Bears

What the Bears' depth chart after this week's free agent frenzy could tell us about their NFL Draft plans

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USA Today

What the Bears' depth chart after this week's free agent frenzy could tell us about their NFL Draft plans

The Bears officially announced eight free agent signings this week: Three players were re-signed (Bradley Sowell, Prince Amukamara and Sam Acho) while five were brought in from outside the organization (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Chase Daniel and Cody Parkey). Ryan Pace got most of his heavy lifting out of the way this week, but there still are plenty of spots for him to fill on the Bears’ depth chart moving forward. 

From here on out, the only true “impact” players the Bears will likely be able to add to their roster will be through April’s draft. So let’s take a look at what the Bears’ depth chart looks like right now to find some clues about who they could be eyeing with the No. 8 pick:

QUARTERBACK

1. Mitch Trubisky
2. Chase Daniel
3. TBA

Draft possibility: Late round/undrafted free agent

The Bears could opt to draft a developmental quarterback in the sixth or seventh round to try to stash on the practice squad, or they could bring in a few guys for training camp and sign one to the practice squad. If the Bears do draft a quarterback late and he has a strong training camp, he could be a candidate for a 53-man roster spot, but it’s unlikely the Bears would keep two veteran quarterbacks behind Trubisky on their active roster. 

RUNNING BACK

1. Jordan Howard
2. Tarik Cohen
3. Taquan Mizzell/TBA

Draft possibility: Mid/late rounds

The Bears could still try to re-sign Benny Cunningham or another veteran as their No. 3 running back, though that wouldn't necessarily preclude them from taking a running back in the later/mid rounds for the fourth consecutive year. Taquan Mizzell is still on the roster, but “Smoke” only played two snaps in 2017. 

WIDE RECEIVER

1. Allen Robinson
2. Kevin White
3. TBA

1. Cameron Meredith
2. Josh Bellamy

1. Taylor Gabriel
2. TBA

Draft possibility: Second round at the highest, mid-round more likely

The Bears are best off if Kevin White is no higher than their No. 3 outside receiver, behind Robinson and Meredith, and could still opt to draft a receiver as high as the second round. Re-upping with Dontrelle Inman or signing another low-cost veteran backup receiver — even if Markus Wheaton is released — could push this need down to the middle of the draft, where the Bears have two fourth-round picks. But any chance the Bears were going to draft a receiver in the first round — let alone with their No. 8 pick — could’ve gone away with the additions of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.

“Y” TE
1. Adam Shaheen
2. Dion Sims

“F” TE
1. Trey Burton
2. Ben Braunecker/TBA

Draft possibility: Mid/late-round

What the Bears do with Sims will be key to watch leading up to Friday, when $4 million of his 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed, according to Spotrac. Releasing Sims would save the Bears about $5.6 million in cap space, and his $6.3 million cap hit for 2018 may be too steep a price to pay for someone who would wind up behind Adam Shaheen on the depth chart. If the Bears don’t sign a backup to Burton or Shaheen (if Sims isn’t the guy) and were to draft a tight end, they could opt for either a blocking-first guy or a receiving-first guy, perhaps in the middle or late rounds in April. 

LT
1. Charles Leno
2. Bradley Sowell

LG
1. Eric Kush/TBA
2. Cameron Lee/TBA

C
1. Cody Whitehair
2. Hroniss Grasu

RG
1. Kyle Long
2. Jordan Morgan/TBA
3. Brandon Greene/TBA

RT
1. Bobby Massie
2. Bradley Sowell

Draft possibility: First round/second round

Going into the draft with Eric Kush, who’s coming off a torn ACL suffered last August, as a starter could be a signal the Bears are looking to draft a starting interior lineman with one of their first two picks. Quenton Nelson would be the guy if they went that direction with the No. 8 pick, but there are legitimate questions if he’ll even be available then, with the New York Giants — who hold the No. 2 pick —heavily investing in their offensive line in free agency. The Bears found Cody Whitehair in the second round of the 2016 draft, and grabbing someone there may be a more realistic option to find a starting-caliber interior player. 

