Even though the Chicago Bears used the first few waves of free agency to sign starters and depth pieces throughout the roster, the team still has significant needs.
And with the draft just a month away, let’s use Pro Football Focus’ depth charts and grading scale to take a fresh look at some holes that could use filling despite the offseason free agent spending spree.
The defensive line happens to be one of the areas the Bears didn’t use free agency to address, so it would make sense to do so via the draft. Mitch Unrein’s 51.8 grade from Pro Football Focus is the lowest among players projected to start on Vic Fangio’s defense, and he played the second most snaps among Bears defensive linemen in 2016. There isn’t a position on the field begging for improvement more than the defensive line.
Jonathan Allen from Alabama has long been linked to the Bears through various mock drafts. Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is starting to see some additional attention, too.
Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. (70.8) barely makes the cut as an “average” player, by PFF’s grading scale. On the other side, Bobbie Massie (69.9) barely misses the cut, sliding into “below average” territory. In either case, both are positions the Bears could (and should) look to upgrade through the draft. Having a sturdy set of interior linemen is a good start for a Bears team that should establish the rushing attack early and use it often. However, improving the tackle situation would go a long way toward keeping edge rushers from disrupting the backfield and taking down new quarterback Mike Glennon.
Unfortunately, offensive tackle isn’t a strength in this draft. However, a couple of mock drafts had the Bears plucking tackles after the first round. There are players worth keeping an eye on, but not the kind of safe selection a team would prefer.
The Bears used free agency to add to its depth at the position with the additions of Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright. However, the team didn’t find a replacement for Alshon Jeffery who can be a game-changer on the outside.
Luckily for the Bears, wide receiver is a position of depth in this draft and impact players can be found early and often. Kevin White is a projected starter, but his 69.2 grade in limited action in 2016 put him in the “below average” category. Wright and Cameron Meredith both grade out as average players, but they (as well as Glennon) would also benefit from a true playmaker on the other side.
If Kyle Fuller recovers and gets through training camp with a clean bill of health, odds are he will start opposite free-agent addition Prince Amukamara. Fuller earned a respectable 78.1 grade as a second-year player in 2015, but it remains to be seen how he will look when the 2017 season rolls around. If Fuller isn’t starting, that leaves either Marcus Cooper (45.5) or Tracy Porter (40.6) as the other options. Both players graded out as “poor” by PFF’s standards and ranked 101st and 108th among qualifying cornerbacks, respectively.
Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State could be in the mix with the third pick, but other options in later rounds could be more interesting to the Bears. In any case, another starting-caliber cornerback (preferably with playmaking ability and upside) is still a need for Chicago.
On one side of the equation, we have Leonard Floyd, a rookie who earned a PFF grade (65.1) that rates him as below average. But Floyd is just starting his career and settling into a new position where he is simultaneously learning and growing. But on the other side of the equation stand players such as Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, and Lamarr Houston, veterans who might not be long for the Bears for one reason or another. Whether it is because of age or injury, this trio of edge defenders highlights the need for another playmaking body to add to the group.
It isn’t the most pressing need, but a missed game due to injury here and there could lead to an exposed weakness rather quickly.
And Finally, Quarterback
Glennon graded out as an average quarterback in 2013 and 2014, and projects to be the Bears’ starter for the next few years. That is, of course, unless the Bears draft his heir apparent and unleash him at some point between the 2017 season opener and the end of Glennon’s three-year contract. Just because the Bears signed Glennon doesn’t mean they should (or would) stop their search for a true long-term solution at quarterback.
Maybe that quarterback is in this draft. Perhaps he isn’t. No matter what, the Bears should continue to act as if that player isn’t currently on this roster until they find one. And even then, they should continue their search because depth is good.