Even if they aren’t able to move up for a quarterback, the Chicago Bears should still get a really good player with the 20th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
There are 17 players the Bears should be ecstatic to get their hands on this week. On the surface, it sounds bad that there are only 17 players and the Bears have the 20th pick, but consider players at other positions will also be drafted by needy organizations. There figure to be at least a few pass rushers taken off the board, a couple off-ball linebackers and probably even a guard or defensive tackle. It’s likely the Bears will have a couple of options from this list. Of the players I listed, the lowest-ranked on the 2021 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board produced by The Athletic is 26.
Considered for this list were positions of need for the Bears. They need a quarterback. The release of Kyle Fuller made cornerback another obvious pick. But we also heard the rumors of the team going after tackle Trent Williams and receiver Kenny Golladay, so we can safely assume those are positions they will strongly consider.
Here is a quick look at the players the Bears should target:
The Quarterbacks (5)
Really, any of the five would be great. We know Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two picks and a third quarterback will go third overall. If Justin Fields doesn’t go third, there is no way he will last to 20. The only real possibility at 20 would be Alabama’s Mac Jones — who would be a top-five pick in pretty much any other draft – and is still the favorite to go third to San Francisco.
Lawrence has been pegged as the No. 1 pick for three years. Fields was pegged as a 1A-type for more than a year, but the draft process began and he began slipping. How far he slips is anyone’s guess, but 230-pound quarterbacks with strong and accurate arms don’t come around every year.
Some quarterbacks in this class may be a bit overhyped due to the success of Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Teams are now more likely to take chances on raw, athletic freaks with big arms like Trey Lance or a flashy, yet efficient passer in Zach Wilson. In past years, the level of competition might have dropped both to the 20s, or further.
Jones is the quarterback Draft Twitter hates this year, but quarterback experts and coaches seem to love.
Other good picks: None in the first round, but if the Bears were to use their second round pick on Davis Mills, Kyle Trask, or Kellen Mond, they would be worthwhile selections.
The Receivers (4)
There are three receivers who are projected to go early. All three have been key parts of national championship teams. (For the sake of argument, I included Kyle Pitts in this group, but it’s not worth discussing beyond that because he’s going to be long gone.)
Ja’Marr Chase of LSU and Jaylen Waddle of Alabama are both pretty much guaranteed to be gone.
Chase burst onto the scene as a sophomore, being Joe Burrow’s No. 1 target, catching 84 passes and 20 touchdowns. He opted out last year, but put on a show at his pro day with a 40-time in the low 4.3s, a 40-inch vertical and elite shuttle time. He’ll go in the top six.
Waddle has been on the big stage for three years, averaging 18.9 yards per catch with 17 touchdowns in 34 career games with two receivers who were drafted in the top-15 last year and a third who projects to go that high this year.
DeVonta Smith was the best player in college football last year and it wasn’t a fluke. He posted 68/1,256/14 as a junior then 117/1,856/23 as a senior, shredding even the most talented secondaries in the nation.
Typically, Smith would be an extreme long shot to get to the Bears, but the 2021 NFL offseason has shown us that receivers aren’t being valued as they have been in the past. Smith is just 166 pounds and teams are going to wonder if he can hold up. If CeeDee Lamb could drop to 17 in 2020, Smith can drop to 20 in 2021.
Other good picks:
- Rashod Bateman is a monster. He came in shorter than expected (barely 6’0”), but had 33-inch arms and ran a 4.3, 40.
- Elijah Moore is another player many project to go in the first round.
- Rondale Moore is one of the best talents in the class, but injuries will knock him down — would be a steal in the second round.
- Kadarius Toney is often mocked to the Bears, but he’s rawer than raw and has some off-the-field concerns.
There is a strong argument to be made that teams shouldn’t draft wide receivers in the first round because they rarely pan out as well as later picks, though last year’s class produced a few immediate stars.
The O-Linemen (4)
The only one who is sure to be gone is Penei Sewell of Oregon, who walked onto the campus at Eugene a dominant player. Sewell is as blue chip as it gets and isn’t likely to get out of the top five. But there are at least four others who could be available to the Bears and be starters for the next decade.
Christian Darrisaw is my bet to be the second tackle off the board. He was a left tackle in college and has every measurable (6’5”, 322, 34.25 arms) one could want to play that position in the NFL
Rashawn Slater is listed as the best offensive lineman in the class by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, but don’t be surprised if he slips a bit. While he is an athletic freak, he is also a little on the short side and his arms barely reach 33 inches. Some project him as a guard, which isn’t seen as being nearly as valuable as a tackle. I think it’s nonsense; he meets the minimum thresholds. He has shown he can block elite players.
The fourth player on this list has become the consensus pick for the Bears: Teven Jenkins. His arms may be a little on the short side, but Jenkins has everything a team could want out of an offensive tackle — including the nasty demeanor. He played mostly right tackle in college and that’s where he projects in the NFL. He could start for the Bears at tackle, kicking Germain Ifedi in to guard and giving the Bears a couple of maulers.
Other good picks: Alijah Vera-Tucker is loved by many, but his arms barely cracked 32 inches. He’s an otherwise exceptional athlete, but it’s rare to find tackles with such short arms and the Bears are among the teams that really value length. That also likely eliminates players like Liam Eichenberg and Jalen Mayfield from the discussion. Alex Leatherwood, Sam Cosmi, or even Walker Little could be good picks at 20. Dillon Radunz could be among a handful of guys the Bears could eye later in the draft.
The Corners (4)
There doesn’t seem to be a consensus amongst draft analysts as to who the top corner is in the draft. It is mostly split between Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn. Both are tall, have long arms and are terrific athletes. There’s almost no way either will drop to the Bears.
There are two others, however, who also fit the tall and athletic category:
- Greg Newsome is sort of like his former Northwestern teammate in that he checks almost all of the boxes, but his arms are a little short. Like Slater, Newsome put on a show at Northwestern’s Pro Day, which followed a dominant season. His arms are just a shade over 31 inches — in the 37th percentile, per Mockdraftable. But he is more than six-feet tall, so that may not matter as much.
- Caleb Farley has no questions when it comes to size (6’1”, 207) or arm length (33.375), athleticism, production or tape (6 INTs, 19 PDs). But a back injury that required surgery is going to drop him. Some consider him the best cornerback in the draft, but the injury question has his stock all over the map. We have no way of knowing how the Bears medical team feels about the injury, but they were OK with Jaylon Johnson last year and could pass Farley this year.
Other good picks: It’s hard to know where to start here. Trevor Moehrig is a safety who would probably start Day One. Asanta Samuel Jr. might be an option if they’re really valuing the slot corner position. Tyson Campbell and Kelvin Joseph both could be in the first-round conversation.