Bears and NFL fans take heed: The 2020 NFL Draft is finally upon us! Everybody exhale!
In the strange new world in which we now live, it’s good to finally return to some normalcy. Even though the draft is going to be virtual and have a unique presentation. Still, in a world devoid of sports, we need this, and it will be grand.
The Bears do not have a first-round draft pick for the second straight year as part of the Khalil Mack trade. So, what will they do when they’re finally on the clock sometime Friday night? Will they trade up, as Ryan Pace has been known to do? Or, will they trade down to acquire more draft picks to fill more holes?
Although the Bears enter the 2020 Draft with one of their deepest and most solidified rosters in years, they still have a handful of holes to fill.
Which needs will the Bears address, and which ones should they attack first?
8. Inside Linebacker
The Bears had good depth at inside linebacker last season, and thank goodness they did. With Roquan Smith missing time for personal reasons and Danny Trevathan missing seven games with an injury, the Bears had to rely on their depth. Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis both filled in admirably and both earned contracts elsewhere — Kwiatkoski with the Raiders and KPL with the Redskins. Trevathan signed an extension with the team, so the starters are intact at least for this season. But the team will have to rebuild its depth.
7. Pass Rusher
Some general managers like to take a shot at a quarterback seemingly every season — or, at least, they say they do. If I were a GM, I’d go one step further than that and take a pass rusher every year. The pass rusher is the second-most important position in football and the most valuable on a defense in today’s passing era. The Bears upgraded that position by releasing Leonard Floyd and signing vetern pass rushing guru Robert Quinn. Which is great, of course. I get giddy with visions of Quinn and Khalil Mack meeting at the quarterback for a sack lunch. But Quinn and Mack, while not “old,” are definitely approaching advanced age in football terms. The Bears have to restock behind them. The Bears also inked Barkevious Mingo, but the journeyman was signed as much, if not more for special teams than his pass rush.
6. Tight End
If you want to get a good look at what a Matt Nagy offense should look like with a productive tight end, you don’t necessarily have to watch Kansas City’s Travis Kelce. Just look at the first half of the 2018 Bears season. Trey Burton filled that role well. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy and the offense suffered because of it. Exit Burton, enter long-time veteran Jimmy Graham. Bears fans were bitter about the contract that Pace gave the 33-year-old veteran, but I think it’s a small price to pay for a steady veteran who played in all 16 games for the past four seasons. He may not be dynamic anymore, but he’s a stopgap solution. The Bears need to find his eventual successor and they have to do it quickly.
5. Offensive Line
The Bears brought in a pair of veteran offensive linemen this offseason in Germain Ifedi and Jason Spriggs, but it is my hope that they don’t rest on their laurels in the draft. It is my contention that you cannot have enough quality offensive linemen or offensive line competition. Everything in football begins in the trenches. The best quarterbacks in football cannot operate without a competent offensive line. The best running backs in football cannot find holes or much running room if the line doesn’t provide it. I wouldn’t call this an urgent need because I think the Bears can trot out a competent front five right now, but the team needs the “next man up” ready to roll.
Yes, although the quarterback position is the most important in sports, I don’t think it needs to be the first position the team addresses in the draft. The team acquired veteran Nick Foles via trade to come in and run virtually the same offense that Foles engineered to a Super Bowl title with the Eagles. Foles and Mitch Trubisky will compete for the starting quarterback job, but neither one appears to be the long-term answer at this point. Spending a second-round pick on a quarterback who likely won’t play this season is a bit of a waste considering the Bears’ Super Bowl defense is in win-now mode.
3. Wide Receiver
The Bears’ highest priority at the receiver position this offseason is to extend Allen Robinson. But until they do, they still have to add talent around him. The Bears released Taylor Gabriel this offseason in a cost-cutting move and will have to replace his speed. Anthony Miller has the skills and talent to be a complementary No. 2 to Robinson, but he’s been injured in both of his first two seasons and it’d be foolish to push all the chips to the center of the table with him. The 2020 NFL Draft is already considered one of, if not the best wide receiver draft class in history. The Bears will have plenty of options on the table at any of their mid-round picks. One thing is certain, though: whichever receiver the Bears do take, there will be some contingent of Bears fans complaining that they took the wrong one.
The Bears locked up Eddie Jackson to the richest contract for a safety in league history back in January, so they have at least one half of the safety position secured. Now, they need a strong in-the-box type player. Considering the Bears don’t have a dependable starting option on the roster as we speak, filling this void is of the utmost importance.
In my eyes, the starting cornerback position opposite Kyle Fuller is the top priority right now. The team released Prince Amukamara for cost-cutting purposes this offseason and they don’t have a quality starting option on the roster right now. The Bears trotted out Kevin Toliver to fill in for Amukamara when the latter missed some time last year. But Tolliver was certainly a hole for opponents to exploit. Veterans Buster Skrine and Sherrick McManis are role players who play nickelback and special teams, respectively. Getting a dynamic ball hawk who can reap the benefits from an improved pass rush is an urgent need. Without a quality second cornerback, it will really hamper what should be a Top 5 defense in 2020.