Draft Day is finally here! It’s the day (or three days, to be exact) that brings a wave of youthful talent to the NFL and provides every team with fresh, new hope.
The Bears, like every other team, have a checklist of draft needs they’d like to address. But with precious little ammunition in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Bears will have to get creative and maximize the value with the picks they do have.
How many draft picks do the Bears have in 2019?
At present, the Bears have just five picks, none of which are in the first two rounds. Unless general manager Ryan Pace trades up, the Bears won’t be picking until the 87th overall selection. It would not surprise me to see Pace make a move to acquire more picks, but it’s not something I anticipate happening.
- Round 3, Pick 24 (87th overall)
- Round 4, Pick 24 (126th overall)
- Round 5, Pick 24 (162nd overall)
- Round 7, Pick 8 (222nd overall)
- Round 7, Pick 24 (238th overall)
So, how do the Bears improve their roster over the next three days? The following is my wish list.
From the day Matt Nagy became the new head coach of the Bears in January 2018, the writing was on the wall for Jordan Howard. Nagy’s innovative offense was a round hole and Howard was the square peg. The Bears held on to Howard through the first year of Nagy’s system and he had a modicum of success.
But if Nagy’s system were a refined dance routine, Howard looked like the crazy drunk uncle trying to do the Cupid Shuffle at his niece’s wedding.
The Bears traded Howard to the Eagles this offseason and signed veteran Mike Davis at the outset of free agency. Tarik Cohen proved to be exactly the kind of gadget player that Nagy wanted to deploy in order to stretch defenses out horizontally. But if the Bears intend on entering the season with those two as their primary ball carriers, there will be added strain on the development of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Rule 1 in professional football is get the quarterback position right. Rule 2 is destroy the opponent’s quarterback. Pace knew this and spent the first three years of his Bears tenure attempting to remodel the defense. And last offseason, the shark smelled blood in the water and he went for the kill in acquiring linebacker Khalil Mack from the Raiders.
The trade is what caused the Bears’ deficit in draft picks this year, but I’m sure Pace would make the move again if he had to do it all over.
The Bears have also seen steady progress from three-year pro Leonard Floyd, whose sack totals have not yet neared double digits but whose presence on the field has been undeniably beneficial. Floyd will be nearing a contract extension shortly and the Bears intend to re-sign him. The team also added depth to the position by retaining veteran Aaron Lynch on a one-year deal.
While having three rotational outside linebackers who can rush the quarterback is a good start, it’s never a bad idea to continue adding more pass rushers. They are the most valuable position on the field next to a quarterback.
The Bears chose to let safety Adrian Amos walk via free agency this offseason — to the rival Packers, no less — because they felt his price tag was just too high. I can’t blame them. Amos was a solid role player who — when surrounded by good teammates — actually made quite a few plays. But after signing Mack to a monstrous deal, and with Floyd and other impending free agents on the docket, it didn’t make sense to invest that much money in Amos.
The Bears replaced Amos in the interim with former Packers first-round draft pick, HaHa Clinton-Dix. The signing was for one year as Clinton-Dix intends to prove his worth on the field, but it’d be hard to imagine the Bears inking him to a long-term deal for the same reason they elected not to retain Amos.
Instead, the Bears need to draft another young playmaker at safety to play alongside burgeoning stud Eddie Jackson.
One of the biggest criticisms of Mitch Trubisky — fair or not — is that he gets “happy feet” in the pocket. Once he feels even a semblance of pressure, he either rushes an errant throw, or he takes off running.
While it’s not inherently bad that Trubisky was fifth among quarterbacks in rushing yards — he extended many drives last year by picking up first downs with his legs — I’m sure Nagy would like to see him take less hits and take more shots down the field with his arm.
Part of that process will be Trubisky developing poise in the pocket. The other key will be keeping his jersey clean and giving him more time to evaluate the field.
The Bears could use help along the offensive line. Kyle Long is getting up there in age and has appeared in roughly half of all games the past three seasons (26 of 48). Long agreed to restructure his contract this offseason, preventing him from being a cap casualty.
Cody Whitehair and last year’s rookie James Daniels are solid and should anchor the middle of the line for several years. Drafting depth at tackle would certainly help given that Nagy likes to run a lot of horizontal plays — almost to his detriment — that would benefit from a stronger seal on the defensive end.
The Bears have been strong at corner the past few seasons under former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The Bears re-signed Kyle Fuller last offseason after matching the offer sheet he signed with the rival Packers. Additionally, the team retained fellow starter Prince Amukamara to a three-year deal.
While it’s great to have those starters locked in, the Bears could use depth and a future replacement for Amukamara to groom this season.
Free agent acquisition Buster Skrine is a nickel back. Sherrick McManis is a long-time special teamer with short-term fill-in capability. The Bears have no other corner on the roster capable of starting full-time if called upon.
While it’s extremely unlikely the Bears hit the nail on the head with all five of their draft picks, they have the opportunity to address some of these needs. Seventh-round picks are rarely playmakers and two of the Bears’ five draft picks this year are in that round.
Which means, essentially, Pace has two or three chances to land a player who can step right in and fill an important role on this team in 2019.
Most of the Bears’ upgrades this offseason will come from self-scouting and internal improvement. Such as the continued development of Trubisky. The comfortability with, and the expansion of, Nagy’s playbook. The cohesion and growth of young offensive and defensive linemen. And, of course, the sound mechanics of an already great defense.