DE
1. Akiem Hicks
2. Roy Robertson-Harris

1. Jonathan Bullard
2. TBA

Draft possibility: Mid-to-late rounds

With Mitch Unrein off to Tampa, Jonathan Bullard could be an option to be the second defensive end here. It’s probably time the Bears figure out what they have in their 2016 third-round pick, for better or for worse. Don’t expect the Bears to break the bank, either in free agency or through a high draft pick, for a defensive end given Unrein only played about 50 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps in 2016 and 2017. A later-round pick could be used for depth here. 

DT
1. Eddie Goldman
2. Rashaad Coward/TBA

Draft possibility: Late rounds

With Eddie Goldman due for a contract extension, he’s firmly locked in as the interior anchor in Fangio’s 3-4 defense. The Bears need to find a backup for him, whether it’s signing a veteran free agent (as they did last year with John Jenkins) or drafting someone to fill out the depth chart. 

OLB
1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving/TBA
3. TBA

1. TBA
2. Sam Acho
3. Howard Jones

Draft possibility: First two rounds, plus mid-rounds

The issue here for the Bears is there may not be that clear-cut, elite edge rusher available at No. 8. N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb is unlikely to last that long, so perhaps the Bears angle to trade down a few spots — keep an eye on the Miami Dolphins (No. 11) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) there — and grab a high-upside project like UTSA’s Marcus Davenport or a more polished guy like Boston College’s Harold Landry. But with the free agency dust settling, the Bears’ biggest need is to find an edge rusher to pair with Leonard Floyd. This could be a position at which the Bears use multiple draft picks, too. 

ILB
1. Danny Trevathan
2. TBA

1. Nick Kwiatkoski
2. Jonathan Anderson/TBA

Draft possibility: First two rounds/mid rounds

This all depends on how Fangio grades Nick Kwiatkoski, who’s been solid but banged up since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. If the Bears stay at No. 8, they could look at Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or Georgia’s Roquan Smith as long-term solutions at inside linebacker. Edmunds, too, could be kicked to outside linebacker if the Bears are confident in his pass-rushing abilities — he’s one of those super-talented guys that you just want to get in your building. If the Bears go another direction with their first two picks, it could be a signal of their confidence in Kwiatkoski, and then they could draft a mid-round guy as a reserve. Either way, the Bears do need to address the depth at this position, as Danny Trevathan and Kwiatkoski haven’t been able to put together fully healthy seasons yet in a Bears uniform. 

CB
1. Kyle Fuller
2. TBA

1. Prince Amukamara
2. TBA

1. Bryce Callahan
2. Cre’von LeBlanc

Draft possibility: First round/second round/mid-rounds

The Bears are committing at least $20 million to Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller in 2018, and that’d be a pretty high amount of cash to throw at a position only to draft someone with the No. 8 overall pick. But if the Bears are sold on Ohio State’s Denzel Ward or Iowa’s Josh Jackson, having Amukamara and Fuller in place wouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to drafting a cornerback with the eighth overall pick if the Bears are convinced he’s a playmaker. If the Bears lose Bryce Callahan to an offer sheet they don’t want to match, or they want to upgrade at nickel corner, they could look to draft someone at that spot — Callahan frequently played, on a per-game basis, between 60-85 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps last year. However the Bears do it, though, look for them to take a cornerback sometime in April. 

S

1. Adrian Amos
2. Deon Bush

1. Eddie Jackson
2. DeAndre Houston-Carson
3. Deiondre’ Hall

Draft possibility: Mid round/late round

The only way a wrench gets thrown in this is if Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick slips to No. 8, in which case the Bears could take a super-talented player who can play both safety and cornerback. That would be a case of the Bears not wanting to pass on an elite talent, and would be less indicative how the team feels about the Adrian Amos/Eddie Jackson pairing. More likely, though, is the Bears drafting for depth here, with Amos and Jackson proving to be a solid duo in 2017. 

PK
1. Cody Parkey

P
1. TBA

LS
1. Patrick Scales/TBA

Draft possibility: Undrafted free agents

The Bears were reportedly interested in Bengals punter Kevin Huber, but he re-signed with Cincinnati. Pat O’Donnell, then, could be a candidate to return. Cody Parkey is locked in as the team’s placekicker, and if the Bears don’t re-up with Patrick Scales, they’ll try to find a long snapper via free agency or the pool of undrafted free agents in April. With so many other needs, using a draft pick on a specialist (specifically, a punter) seems unlikely.

