As Chicago Bears’ GM Ryan Poles works to reshape the roster in free agency, we are officially less than a month away from the NFL Draft where the team has six selections starting with their 39th overall pick in the 2nd round.
Free agency has seen plenty of unexpected turns (thanks Larry Ogunjobi and Ryan Bates), so chances are the front office will now turn to the next crop of rookies to cover the Bears’ needs. Here’s a look at the five biggest positional needs for the Bears in 2022.
Chicago Bears draft needs
Despite plenty of talk around building the trenches, Bears fans have been clamoring for the team to sign some offensive talent to surround second year QB Justin Fields. While Poles has made some moves at the position bringing in Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, they aren’t necessarily what you would consider flashy signings. Thankfully for Chicago, the 2022 NFL Draft class is stacked with plenty of names the team should have an opportunity to choose from in the second round.
Among the names the Bears may have the opportunity to select include Georgia’s George Pickens — a big 6-foot-3 receiver whose draft stock took a hit due to an ACL injury last spring, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson – a quick riser who had fantastic showings at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore – a speedy slot receiver who has been a consistent option across his entire collegiate career.
Current Roster: Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome, Nsimba Webster, Isaiah Coulter
The best definition of the Bears’ current defensive back room could be a house of cards. If Jaylon Johnson were to miss time, there’s danger to be had in teams throwing deep on the secondary in 2022. Chicago needs to find a corner they can pair Johnson with long-term while allowing players like Duke Shelley, Kindle Vildor and Thomas Graham to work to their strengths in specific scheme fits.
While there are a good number of defensive back expected to go in the first round, the second-round tier at the position has some promising talent as well. If the Bears go the route of searching for a traditional man-to-man corner, Auburn’s Roger McCreary may be the answer. The 5-foot-11 corner plays well up against the line and can disrupt receiver routes due to his suffocating style of play. One of the more intriguing names at corner among the middle rounds is Texas-San Antonio’s Tariq Woolen. A former wide receiver who transitioned to the defensive side of the ball two years ago, Woolen ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, showing off his unique blend of speed and size.
Current Roster: Jaylon Johnson, Duke Shelley, Kindle Vildor, Thomas Graham, Michael Joseph, BoPete Keyes, Lamar Jackson
When your number of currently rostered safeties is a whopping two? Yeah, work needs to be done to shore up the position. The loss of Tashaun Gipson in free agency has the Bears with a glaring need for depth, and probably another starter alongside Eddie Jackson.
Luckily for the Bears, there are a few intriguing options if they choose to spend an earlier pick on a safety. Baylor’s Jalen Pitre seems to fit head coach Matt Eberflus’ HITS principle, bringing a high competitive drive who plays from whistle to whistle. Another name the Bears may consider if they hold off on addressing the position until the later rounds is Illinois’ Kerby Joseph who can bring some versatility to the position. Once labeled PFF’s best collegiate safety, Joseph is more of a project that would probably rely on Poles signing a veteran to keep the pressure off the Illinois alum in his rookie season.
Current Roster: Eddie Jackson, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Building up the trenches has been the main objective of Ryan Poles this offseason and despite bolstering the interior offensive line in the signing of Lucas Patrick, questions remain over who will be starting at right guard and both tackle spots come Week 1. The Buffalo Bills matching the offer sheet for Ryan Bates on Monday threw a wrench into the Bears’ plans and has left them potentially looking to fix up the line with a draft pick instead. As for the tackles, it remains to be seen if the coaching staff views second year holdovers Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom as starting material or if changes will be made in impacting their roles on the team.
Some mock drafts have projected Texas A&M lineman Kenyon Green to the Bears with the 39th overall selection, an athletic prospect that can handle blocking assignments with ease due to his quickness. Another name the Bears could target in the third round is Washington State’s Abraham Lucas – another athletic offensive lineman that fits what Poles has said he will be looking for in revamping the position. Weighing in at 322 pounds and standing at 6-foot-6, Lucas could be an intriguing name to solve the Bears’ offensive tackle situation if the front office believes the answer isn’t currently on the roster.
Current Roster: Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom, Sam Mustipher, Dieter Eiselen, Dakota Dozier, Lachavious Simmons, Tyrone Wheatley
Just like the fallout from the Ryan Bates’ offer sheet being matched by Buffalo, the failed physical of Larry Ogunjobi messed with the Bears’ early offseason plans at defensive tackle. As the team switches back to a 4-3 scheme in 2022, a reliable 3-technique DT doesn’t appear to be on Chicago’s active roster. While it is a possibility that Ogunjobi may still sign with the team at a lesser rate, it’s possible the Bears look to the draft to fulfil that role while relying on newly signed Justin Jones and 2021 7th round pick Khyiris Tonga to hold down the fort in the middle.
One name that may be in mind for the Bears on Day 2 of the NFL Draft is Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey. An explosive defensive lineman with the ability to move to various positions, Winfrey projects as a solid 3- or 5- technique DT to disrupt plays quickly in the backfield. Another later name Bears fans should keep their eyes on is Tennessee’s Matthew Butler, currently projected as a 5th round selection. Pro Football Network highlighted his “fighter’s mentality in the trenches” which seems ideal for what the Bears are looking for, as he performed well against his SEC competition.
Current Roster: Justin Jones, Khyiris Tonga, Auzoyah Alufohai, Sam Kamara
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