2019 NFL Draft Preview: What Positions Could the Chicago Bears Target?
By Usayd Koshul
With the college football season set to begin this weekend, the NFL Draft process is also set to begin. From now until April, NFL Scouts will travel all across the country to evaluate players who could potentially be in the 2019 NFL Draft Class.
While there is still plenty of time between now and April, NFL front offices are always focused on the NFL Draft for many different reasons. The draft is the best way to build a long-term winner in the NFL. Additionally, each team can get younger at multiple positions and with the right drafting, be able to contend for multiple seasons.
Unfortunately, we don’t know where the Bears are picking yet. However, with the 2018 NFL Regular Season set to begin, there are a few positions of concern that standout for the Bears: Edge rusher and offensive tackle.
Luckily for the Bears, the class of 2019 is projected to be very deep at both positions.
What this means is that the Bears likely won’t be big spenders in free agency and that the team will look to use the draft as a means of filling in needs. As the NFL Draft process kicks off, what are some names to know at some positions that the Bears could likely target in 2019?
Finding an edge rusher is the biggest priority for the Bears. Since drafting Leonard Floyd in 2016, many have wondered when the Bears will finally find another player to pair with Floyd.
The Bears could finally find that player in the 2019 Draft. If Chicago ends up having another top 10 or 15 pick, the team can instantly land an impact player at the position.
Nick Bosa, Ohio State
The best edge rusher in the upcoming draft is without a doubt Nick Bosa from Ohio State
The younger brother of NFL Pro Bowler Joey Bosa, some have said that Nick could be even better than his brother.
During his sophomore campaign in 2017, Bosa appeared in 14 games and had 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He totaled both of those stats while rotating at defensive end with now NFL-players Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. With both gone, Bosa is without a doubt the teams best defensive player and with a strong 2018 season has a chance to be the best edge rusher in the class of 2019. At this point, he’ll likely be a top-ten pick. If the Bears front office feels like they have the assets needed to move up and draft Bosa, then it’s not hard to see the Bears doing so considering Ryan Pace wants to be aggressive in the first-round.
Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Had Ferrell declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, he likely would have been a first-round pick. However, he opted to return to school and will now be the best player on a defensive line that features NFL caliber talents such as Dexter Lawrence, Austin Bryant, and Christian Wilkins.
Ferrell’s numbers tell it all as to why he’s the best edge rusher Clemson has. He’s improved every year since his freshman year in 2015. Over a two-year span, Ferrell has notched 30.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
It’s hard to see where Ferrell could be drafted. Last year at this time, many were projecting him to be a mid-to-late first-round pick. However, if he has a strong 2018 season, he could vault himself into top-ten conversation or even be a top-15 pick.
Brian Burns, Florida State
Burns is a player who dominated right away at Florida state. As a freshman in 2016, he had 8.5 sacks in eight games. Unfortunately, his freshman year was cut short due to injuries. In 2017, he played in more games but saw his sack total decline and he posted just 4.5 sacks.
With the 2018 season approaching, Burns has everything it takes to be a first-round pick however, questions remain. Can he stay healthy? As a junior now, is he ready for a bigger role in the FSU defense? What will separate him from the rest of the edge rushers that could be drafted in the first round?
Burns has plenty of room to grow as a player. He’s certainly the type of player that seems as if he is on the rise. However, weighing in at just 218 lbs is a potential concern as compared to other prospects in this class such as Clelin Ferrell (260 lbs), Nick Bosa (263 lbs), and Anfernee Jennings (266 lbs). Much like Leonard Floyd back in 2016, Bruns will need to add weight to his frame to have an impact at the NFL level. The production and talent are definitely there, but if he can add at least ten pounds to his frame, he could be an even better player.
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
In 2018, three (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Da’Ron Payne, and Rashaan Evans) of the four players selected from Alabama in the first-round played defense for at least three years at Alabama. Now, Anfernee Jennings is set to continue that streak as he’ll be entering his third-year playing for the Alabama defense.
Jennings will now be a leader for a defense that lost eight defensive players to the draft. As one of the more experienced players, he’ll be expected to make plays for a unit that will need playmakers desperately.
Unlike the other players on this list, Jennings stats do not jump off the page, but he does do a great job of tracking the ball. Unfortunately, when it comes to speed, Jennings is limited. He does use his hands well at times, but not to the extent where one can label him as a deadly edge rusher.
Overall, Jennings is a player who has limited tools and will need to put everything out on the field in order to show that he is worthy of a first-round pick. At this point, he’s more of a low-end option for the Bears.
