuel Cosmi, Texas (Round 1-2)
  • Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame (Round 1-2)
  • Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State (Round 2)
  • Jalen Mayfield, Michigan (Round 2)
  • Alex Leatherwood, Alabama (Round 2)

1. Quarterback

Roster:

  • Andy Dalton
  • Nick Foles

The quarterback position is, once again, a major weakness for the Bears this offseason. They find themselves with a fairly late first-round pick, not enough draft capital to trade up for a top prospect without completely bleeding themselves dry, and a fairly tight cap situation that could make it tough to haul in a trade option or free agent. Dalton projects as an upgrade over Trubisky, but it remains to be seen exactly how large of an upgrade that move will be. Regardless, Chicago lacks a long-term option at the most important position in football, so expect them to make some sort of move there in the draft.

Bears draft targets:

  • Justin Fields, Ohio State (Round 1)
  • Trey Lance, North Dakota State (Round 1)
  • Mac Jones, Alabama (Round 1)
  • Davis Mills, Stanford (Round 2-3)
  • Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (Round 3-4)
  • Kyle Trask, Florida (Round 3-4)
  • Jamie Newman, Wake Forest (Round 5-6)