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Ranking Bears needs after 2021 NFL Draft

Let’s take a look at how the Bears’ roster stacks up after the 2021 NFL Draft.

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It seems like it’s been a while since the Bears have been the talk of the league around the NFL Draft for a good reason.

After securing Justin Fields at No. 11 and drafting consensus first-round prospect Teven Jenkins in Round 2, many around the football landscape praised the Bears for their performance in the 2021 NFL Draft. They did a good job of finding good value at positions of need, as well as positions that carry high value.

How does their roster stack up after the draft, though? What positions could they use an upgrade at, and where could they struggle in the upcoming season.

Let’s going through each position on the Bears’ roster and rank them according by need.

12. Quarterback

Current roster:

  • Justin Fields (R)
  • Andy Dalton
  • Nick Foles

The Bears have their intended franchise quarterback in Fields, a high-quality stopgap veteran in Dalton, and another experienced and intelligent backup in Foles. If Fields pans out like many expect he will, they’re set at the quarterback position for quite some time.

11. Special teams

Current roster:

  • Cairo Santos (kicker)
  • Pat O’Donnell (punter)
  • Patrick Scales (long snapper)

With their three starters set on special teams barring an injury to either of the listed players, the Bears shouldn’t view adding new specialists as any sort of priority.

10. Running back

Current roster:

  • David Montgomery
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Damien Williams
  • Khalil Herbert (R)
  • Artavis Pierce
  • Ryan Nall
  • CJ Marable (UDFA)

The depth behind Montgomery — or lack, there of — was exposed down the stretch in 2020, and the Bears made sure they won’t have to worry about that again this year. Cohen returns from injury, Williams gives them a solid rotational veteran, and Herbert is an athletic and smooth runner in and out of the tackles. Keep an eye on Marable as an undrafted free agent, whose pass-catching chops were apparent at Coastal Carolina.

9. Interior offensive line

Current roster:

  • Cody Whitehair
  • James Daniels
  • Sam Mustipher
  • Alex Bars
  • Arlington Hambright
  • Dieter Eiselen
  • Gage Cervenka (UDFA)

The Bears more or less have their starting interior offensive line set in stone; it’s just a matter of which of Daniels and Whitehair plays left or right guard. Mustipher performed well in spurts in 2020, but will he develop into a long-term starting role? Time will tell as he prepares for a bigger role this year.

8. Defensive line

Current roster:

  • Akiem Hicks
  • Eddie Goldman
  • Bilal Nichols
  • Mario Edwards Jr.
  • Angelo Blackson
  • Khyiris Tonga (R)
  • LaCale London
  • Sam Kamara (UDFA)
  • Thomas Scahffer (UDFA)

At first glance, the Bears actually seem well off along their defensive line. Going forward, though, it could prove to be a liability for them heading into next offseason. Both Hicks and Nichols hit free agency in 2022, and releasing Goldman — who missed 2020 and only really plays about half of the team’s defensive snaps — would save $8 million with a post-June 1 cut next year. Chicago is well off for now, but keep tabs on their defensive line going forward.

7. Edge rusher

Current roster:

  • Khalil Mack
  • Robert Quinn
  • Trevis Gipson
  • Jeremiah Attaochu
  • Charles Snowden (UDFA)
  • James Vaughters
  • Ledarius Mack

Mack is still very much a talented pass-rusher who can make an impact on an opposing team’s gameplan. Quinn is coming off of a career-worst season, though, and Gipson didn’t have much of a chance to showcase his skills as a rookie. Attaochu is an athletic edge rusher who has had solid production in a journeyman role. As arguably the Bears’ top undrafted free agent signing, Snowden’s physical upside and his versatility could see him crack the active roster.

6. Inside linebacker

Current roster:

  • Roquan Smith
  • Danny Trevathan
  • Christian Jones
  • Joel Iyiegbuniwe
  • Josh Woods
  • Caleb Johnson (UDFA)

With Smith coming off of a career year in 2020, the Bears should have high hopes for him at the inside linebacker position going forward. Outside of him, though, the long-term future is murky. Trevathan is getting older and seemed to have lost a step this past year, Jones is a solid backup option, but likely not much else, and none of Iyiegbuniwe or Woods have proven much in their time with the Bears.

5. Tight end

Current roster:

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

Graham led the Bears in touchdowns in 2020, and Kmet was able to come into his own down the stretch. If used correctly, the two tight ends could give the Bears a solid tandem in the passing game, but the depth behind the two of them is poor. The remaining three tight ends have a combined 15 catches at the NFL.

4. Safety

Current roster:

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

The Bears likely hope that a shift in defensive philosophy by hiring Sean Desai to be their new defensive coordinator can see Jackson return to his All-Pro form. Though solid with Chuck Pagano, he didn’t have nearly the same ball production as he had under Vic Fangio. Gipson was solid if unspectacular in 2020, and he returns as a solid stopgap option. What will Chicago do at the position going forward, though? They could use another investment at safety in the draft soon.

3. Wide receiver

Current roster:

  • Allen Robinson
  • Darnell Mooney
  • Anthony Miller
  • Dazz Newsome (R)
  • Damiere Byrd
  • Marquise Goodwin
  • Riley Ridley
  • Javon Wims
  • Reggie Davis
  • Jester Weah
  • Thomas Ives

Robinson gives the Bears a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, and Mooney serves as a tantalizing speed demon whose deep-threat potential could be unlocked with Fields under center. However, of the receivers currently on the roster, Mooney and sixth-round pick Newsome project as safe bets to remain in the organization past 2021. Robinson is on the franchise tag, Miller was the subject of trade rumors before

2. Offensive tackle

Current roster:

  • Teven Jenkins (R)
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Elijah Wilkinson
  • Larry Borom (R)
  • Lachavious Simmons
  • Badara Traore
  • Gunnar Vogel (UDFA)

Drafting Jenkins in the second round was a wise choice for the Bears, even if they had to trade up to get him. He gives them a high-upside, Day 1 starter at a position they have more or less neglected in recent years. The long-term future at offensive tackle is murky, though. Ifedi is only on a one-year deal and hasn’t proven to be worthy of being a long-term answer anywhere. Borom is an intriguing piece, but it’s unknown whether the Bears like him better at tackle or guard.

1. Cornerback

Current roster:

  • Jaylon Johnson
  • Desmond Trufant
  • Duke Shelley
  • Kindle Vildor
  • Thomas Graham Jr. (R)
  • Artie Burns
  • Tre Roberson
  • Michael Joseph
  • Teez Tabor
  • Xavier Crawford

Arguably the team’s biggest weakness heading into 2021, the cornerback position is an area which the Bears could see some issues in this upcoming season. Johnson had a very good rookie year, but with concerns surrounding the health of his shoulder, time will tell exactly how he bounces back from his injury. Trufant is a solid veteran option but is also a cornerback who has struggled to stay healthy. Shelley and Graham will likely compete for the starting nickel role, while Vildor projects as a versatile depth piece.