The 2019 NFL Draft is just a few days away as the Chicago Bears will make their first selection on Friday evening with the 87th overall pick. Chicago is without their first and second round pick due to the Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller trades last season.
Although the Bears are in a prime position to contend for a Super Bowl this season, this year’s draft is crucial for general manager Ryan Pace.
Without a selection in the first two rounds, Pace and his scouting staff will need to hit on all their draft picks to supplement the needs that have not been filled via trade or free agency.
The biggest acquisition for Chicago this season has been the signing of former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a short term deal. It isn’t just about finding a role player or a reliable starter but finding that player that can be a perennial Pro-Bowler or an All-Pro.
Pace was able to turn the Bears roster around from one of the worst to one of the best due to execution in the draft, especially in the mid to late rounds. He has found Pro-Bowl player in the fourth round or later in running back Tarik Cohen, safety Eddie Jackson, and former Bear Jordan Howard.
Although the team has their starters in place, the roster is in need of just one more impact player on both sides.
On defense, the Bears are projected to be one of the best in the league under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. The defensive secondary led the league in forcing turnovers as Jackson and cornerback Kyle Fuller combined for 13 interceptions. Chicago forces pressure with All-Pro Khalil Mack, Pro-Bowler Akiem Hicks, and linebacker Leonard Floyd.
The defense’s biggest need an edge rusher to play on the other side of the line across from Hicks. Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris split time across from Hicks last season, but only Robertson Harris produced three sacks.
If Pace is able to find a sleeper edge rusher in this year’s draft, it could put the Bears defense over the top as possibly the league’s best defense for the next few seasons. They need a draft pick who will take advantage of the attention made to Mack and Hicks and be able to produce seven or more sacks due to lack of attention being paid to them.
A perfect example of this is defensive end Mark Anderson who was drafted in 2006 by the Bears. He recorded 12 sacks his rookie season and helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl. Opposing offensives were so concerned blocking defensive tackle Tommie Harris and defensive end Adewale Ogynleye that it led to Anderson recording seven and a half sacks in the team’s first seven games.
On offense, the team is in need of a big play running back or a big play wide receiver to line up across from Allen Robinson. Matt Nagy’s offense is in dire need of a dual-threat running back that can be a threat in both the passing game and running game.
Cohen is limited due to his size as he doesn’t have the build to sustain +20 carries a game consistently. At the wide receiver position, the team is in need of size on the outside. Last season, both Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller struggled at times when lining up outside instead of the slot, both players are true slot receivers due to their height.
If the team is able to find a big-play, big-bodied receiver, it would allow Gabriel and Miller to play more from the slot, making the offensive that more explosive.
Not having a first or second round pick does not excuse the Bears from not getting the best talent available with their draft picks. It is imperative now more than ever that Pace executes on all of his draft picks. Following the 2006 Chicago Bears Super Bowl season, then general manager Jerry Angelo failed to continue to build the team through the draft as there were more failed picks than successful picks from 2007 to 2011.
Pace needs to avoid what led to Angelo’s demise and treat this year’s draft as vital as his prior drafts.