The 2021 NFL Draft is fast approaching. And it’s a big one for GM Ryan Pace, who enters the final year of the extension he signed in 2018. The same can be said for Head Coach Matt Nagy, the NFL Coach of the Year for his efforts in 2018, who aims to fix an offense that has been spinning its wheels since the start of 2019. Starting today, we’re looking at some of the best prospects at various positions leading up to the Draft in search of fits for the Bears’ needs.
Need: Not as high as quarterback, but really freaking high
Currently on the Roster (2020 PFF Grade):
Cody Whitehair (75.0), Charles Leno Jr. (74.9), James Daniels (65.8) Germain Ifedi (65.5), Sam Mustipher (59.5), Alex Bars (53.3), Elijah Wilkinson (52.4), Arlington Hambright (51.6), Lachavious Simmons (N/A), Dieter Eiselen (N/A), Badara Traore (N/A)
BN’s Composite Ranking
Ranking prospects is difficult, in part, because no one publication has the same set of fundamentals or preferences. In an attempt to work through that noise, we’re using a composite ranking based on opinions from PFF, ESPN, The Draft Network, and Pro Football Network and adapting them to a points scale. The best of the top-10 prospects gets 10 points, the 10th ranked prospect gets 1, and prospects outside the top-10 get 0. From there, the prospects are ranked by total points.
Here’s how the offensive linemen stack up (points in parenthesis):
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon (40)
2. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern (35)
3. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech (33)
4. Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State (26)
5. Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State (18)
6. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan (14)
7. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame (12)
8. Samuel Cosmi, Texas (11)
9. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama (9)
10. Walker Little, Stanford (8)
Best of the rest: Jackson Carman (Clemson), James Hudson (Cincinnati), Spencer Brown (Northern Iowa), Brady Christensen (BYU), Larry Borom (Missouri)
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
1. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC (40)
2. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma (29)
3. Landon Dickerson, Alabama (27)
4. Wyatt Davis, Ohio State (26)
5. Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater (20)
6. Aaron Banks, Notre Dame (14)
7. Trey Smith, Tennessee (13)
8. Josh Myers, Ohio State (12)
9. Kendrick Green, Illinois (7)
10. Ben Cleveland, Georgia (6)
Best of the rest: Deonte Brown (Alabama), D’Ante Smith (East Carolina), Jack Anderson (Texas Tech), Jaylon Moore (Western Michigan), David Moore (Grambling)
The only position group in need of an upgrade as much as the quarterbacks room is the one responsible for protecting him. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is on the final year of an extension he signed in 2017. Center/guard James Daniels enters 2021 on the final year of his rookie contract. Germain Ifedi, who made starts at right guard and right tackle in 2020, returns on another one-year deal. That’s three starting linemen in the final year of their respective deals. In other words, there are some real long-term needs at an important position group.
Most Likely to be Available When the Bears Are on the Clock:
If Chicago sticks at No. 20, there will be a good chance the team will be in a position to draft one of this class’ best linemen. Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater will be off the board by the time the Bears go on the clock. However, there is no shortage of high-end prospects who could be immediate contributors. Christian Darrisaw, Teven Jenkins, and Alijah Vera-Tucker could be in play in Round 1. Any number of prospects (Dillon Radunz? Alex Leatherwood? Liam Eichenberg?) could be available at No. 52 if the Bears goes a different direction in Round 1.
This is a good draft for the Bears to double dip with linemen picks. Players such as Kendrick Green, Ben Cleveland, Trey Smith, Brady Christensen, and D’Ante Smith can be had on Day 2 (and possibly into Day 3).
• The Bears were out in full force to see Rashawn Slater’s Pro Day at Northwestern.
• Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo got a close-up look at Christian Darrisaw.
• Teven Jenkins and Alijah Vera-Tucker are among the linemen prospects who have been sent to Chicago via mock drafts in recent weeks.
If I Had to Pick One:
Teven Jenkins plays with an edge that the Bears offensive line has been missing in recent years. I don’t care if he projects better as a right tackle than on the left side. Considering how teams deploy stud edge defenders on each side, I’d argue both tackles need to be above average for an offense to work. All in all, I think I would be fine wherever Jenkins plays, so long as his college style carries over into the pros.
One of my favorite things is coming to draft stuff way late to the party knowing nothing.
I now know one thing after reviewing one game: if Teven Jenkins always plays this mean I'm in love. (RT) pic.twitter.com/zno6TVeAqP
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) April 15, 2021
— 3rd And 20 (@3rdand20_) April 12, 2021
Love watching Film while having some sushi and a cold brew. TevenJenkins always going for the kill shot lol pic.twitter.com/Pdll92xvq7
— RealBucsTalk (@RealBucsTalk) April 14, 2021
Even still … the Bears’ pursuit of line help shouldn’t stop in Round 1. Considering the depth in the class and Chicago’s need for depth, double-dipping along the offensive line would be a wise investment. In other words, even if the Bears plucked a lineman on Day 1, they could double-down on Day 2 (Walker Little? James Hudson? Brady Christensen?) or Day 3 (Robert Hainsey? David Moore? Ben Cleveland?) and fortify a group that needs help.