Heading into the 2015 NFL offseason, it was easy to say the Chicago Bears needed help on the defensive side of the ball.
Getting that help would include drafting a defensive player in the upcoming NFL Draft. Almost every expert and mock draft had the Bears taking a defensive player with the pick or a quarterback if the team went with offense. But now recent signings may have changed what the Bears will do when they go up there and pick in April.
The Bears decided to bring back Jay Cutler for another season, putting a damper on the hope that they would somehow land Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in the draft. More recently, the team added some defensive talent via free agency making us believe that the team is now leading towards offense with the seventh overall pick.
Add in the trade of Brandon Marshall and it’s all setup for the Bears to go and grab a wide receiver in the first round.
The top two targets on the wide receiver draft board for the Bears is likely West Virginia’s Kevin White and Alabama’s Amari Cooper who scouts have been raving about. White dominated the NFL Scouting Combine in February, showing off his hands and speed going through the drills. White will likely draw interest from the Raiders as they love speed, so he may not be there for the Bears at seven.
Then there is Cooper. His raw skills are an attraction for NFL teams and all season long he’s proved he can play while at Alabama. Cooper might be the best fit for the Bears at seven as he’s more likely to be there than White.
If the Bears do grab a receiver with the seventh pick, they will set up a core that features Alshon Jeffery, either White/Cooper and Marquess Wilson. Of course they can also go receiver in the second round or trade down and hope a someone like Jaelen Strong is still available. Pairing a young receiving core could be the first step in fixing this offense.
Before the Marshall trade, people would have laughed at the thought of the Bears going receiver in the first round. Now it looks like the safest bet for the team.
Best player available
Every NFL teams draft boards are different based off the teams needs. When the Bears hired General Manager Ryan Pace, one of the first things he stated regarding the NFL Draft was a comment on the ‘best player available’ strategy. We fully expect Pace to implement that strategy as he studies potential picks until the April Draft.
That brings me to my next option. If a defensive player is high on the Bears board and available, will they take him? The Bears have a glaring need at safety and cornerback. The safety position has been a complete struggle for the Bears over the past few seasons. Generally taking a safety at number seven is a reach, so that would leave the Bears with the option of trading down in the draft to grab one.
One potential fit is Alabama’s Landon Collins. He’s been linked to the Bears in a few mock drafts since the season was over but is more of a box safety. Then there are the midrounds where the Bears could potentially fill the void with someone like Damarious Randall, Anthony Harris or Eric Rowe.
Then there is the cornerback position which in a way is a weakness for the Bears. Kyle Fuller will head into his second year but seemed to regress a bit down the stretch last season. Part of that was due to the fact that he was injured and had to go up against some of the best receivers in the game. Tim Jennings will likely be out the door after next season, leaving a void for the Bears to fill.
That void could be filled in this year’s NFL Draft.
Much like the safety position, there’s really no sure-fire talent worthy of the
number seven pick at cornerback. Trae Waynes is arguably the top cornerback, but the Bears may be able to move down a few spots and grab him. Pairing someone like Waynes with Fuller for the future is a plus for this Bears defense.
Other options include: Jalen Collins, P.J. Williams, Byron Jones and Kevin Johnson. The Bears could decide to trade down and land one or potentially use the second round pick on a cornerback.
Whatever the Bears do, the recent signings have left them with some options.