Ranking the Positions of Need, Part 1

PhilEmeryConfusedIf you missed it, I explained my absence in this earlier post. One of the casualties of that absence was the ongoing, position-by-position Offseason Review, which I’d still like to pick up post-draft. A goal of that series was to explore where the Bears are weakest, which will likely correlate strongly with the draft strategy Phil Emery and the rest of the front office elect to pursue.

To be clear, I’m not a proponent of a strict “draft for need” doctrine; teams should always consider the best player available, regardless of position. That’s almost always the path to maximizing draft value. But with the Bears picking in the middle of the first round, it’s likely that they’ll have a group of players available on their draft board with similar grades; at that point, positional need should be strongly considered as a tiebreaker, especially with a team primed to contend this season.

Of course, this list is also for future consideration as well. Cornerback, for example, is not a position I’d consider “weak” for the 2014 season, but going forward the Bears will obviously need to address the spot, since Charles Tillman isn’t getting any younger. (Which is obviously unfortunate, as not only would that be a scientific breakthrough with widespread cultural ramifications, it would also mean at least another decade of awesomely forced fumbles.)

With those inherently subjective criteria in mind, let’s take a quick run through. As always, feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

15. Kicker

With Robbie Gould signing a new four-year deal this offseason, and the position being one in which age is increasingly less of a factor (to which the chart at the bottom of that fascinating Big Lead piece attests), the Bears shouldn’t need to think about a new placekicker for a long time.

14. Quarterback

Pretty crazy that this would rank so low for the Bears, right? Whatever you think of Jay Cutler’s new contract, it’s obvious that the Bears consider the position filled for at least the next few seasons. Losing Josh McCown hurts positional depth, and leaves Jordan Palmer as an untested backup, but the nature of the position means that you don’t want your backups to play. Having a high-priced second-string quarterback is a luxury, and as Adam Hoge noted in this great piece, the idea that a draft pick should be used on a developmental quarterback has traditionally been folly. As Adam writes, Phil Emery agrees with that viewpoint, and I’d be stunned if the Bears took a quarterback this week.

13. Fullback

Tony Fiametta received a two-year contract this offseason. Considering the part-time nature of the position, it’s hard to be more set than that.

12. Offensive Guard

Matt Slauson and Kyle Long were both very good last year, and they’re 28 and 25, respectively. Eben Britton can play guard, and in theory some combination of Roberto Garza or new signing Brian de la Puente could provide cover there as well.

11. Center

I think center is more of a need than guard despite the fact that the Bears have two players (the aforementioned Garza and de la Puente) who, in theory, are capable of being starters at the position. But Garza is 35, and he’s only signed through this season; de la Puente is younger (he’ll play this season at age 29) but he’s also only signed for one year. The Bears will have to address the position at some point, I’m just not sure it will be this weekend, as there are more immediate needs elsewhere.

10. Tight End

Martellus Bennett was really good in his first year, and the Bears signed blocking tight end Matthew Mulligan from New England earlier in the offseason. They also still have Dante Rosario and Fendi Onobun on the roster, and I’d be surprised if they spent big resources on adding to the position.

9. Running Back

Matt Forte is in many ways the engine of the offense; his dual-threat abilities open up the entire playbook for Marc Trestman. Any pick the Bears spend would be second on the depth chart for the next few seasons. But running backs do get hurt, and often; it’s also a position where teams can find good value late in the draft. Michael Ford doesn’t seem like a lock as Forte’s backup, either; he’s never had a regular season carry. Offseason addition Shaun Draughn is the only other back on the roster, and he’s never been more than a bit player.

8. Wide Receiver

This one could probably be moved farther back without any objection, as the Bears probably have the best duo of receivers in the league with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. But the release of Earl Bennett opens up a slot, literally, for a third receiver, and that’s a big part of the Chicago offense. Marquess Wilson seems talented, and I’m sure the Bears would love for him to win the job; they also signed former CFL player Chris Williams to compete for a role. (Oh, and veteran Josh Morgan, who was promptly arrested.) Marshall is also entering the last year of his contract, and though I’d bet highly on an extension at some point, it’s not a certainty. Eric Weems and Domenik Hixon are also capable of handling spot duties if necessary. Again, this is a subjective ranking. You could probably make a case for this being the deepest position. I’d just like to see a third starter emerge from the group, as well as see Marshall’s contract situation settled, before making that declaration.

That’s all for part 1; tomorrow, we get defensively-intensive. (Similar to how I expect the Bears drafting to play out.)

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.