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.

34 responses to “Ranking the Positions of Need, Part 1”

  1. Myles

    I like how Emery ruled out drafting a QB in the first round, but DIDN’T rule out drafting a kicker, punter, or long snapper :)

  2. abe

    I have been wondering. If Peunte is good. Why did he sign a dealvto be the Bears backup? He should got avstarter job somewhere…

    1. frank

      Can’t say for sure, abe–though they did sign him for a dollar over minimum, which allows them to extend him during the season–which is what I think they’ll do. Please, correct me on this if I’m wrong–but I don’t think there was much of a market for centers this offseason. He has worked with Kromer before and I think that was a big factor.

      1. abe

        Maybe he had a drop off year and he feels Kromer makes him better…

  3. Beer Baron

    I think you’ve seriously under estimated the need for a RB. I’m not saying its as big of a need as some of the other obvious ones, and Forte is great and not really showing signs of slowing down yet. However, they don’t have any appreciable depth at a position where the starter rarely goes all 16 games, the trend in the league is for 2 backs alternating throughout a game, Forte is 28 which is getting old for a RB, and perhaps most importantly – he only has one year left after 2014 and that comes with a $9 million cap hit, making him a prime candidate to be a cap casualty after next season. If they find a good value in the 3rd or 4th round I would not at all be surprised to see them draft a RB and groom him to be the heir apparent.

    Even if they don’t take one in the draft, that will be a top priority in the undrafted free agents and in my opinion a bigger need than some positions that I’m guessing are higher up on the list – like OT, OLB, and DE.

    1. mdavis

      Agreed that RB could be something addressed in the first 5 rounds. Forte is 28. Ford is an unknown, and do they trust him in pass pro? Sims from West Virginia is someone to keep an eye on. Very similar type player to Forte, and could be in that 3-4 range.

      1. TheRiot2

        Another running back who could be had later than Sims is Isaiah Crowell a 3rd. day selection who could be taken with one of the two 6th. round picks and projects well, but has a problematic past. A 6th. round pick makes sense,not a gamble if he fails,but plenty of upside if he succeeds.

    2. frank

      I think you’re right–but with the number of needs on defense, I don’t see them picking up a RB until probably the 4th round–but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick one in the 3rd. I would be very surprised if they picked one earlier than that.

  4. frank

    I think they end up extending de la Puente during the season. I think/hope that Marquess Wilson takes another step forward this season. He’s been working out with Marshall and Jeffery this offseason, and his talent is well above typical for the round in which he was picked.

    1. mdavis

      agreed. as you pointed out in that other thread frank, they said de la Puente to a deal $1 over the minimum, so they are able to negotiate an extension in season. Wilson is reportedly up in that 200-205 range, which I think is a good area for him.

  5. frank

    Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley both did “ideal” mock drafts–here’s what they came up with:

    Jahns:

    Donald DT
    Jimmie Ward S
    Pierre Desir CB
    Dion Bailey S
    James White RB
    Kevin Pierre-Louis LB
    Tevin Reese WR

    Finley:

    Pryor S
    Sutton DT
    Borland LB
    Charles Sims RB
    Antone Exum CB
    De’Anthony Thomas RB
    Dontae Johnson CB

    First off, in Jahn’s draft–Can’t argue with Donald at 14, though I do believe he lacks the versatility that Emery craves. He’s a 3 technique and really nothing else. I just don’t see Ward as a rd 2 talent–I think Bucannon would be a much better pick there. Can’t argue with much of the rest though–especially since I know very little about his late round guys, except that Pierre-Louis is fast and athletic, and Reese is small and very fast.

    Finley’s draft–Can’t argue with Pryor, though there are some concerns with Sutton–short arms, motivation (evidenced by bad weight gain), inconsistency–but lots of talent. I don’t see them taking 2 RBs, especially while not picking a CB until rd 5. Exum and Johnson are both big corners, and one or the other could be moved to safety–ok. I don’t know much else about those two.

    1. mdavis

      I like Donald and Desir. White would be an ok pick. But I’m with you, I just hate the value of Ward in round 2. Sims picks.

      As for Finley, I don’t love Sutton at 2 as much as maybe a few months ago. Like Pryor, Borland, Exum and Johnson strike me as meh. And if round 6, they can get one of those “gadget” backs, I think that’s an ok place. At that point you’re looking for lottery tickets basically, you wont be filling needs in those rounds. Mostly filling out the ST, so a guy like Thomas could have an impact in the return game at least

  6. frank

    I would not be surprised at all if Lovie Smith picks Donald at 7. He is a defensive guy, the engine of his defense is the 3 technique DT, and Donald is the best one on the board.

    1. cubbiekoolaid2015

      Yea, I have the Bucs either taking Evans or Donald.

      I may be in the minority but I actually like Evans more then Watkins… I still think Watkins gets taken ahead of Evans though.

