A week ago, following the Chicago Bears' win over the Houston Texans, there were several fans on a high thinking that the Bears could surprise and win 10 or 11 games. They were brought back to reality on Sunday when the Bears lost a game they could have won in New York against the Giants. Such is life with a rebuilding team in the NFL. Teams like the Bears are going to win some games you thought they would lose and lose some games we thought they would win. Rebuilding teams like the Bears are consistent about one thing... Inconsistency!
This season, a constant question on social media has been; what should the Bears do in the Draft next April? The most common thought among fans is the Bears should draft a wide receiver in the first round. Why? The team needs to surround Justin Fields with more weapons than he currently has.
Is it a possibility the Bears will draft a receiver in the first round? Sure, but my experience in the League tells me it may not happen. There are several reasons for this which I will go over.
First, the Draft works in conjunction with veteran free agency. All teams have needs, and they try to fill those needs through both free agency and the Draft. Clubs spend countless hours trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of each source of player acquisition. In a perfect world, the strengths of free agency will be the weakness of the Draft at needed positions, but seldom does it work out that way.
The price of veteran free agents has increased at just about every position. We saw this with the wide receiver market this past spring and summer. Signing a good veteran free agent wide receiver could cost more than $20 Million per year. Other high-priced positions are offensive tackle and defensive end. Corners are always expensive, but the Bears have several very young and potentially good corners on the current roster. They also can extend Jaylon Johnson following this season.
What are the Bears' needs? Being we are only four games into the 2022 season, it's far too early to say but strengthening the offensive and defensive lines is a strong possibility, as well as wide receiver.
The Bears have plenty of money to spend as they should have north of $100 Million in cap space. While that is more cap room than any other club will have, it must be spent wisely. The last thing this team wants to do is overspend for free agents. The previous regime did that far too often, and it ended up putting the team in cap-hell. New contracts have to be done for Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith; both will be expensive. The wise thing to do is acquire players on the come who won't cost an exorbitant amount of money.
We won't know who is available in free agency until next February, and potential free agents could re-sign with their current clubs. If the Bears do extend Smith and Johnson, they also have to determine what other players coming out of contract they want to retain. Between Smith, Johnson, and paying players they want to retain, a good chunk of that $100 Million will be spent. Because of that, my gut feeling is they will acquire one high-priced free agent at a position of need. We won't know who that is until March.
When it comes to the Draft, the wide receiver position next spring will be very deep. Depending on what underclassmen declare for the Draft, it could easily be as strong as the 2022 Draft was. If that ends up being the case, the Bears could easily get a high-quality wide receiver in the second round. History tells us that several great wide receivers are playing in the League that weren't drafted in the first round. To mention a few names, Devante Adams, D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Deebo Samuel were all second-round picks, as was Allen Robinson. Cooper Kupp went in the third, and Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill were selected in the fifth round. All are Pro Bowl receivers and are or were number one receivers during their careers.
With the depth of the Draft being strong at wide receiver, there is a higher probability that the Bears will select a defensive or offensive lineman in the opening round. When a club is rebuilding, it is always smarter to build from the inside out rather than the outside in.
The Bears' offensive line has struggled in pass protection early this season, but we have to remember that the Bears' OLine might be the youngest in the League. Left tackle Braxton Jones has a very bright future, as does right guard Teven Jenkins. The Bears need to determine if Larry Borom is the right guy for the right tackle position. They will no doubt know that by season's end. If Borom isn't the right player, then the Bears could draft a tackle in the opening round. This year's tackle class right now doesn't look real deep, but of course, that could change depending on underclassmen declaring.
The defensive line has been inconsistent. The Bears tried to sign Larry Ogunjobi in free agency, but he failed his physical because of a foot problem. They then went to their number two 3-technique and signed Justin Jones. Jones has played well but is he a natural 3-tech?
Finding good 3-techs for this defense is a difficult task. Trust, me, I know as I drafted two Pro Bowl 3-techs in Tommie Harris and Henry Melton. In all honesty, Melton was drafted to play defensive end, but after having him just one year, we saw a natural 3-tech and moved him inside.
To be a 3-tech in this defense, a prospect has to have some special qualities. He has to be very explosive as well as very athletic. His job is to get quick penetration and disrupt both the run and pass game. He must be a quality run defender and pass rusher, not one or the other. Those guys are hard to find, and there are only a few in each draft. That said, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Bears go in that direction come Draft Day.
While that may be what they want to do, the Draft has to fall in such a way that the player they want is there. Until we know exactly where the Bears are drafting and who is actually in the Draft, it's very hard to predict as we won't have the answers for another three months.
As we get closer to the end of the season and get a better feeling to what the Bears need and who will be in the Draft, I'll update you. Trying to pinpoint certain players for the Bears the first week of October is nothing more than an exercise in futility.