Chicago Bears: Ranking free agent and 2021 NFL Draft needs
The Chicago Bears must focus on these key areas in the 2021 NFL Draft
When looking at draft strategy, I have always been one to focus on drafting the best player available. There are some expectations, of course, but if you have a player ranked at fifth on your big board and he falls to 20th overall, you take the player ranked fifth even if that is not a position of “need”. Exceptions might be at running back and quarterback — or if the team is dominant at the position already.
When we look at the way the offseason is likely to shake out and who might be available at certain positions, this will affect what areas the Chicago Bears should focus on in the 2021 NFL Draft. The big question mark that might affect the Bears 2021 NFL Draft is what happens at quarterback. If the team is able to land a quarterback like Deshaun Watson, Derek Carr or Carson Wentz via trade, that will greatly impact the draft because the team will be out of certain draft picks.
For now, we will expect that the team does not land any of these three. While preparing their “big board” for the offseason, this is what the Bears must focus on in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The two main areas the team must focus on in the 2021 NFL Draft are offensive tackle and quarterback. I am going to rank offensive tackle as the top focus for this team in the draft for two main reasons though. First, a player that can step in as a starting left tackle should be there at the 20th-overall pick. This means the team can stay put and not trade away future picks or other picks within the 2021 NFL Draft just to move up a few spots.
Offensive tackle is very deep in this draft but that should not stop Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears from using a first-rounder on the position. Christian Darrisaw is the player I hope falls to 20, but some other offensive tackles worth looking at in the first round include Rashawn Slater, Jalen Mayfield, Liam Eichenberg and Alex Leatherwood. In fact, a couple of these guys might be there after 20th-overall, meaning the Bears can move back slightly and acquire more picks.
If the draft does not go as predicted and offensive tackles are targeted early, this means one of the top quarterbacks will be available. Trevor Lawrence is likely to go first overall. Zach Wilson and Justin Fields are the next two likely to go off the board. As far as which one goes first will be based on teams’ specific draft grades. Either way, the Bears are not likely to land either as it would take a major trade for them to move up.
Only a few options are likely to fall to the Chicago Bears at 20th-overall. Mac Jones is the quarterback I would hope the team is able to snag if he falls, but Trey Lance is another possible option. Every other quarterback in the draft is not worth such high draft capital. If the Bears find a solid free agent option, then quarterback still needs to be a priority, but Ryan Pace should wait for a mid-round guy like Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond or Jamie Newman.
The rest of the 2021 NFL Draft
The only other position this team should consider in the first round is wide receiver. There are a few receivers in this draft that the team should not let pass them up. DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and Kadarius Toney are the only four I’d consider.
Wide receiver is the third most-important need for this team too behind offensive tackle and quarterback. This offense needs playmakers whether Allen Robinson sticks around or not.
The team must find help, specifically depth, at the safety position.
You can never have enough quality defensive linemen and the Chicago Bears should look to the middle rounds to find one.
We saw how important cornerbacks are last season when Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine went down with injuries. Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley did the best they could but it was not enough.
Another position that the Chicago Bears must find depth at in the 2021 NFL Draft is running back. The team can look to the later rounds or even an undrafted free agent like they did last season with Artavis Pierce. Ryan Nall is not someone the team should count on again.
Finally, the team should also consider adding another EDGE rusher as Gipson has not lived up to expectations. This does not mean the team should give up on Gipson, but like offensive and defensive linemen (trenches) you can never have enough pass rushers.
These last few positions will come down to the best player available at the time, but offensive tackle, quarterback, wide receiver and safety need to be the main focus for the team in the 2021 NFL Draft.