CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2017 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need, and what draft day and after could have in store. First in a series.
Bears pre-draft situation
Akiem Hicks stands as one of the top free-agent signings under GM Ryan Pace, with Hicks starting playing 931 of opponents’ 1,012 snaps and netting a career-high 7 sacks while finishing fourth among Bears in tackles. Hicks likely earns a Pro Bowl trip but for the Bears’ woeful season overall.
Investing a 2015 second rounder at nose tackle (Eddie Goldman) and 2016 No. 3 (Jonathan Bullard) at end underscored the Bears’ commitment to being stout when offenses allow them into base 3-4. Goldman had ankle issues cost him most of last season and Bullard played like a wasted draft choice. The Bears cut non-factor Ego Ferguson and have gotten the max out of Will Sutton, an undersized favorite of the defensive staff but who missed the last seven games and played just 173 total snaps.
The Bears strengthened their interior with the signing of nose tackle John Jenkins, a third-round pick of the New Orleans Saints while GM Ryan Pace was their player personnel director. Free agency took versatile rotation lineman Cornelius Washington to the Detroit Lions. The Bears did re-sign C.J. Wilson, who was on and off the roster last season but played in six games.
The defense overcame a number of significant losses to injury to be on the brink of top 10 against the run as late as game 10. But the Bears held only one of their final six opponents to fewer than 124 yards, and saw Green Bay (226) and Washington (208) trample a dispirited unit that held none of the final six opponents under 4 yards per carry.
Pre-draft depth-chart’ing starters
DE: Mitch Unrein
NT: Eddie Goldman
DE: Akiem Hicks
Reserves: Jonathan Bullard, John Jenkins, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Will Sutton, C.J. Wilson.
Bears draft priority: Moderate
Bullard was a major disappointment and gave little indication of being more than a reserve. Jenkins significantly upgrades the depth behind Goldman, but a need still exists for an end/5-technique capable of taking pressure off Goldman and Hicks.
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The draft class on the defensive line is considered strong, topped by Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, with whom the Bears arranged a private visit in addition to monitoring his Pro Day. A decision for the Bears is one regarding size and type; Bears defensive schemes need size in their 3-4 packages but ability to generate inside pressure when forced into 4-3 nickel sets.
The Bears have taken close looks at potential impact defensive linemen, and Pace has taken one within the first three rounds of both his Bears drafts (Goldman No. 2 in 2015, Bullard No. 3 in 2016).
Keep an eye on ...
Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama: Rated as one of the straight-up best players at any position in the draft. An issue for some will be his having had surgery on both shoulders and arthritis concerns. "They said I have some arthritis in my left shoulder," Allen said during the Combine. "It's not really a problem now, but it might be a problem 15-20 years down the road so I'm not worried about that right now."
Takkarist McKinley, DE/LB, UCLA: Undersized but good production (10 sacks, 18 TFL) as senior in hybrid role, with ability to be physical presence. "My sophomore year and junior year I was a big defensive end," McKinley said. "So I was playing the '4' position rushing inside sometimes going against guards."
Chris Wormley, DT/DE, Michigan: Bears coaches had time with Worley at the Senior Bowl and has the versatility the Chicago schemes require. "I’ve heard a lot of different things – 4-3 defenses can see me as an end or a 3-tech tackle, and 3-4 defenses see me as a left end," Wormley said, "so there's a lot of versatility I think within myself, and that's what a lot of teams see as well."