    2. Webb

      Agreed. I wouldn’t mind a draft that began with Jernigan, Bucannon – 1,2. In my wildest dreams they trade down with the Browns and up in the 2nd to get Fuller, Jernigan, Bucannon – 1,2,3

      1. frank

        I know a lot of people like Jernigan as a run-stopper–but I don’t think Emery will pick Jernigan–he has pretty short arms for a DT and is not as athletic a player as Emery normally likes to pick. My guess is that they’ll go CB or S first and then a DT in the 2nd round, because the draft is deeper with DTs than it is with safeties. Depends on who’s on the board at 14 of course, and whether they trade back. Fuller’s injuries worry me a bit–have you heard anything on his recovery?

  7. cubbiekoolaid2015

    When Phil talked about having narrowed his list down to 6 players, it got me thinking, “who are those six players?”

    You can bank on Donald, Dix, and Pryor being 3 of the 6. So, who are the other 3? When Phil talked, he mentioned that he wanted a guy who could contribute/start immediately as a 1st round pick. Having 2 starting corners already, I think that crosses off Dennard as a possibility. Gilbert? I think he is one of the 6. Gilbert could contribute on special teams, as a returner, a backup to Tillman and Jennings, and maybe Trestman could even work some magic and use him on offense ala Patrick Peterson.(he has that type of talent)

    So that’s 4. Two more… I look at the linebackers on this team and definitely feel we could use an upgrade on the inside. CJ Mosley anyone? The Bears haven’t had a good linebacking tandem since about 2010. A linebacking crew of Briggs, Mosley, Williams, Bostic, Greene, and McClellin doesn’t sound all that bad. I’d be happy with Mosley at 14.

    Last one… Now I thought long and hard on this one and while I wanted to go with a guy like Hageman or Fuller, I just couldn’t see the value. While I didn’t like the tape I watched on this kid, I still think he could be special and a starter from day one. Timmy Jernigan DT, FSU. Jernigan is a solid run stuffer that may appeal to Phil if Donald is already gone.

    That’s my amateur opinion on the 6 possibilities. One of Donald, Dix, Pryor, Gilbert, Mosley, or Jernigan could be the pick and I’d be happy with any one of them… Can’t wait for Thursday!

    1. frank

      I think you’re right with Donald, Clinton-Dix, Pryor, and Gilbert–and I too, would add Mosley to that group. As I mentioned before, I don’t think he’ll pick Jernigan, but he may be one of the 6, and, as you say, he is a run stuffer. Hageman kind of scares me–he has a ton of potential and is an athletic freak. Like you, I don’t see the value at 14–but he’s just the kind of pick Emery might make.

      1. cubbiekoolaid2015

        I’d really like to see a Jeffery type deal if Hageman or Jernigan slip to the second round. Imagine getting Dix/Pryor in the first round and then trading up for Hageman or Jernigan in the second. I’d be grinning from ear to ear if that happened.

        1. mdavis

          I’ll agree with 5 of those also. But I just don’t see it with Jernigan. The short arms are a concern. The lack of production is a concern (I think something like half of his sacks came against Idaho). And one of the lasting images I have of the kid, is Auburn with the ball, driving for a potential game winning score, and he’s huffing and puffing on a knee on the sideline. I actually wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Jernigan slide out of the first round. Hageman does seem like one of those athletic type guys that Emery loves. I’ve been trying to think of who might be someone that’s off the wall that he might take, since I’ve been shocked both his drafts, and I can’t really come up with one haha. Eric Ebron? maybe? But I’m hoping for one of the top 3 dbs. Gilbert is my #1. #2 Pryor. then #3Clinton-Dix. #4 Donald. #5 Mosley. Trade back.

          I really just do not view DT as that big of a need at this point.

          1. cubbiekoolaid2015

            Ebron would be an eye opening pick. Marshall, Jeffery, Ebron, Wilson, Bennett, and Forte would have to be one of the biggest and most explosive offenses in NFL history.(on paper)

            1. frank

              I would be surprised if they picked Ebron as well. But I think if Emery goes with the head-shaking-athletic-freak-surprise-boom-or-bust pick at 14 it’ll be Hageman. I think depth at DT is a need, though because of everything else they did with the DL, and the ability to move Houston inside, it’s arguable less of a need than defensive backfield. But I still think it’ll be a DB in rd 1 and a DT in rd 2.

              1. cubbiekoolaid2015

                Agreed on both ends… I do think that if Donald is still their at 14 you’ll see the Bears running to the podium faster then Usain Bolt.

              2. mdavis

                Yeah I agree. I was just throwing a name out there out of the box, not connected at all, etc. I’m hoping it goes DB in 1, and DT 2 DB3….or DB 1 and 2, DT 3. I think a guy like Easley, Sutton, Reid, Urban will all be on the board in 3.

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  10. beerhelps

    I was surprised to see center so low on the list until I was reminded of the signing of de la Puente. Great signing that I had already completely wiped from my memory.

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