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Originally beginning his college career at Michigan State, Sweat left the program in the spring of 2016 and enrolled at a community college in Mississippi. From there, Sweat went on to play for Mississippi State.
In 2017, Sweat had 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. While those are first-round numbers, it was just one year of solid production by Sweat. If he wants to prove that he’s worthy of a first-round pick, he’ll need to have a strong 2018 campaign.
One thing that Sweat can do in order to take his game to the next level is add some more power moves to his game. As shown here in this game against Arkansas last fall, Sweat did flash some potential, but his performance could have been better had he used spin moves or used his hands more to punch. As of right now, he could likely be a late first-round pick.
2. Offensive Tackle
Offensive tackle is not a major need for the Bears as Charles Leno Jr. is the teams starting left tackle for the foreseeable future, however, right tackle is a huge question mark for this team right now.
Bobby Massie’s set to be a free agent in 2019, it’s inevitable that the team will need to find his replacement.
In today’s NFL, with teams investing in the defensive line in order to establish a dangerous pass rush, the importance of having a good offensive line is now needed more than ever. Therefore, if the Bears want to get someone who will anchor the right side of the offensive line for the next decade, then names like Jonah Williams, David Edwards, and Greg Little are ones to closely watch for.
Jonah Williams, Alabama
Williams can easily be labeled as the most complete offensive tackle in the class of 2019.
In space, he may not be the best, be he is certainly more than capable. Perhaps the biggest thing about Williams is his patience. Sometimes, he waits for his opponent to make the first move before responding with a move of his own.
The best thing about Williams is his size (6-5’’, 301 lbs) which has been labeled by many as being NFL-ready. However, his arm length is something that is a concern as sometimes defensive players take advantage of it and get around him.
Under current offensive line head coach Harry Hiestand, Williams could be the NFL’s next best offensive tackle. Keep in mind that Hiestand is a guy who is responsible for developing guys former first-rounders Zack Martin, Quenton Nelson, and Mike McGlinchey. With the right coaching, Williams has everything it takes to be a force on an NFL offensive line for years to come.
2. David Edwards, Wisconsin
Over the last few years, Wisconsin has had success sending offensive lineman into the NFL. Ryan Ramczyk, Ricky Wagner, and Kevin Zeitler are three examples of players who have had successful NFL Careers so far.
Now, David Edwards could be the latest to join that trio. Standing at 6’7’’ and weighing 315 lbs, Edwards will be a name to watch this fall.
The best thing about Edwards is the impact he makes in the run game. With the Bears having a stud running back in Jordan Howard, adding a player of Edwards caliber would make sense for a few reasons.
First, the biggest beneficiary of having a dominant run blocker like Edwards would be running back Jordan Howard. For Howard, 2019 will be a contract year and with someone as dominant as Edwards in the run game, Howard could easily begin to get the credit he deserves as an NFL running back.
One disadvantage of Edwards is that he isn’t a multi-year starter at offensive tackle. In other words, he lacks some experience playing offensive tackle. Originally beginning his college career as a Tight End, he switched over to playing offensive tackle in 2016.
Edwards could help make the Bears one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. With 2018 looking like it will be his final college season, Edwards could easily establish himself as one of the drafts best offensive lineman if he plays the position well enough.
3. Greg Little, Mississippi
Right away, looking at Little’s measurables (6’5, 325 lbs), it’s clear that he can be a cornerstone for an offensive line in the NFL. The best thing about Edwards is the aggressive mentality that he brings on each and every play.
Once Little gets to the second level, he quickly takes on linebackers, blocking them in order to create more opportunities for his wide receivers and running backs. Having an athletic offensive lineman who is willing to get to the second level could make the Bears offense even more dangerous.
In the past, one area where Little had some trouble in was his pass protection skills. It’s not a major liability, but there are times where he tends to expose himself a little too much, which allows for defensive lineman to use bull rush or spin moves on him. In college football, Little was able to get away with these things, however, in the NFL it’ll be very hard for him as pass rushers will use his weaknesses to their fullest advantage.
Even though the 2019 NFL Draft is still months away, it’s obvious that each NFL team is beginning to look into the upcoming draft. As stated above, as of right now, Edge Rusher and Offensive Tackle look like the Bears two biggest needs on paper. While things could change rather quickly, the situations at both positions are worth monitoring. Both positions have good depth pieces but do not have top-tier talent. The 2019 NFL Draft presents a chance for the Bears to get some top-tier talent at the right price while filling in two major positional needs for at least the next five seasons.