The NFL Draft is coming up later this month, with four picks in the top 64, Ryan Poles is going to have some prime opportunities to find some starting caliber players in the draft. But even with this opportunity, there are still three positions that need additional veteran assistance regardless of the direction that the Chicago Bears choose to go during the draft.
Poles may wait until after the draft or even the summer before he addresses these, but it should be done prior to the start of training camp. There aren’t really significant impact free agents left, but all these positions have potential players remaining that could step in and start for Chicago.
The fact that Ryan Poles hasn’t addressed this position hardly at all seems alarming to me. Yes, DeMarcus Walker is a Bear and he will certainly play off the edge at times, but I also expect Walker to bounce inside on passing situations to give the Bears an internal rush that they did not have at all on 2022. If/when Walker bounces inside, that’s going to leave Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson and a potential rookie to rotate in on the edge. That’s not going to create enough pressure. Regardless of the draft, Poles needs a veteran edge that can create pressure.
At this point, Yannick Ngakoue is the best fit for the Bears needs. He’s a liability in the run game, he doesn’t set the edge well and he’s a missed tackle machine, so there’s some problematic issues there, but make no mistake about it, he’s the best they can do at edge and he knows how to get to the quarterback. The Bears can use Walker outside on run downs and bump him inside and bring Ngakoue in on pass downs. The Bears need to create pressure on the QB and their current group just won’t be able to do it.
Ryan Poles invested in the secondary in 2022 nabbing both Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon in the second round of the draft. With Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson already on the roster, the secondary was in pretty good shape. Kindle Vildor showed vast improvement in 2022 versus his previous campaigns but some of the success he had in the first half of the season, he didn’t replicate in the second half.
Personally, even if they spend a draft selection on a cornerback in the top 64, I am not comfortable with a rookie and Vildor rounding out their Nickel package. Gordon will hopefully spend more time inside as the nickel corner and the Bears will hopefully utilize a veteran signing to start opposite Johnson.
Rock Ya-Sin is a veteran still looking for a home and the Bears could certainly use him. Another guy who isn’t the strongest run defender, but he has improved in pass coverage each season he’s been in the league. He could step in, start immediately, and contribute in the secondary. Plus, he spent a few seasons with Matt Eberflus in Indianapolis so he’s familiar with the scheme.
No shock here, the Bears need more beef up front to protect Justin Fields. I think the 100% lock of the Bears draft will be that they draft an offensive tackle. I think there’s an excellent chance they do this with the ninth pick, but if they go another direction at nine, they will almost certainly take one in round two.
With the acquisition of Nate Davis, the Bears have three quality starters are their line at present with Davis, Teven Jenkins and Braxton Jones. Jenkins will most likely be at left guard and Jones will probably remain at left tackle, but the Bears could decide to swing him to the right side if they draft a tackle at nine.
If the Bears add a tackle and an interior offensive linemen in the draft, they may be comfortable with two rookies, Jones, Jenkins, Davis, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Larry Borom and Ja’Tyre Carter as their main offensive linemen but I think that would be a mistake. The Bears would be wise to add a veteran tackle to the mix who could start or operate as a swing tackle if need be.
Cameron Fleming has been a spot starter for most of his career. He was a full-time starter in 2020 with the New York Giants and in 2022 with the Denver Broncos but for the most part he’s been a guy that can step in and do a decent job when called upon.
Having Fleming in the mix with a rookie tackle makes a lot of sense and can protect the Bears (specifically Fields) from inexperience and injuries along the offensive line.