The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone. Each year there is a theme with a team’s draft class whether it is targeting players with speed, targeting a certain side of the ball, or player who may be sleeper picks. For the Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Pace, the target for 2018 appeared to be depth for the defense as the team has used the majority of their picks on defensive players.
In the first round of the draft Thursday night, the team drafted linebacker Roquan Smith of Georgia who is seen a day one starter for the defense. The Bears needed a playmaker to man the middle of their defense as last year’s inside linebackers Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, and Nick Kwiatkoski were all injured at one point of the season.
Smith was viewed as one of the most polished players in this year’s draft and his instinct to the ball was heralded by all draft scouts. The Bears have been lacking playmakers on defense the last few seasons as they haven’t had one person specialize in either sacking the quarterback or creating turnovers.
Although the unit as a whole has provided quality defensive numbers, many believe that the defense is just one “big time” player away from being special.
On Saturday, Pace chose to address the depth of the defense to fill the void created by players either let go or signed by other teams this off-season. With their fourth-round pick, they selected inside linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe from Western Kentucky who is expected to help in pass coverage and on special teams. He will replace linebacker Christian Jones, who after a good 2017 season, was signed by the Detroit Lions.
In the fifth round, the team drafted defensive tackle Bilal Nichols from Delaware. Nichols projects to be a nose tackle in the Bears 3-4 defensive scheme and will be the backup to Eddie Goldman, who has battled injuries during his career. Nichols also provides a replacement for quality backup Mitch Unrein who was with the team for the last three season and was reliable when called upon.
One of the bigger needs on defense was address with the Bears sixth-round pick with the selection of Utah defensive end Kylie Fitts. Fitts battled injuries at Utah, but when healthy provided a strong passing rushing presence from the edge.
He will be needed by the Bears to take the next step as the team parted ways from significant pass rushing talent in Pernell McPhee and Willie Young this offseason. Fitts and free agent signee Aaron Lynch will be looked to by the coaching staff to help Leonard Floyd in rushing the quarterback in 2018.
Ryan Pace’s job to overhaul a bad Bears roster began in 2015, and now will have four draft classes to achieve his goal. In last year’s draft, his goal was to find difference makers on offense drafting Mitchell Trubisky, Adam Shaheen, and Tarik Cohen. All three flashed at different points of the season and proved Pace right about his draft choices. This year the goal appears to providing a defense with depth for those lost in free agency. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has the majority of his starters in place, but needs capable backups if injuries occur. A good general manager isn’t determined just by the number of player makers on his team, but also by how deep his entire roster is.