If the Chicago Bears are unable to secure a trade up for one of the five best quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, they still should be able to get a quality player.
Should five quarterbacks go in the top 20, that will push the rest of the skill position players down. And this draft is (supposedly) rich in areas the Bears could use upgrades.
Here is a quick look at some of the positions the Bears could look to fill early in the draft and the players who could fill them.
We can feel confident that the Bears see a need here based on the reports that they were going after Trent Williams. Williams re-signed a huge deal with the 49ers and there was never a thought that he would come cheap, so the Bears were clearly — if the reports were remotely true — willing to shell out a large sum of money for this position.
The Bears have an adequate left tackle in Charles Leno Jr. and Germaine Ifedi played well at right tackle last year. The pursuit of Williams tells us the Bears want to do better than adequate at left tackle.
This would be a good draft to revamp the tackle position. While five quarterbacks will surely go within the top 20 picks, along with a handful of defensive players, wide receivers and a tight end, the Bears could be looking at franchise tackle, so to speak.
The only tackle who is pretty much guaranteed to be drafted before the Bears choose is Penei Sewell — widely seen as one of the five best players in the draft. The Bears would probably love to get their hands on Christian Darrisaw from Virginia Tech or Rashawn Slater from Northwester. Slater is more likely as some teams won’t like his size and could project him as a guard or strictly right tackle.
Even if all three are gone, the Bears could grab a mauler in Teven Jenkins, though he might be strictly a right tackle.
Tackle is widely considered the deepest position in the draft, so the Bears could wait until the second round or later. A player like Standord’s Walker Little could be a great pick at 52 or they could grab Dillon Radunz from NDSU or Brady Christensen from BYU.
But they also might not see tackle as such a pressing need for 2021. Leno and Ifedi are OK and both are paid to play. Ifedi could switch inside to guard, but the Bears seem to also like their options there.
If the Bears could trust Desmond Trufant, it would be one thing, but two straight injury-plagued seasons means they’ll need to add another player and do so with an early pick.
Like tackle, this cornerback class is loaded, especially at the top. Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, Jaycee Horn and Greg Newsome are all seen as players who could step in right away and be shutdown corners before too long.
The Bears seem set with Jaylon Johnson on one side, but the other two starting cornerbacks — Buster Skrine and Kyle Fuller — are both gone. Losing Skrine won’t be a big deal as he struggled last year too, but Fuller was their top cover corner.
Trufant wasn’t as bad as he looked in Detroit — the team had no pass rush and played coverages so predictable Mitch Trubisky could figure them out. But the Bears shouldn’t bet on him being able to stay on the field. They like Kindle Vildor, who played as well as one could expect a fifth-round rookie to play when he was forced into the lineup. And Duke Shelley was OK in the slot — outside of being abused by mismatches against Green Bay.
But if Trufant is injured and Vildor and Shelley aren’t better than they were last year, the Bears would be in serious trouble.
We should also figure on the Bears playing more zone coverage in 2021. Chuck Pagano always played man coverage in important situations, leading to players like Skrine and Shelley being targeted. Sean Desai figures to get back to a more zone-based approach, which could mean the Bears need less of an investment in the position.
If the Bears trust that Johnson and Vildor will be good enough, they could wait until the second round and add Kelvin Joseph, Elijah Molden or Ifeatu Melifonwu. Remember, Johnson wasn’t drafted until the second round, so it isn’t as if talent can’t be had there. But they shouldn’t bank on their current players being enough.
Tomorrow: Part 2.