***

So looking at this, these positions are needs for the Bears moving forward:

-No. 3 quarterback
-No. 3 running back
-Reserve wide receivers
-Backup “move” tight end
-Starting interior offensive lineman (either guard or center)
-No. 1 or No. 2 defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks
-Backup defensive tackle
-Starting outside linebacker, plus at least one backup
-No. 1 inside linebacker opposite Danny Trevathan, or at least one reserve inside linebacker behind Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski
-Two reserve cornerbacks
-Maybe a backup safety
-Punter
-Long snapper

Some of these could be filled internally by guys who shuffled between the practice squad and active roster last year. Others could be filled in the coming days and weeks through free agency — mostly the lower-down-the-depth chart spots. 

But while it’s easy to identify the Bears’ most pressing needs and connect them to the direction the team could go in April’s NFL Draft, this overarching reminder still needs to be given: The Bears are a team short on proven playmakers, and that larger “need” may take precedent over a “need” at a certain position. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: NFL Draft talk

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: NFL Draft talk

Jason Goff, Mark Lazerus and former Bear Alex Brown join Kap on the panel. The guys discuss who the Bears will target in the 1st round of the NFL draft, the Browns reportedly taking Baker Mayfield #1 overall and the Cubs early season showdown with the Brewers.

NFL mock draft roundup: Who are the experts predicting the Bears to take in the first round?

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USA TODAY

NFL mock draft roundup: Who are the experts predicting the Bears to take in the first round?

Quenton Nelson? Tremaine Edmunds? Denzel Ward? 

At this point, who the Bears will select in the first round of tonight's NFL Draft is up in the air. Between the numerous mock drafts published online by NFL experts, there is no unanimous prediction for who the Bears will take No. 8 overall.

In any case, the Bears are poised to land a tremendous talent tonight, no matter who they draft. Until then, though, let's take a look at who the experts predict the Bears will select in the first round tonight.

John "Moon" Mullin--NBC Sports Chicago: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Moon's analysis

J. J. Stankevitz--NBC Sports Chicago: Quenton Nelson

J. J.'s analysis

Matt Miller--Bleacher Report: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Miller's analysis: "If Quenton Nelson is gone, look for the Chicago Bears to go defense and select one of the draft's biggest upside players in Tremaine Edmunds."

    Jason La Canfora--CBSSports.com: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

    La Canfora's analysis: "This is the absolute lowest he goes. Too many great evaluators have thrown around the term "future Hall of Famer" with me for him not to go top 10, even if he is a guard. If the Colts keep their pick, then I see him off the board there. "

    R. J. White--CBSSports.com: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

    White's analysis: "The Bears benefit from what may be their best-case scenario at No. 8 with Nelson, a plug-and-play guard who should garner multiple All-Pro distinctions in his career, especially if he gets a little better in pass blocking."

    Mel Kiper--ESPN: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

    Kiper's analysis: "Nelson has a chance to go in the top five, and I don't think he drops past Chicago at No. 8. At 6-5, 335 pounds, Nelson causes destruction in the interior."

    Mike Mayock--NFL.com: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

    Mayock's analysis: "Chicago can't believe Roquan Smith fell to them. Runs a 4.5, goes sideline to sideline, he might be a four-down player."

    Daniel Jeremiah--NFL.com: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

    Jeremiah's analysis: "The Bears could go with Denzel Ward or Tremaine Edmunds right here, but I think Smith would be too tempting to pass up."

    Bucky Brooks--NFL.com: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

    Brooks' analysis: "The rugged interior blocker would help the Bears keep Mitchell Trubisky upright in the pocket."

    Charley Casserly--NFL.com: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

    Casserly's analysis: "One month after re-upping Kyle Fuller, the Bears shore up the other side of their pass defense."

    Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz--USA Today: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virgina Tech

    Middlehurst-Schwartz's analysis: "...his rare build (6-5, 253 pounds) and athleticism could provide defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a fascinating project."

    The possibility of trades and the fact that numerous quarterbacks could be selected early on makes tonight's draft quite ambiguous. Ultimately, the Bears' first round selection is somewhat up-in-the-air, so we can only wait and see what happens tonight.