The 2022 NFL Draft is fast approaching. And even though new GM Ryan Poles doesn’t have a first-round pick, he is set to usher in a new era of Bears football with Assistant GM Ian Cunningham, Head Coach Matt Eberflus, and a host of other newbies. 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: Let’s put it this way: The only subset of internet fans who have more theories than Swifties when it comes to TS10 are Bears fans piecing together how new GM Ryan Poles will properly address the team’s offensive line needs with picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. The need for offensive line help is high.
Currently on the Roster (2021 PFF Grade):
Larry Borom (61.4), Teven Jenkins (47.5), Lachavious Simmons (30.6), Cody Whitehair (66.2), Lucas Patrick (57.5), Sam Mustipher (48.1), Willie Wright (N/A), Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (N/A), Dieter Eiselen (N/A), Dakota Dozier (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, CBS Sports, and NFL dot com, 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. Evan Neal, Alabama (37)
2. Ickey Ekwonu, North Carolina State (36)
3. Charles Cross, Mississippi State (35)
4. Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (26)
5. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (25)
6. Tyler Smith, Tulsa (19)
7. Daniel Faalele, Minnesota (12)
8. Abraham Lucas, Washington State (9)
9. Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State (7)
10. Max Mitchell, Louisiana (6)
Also receiving Top-10 consideration: Kellen Diesch (Arizona State, CBS Sports), Rasheed Walker (Penn State, CBS Sports), Thayer Munford Jr. (Ohio State, NFL.com), Braxton Jones (Southern Utah, PFF)
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
1. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa (40)
2. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M (35)
3. Zion Johnson, Boston College (33)
4. Cole Strange, Chattanooga (20)
5. Dylan Parham, Memphis (18)
t-6. Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan (15)
t-6. Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (15)
8. Zach Tom, Wake Forest (8)
9. Sean Rhyan, UCLA (7)
10. Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (6)
Also receiving Top-10 consideration: Logan Bruss (Wisconsin, NFL.com), Dohnovan West (Arizona State (CBS, PFF, ESPN), Cameron Jurgens (Nebraska, ESPN), Chris Paul (Tulsa, CBS), Luke Fortner (Kentucky, NFL.com)
The Bears’ offensive line situation is a mess. And I think I’m being polite when portraying it this way. Think about it. Starting tackles Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins are second-year players drafted by the old regime who have flipped positions early under the new leadership at Halas Hall. Cody Whitehair, now starting at left guard, is coming off a disappointing year. Next to him on the line is Lucas Patrick, a free agent addition whose strength is more in his versatility than it is his ability to excel in one position. The Bears have yet to adequately replace right guard James Daniels. This group has a lot of work to do.
With that being said, the Bears can go anywhere with an offensive line pick and it would result in the unit being better than what it was before the NFL Draft. Bringing in a center would move Patrick to guard, a position he has experience starting. Tabbing a tackle could create competition with either Jenkins or Borom. Snagging a guard would make for a convenient plug-and-play player. It feels like the possibilities are endless.
Most Likely to be Available When the Bears Are on the Clock:
Choosing three players who project to be available when the Bears go on the clock with each of their picks.
Round 2, Pick 39: Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa), Zion Johnson (Boston College), Kenyon Green (Texas A&M)
Round 2, Pick 48: Darian Kinnard (Kentucky), Dylan Parham (Memphis), Tyler Smith (Tulsa)
Round 3, Pick 71: Donovan West (Arizona State), Nicholas Petit-Frere (Ohio State), Cole Strange (Chattanooga)
Round 5, Pick 150: Lecitus Smith (Virginia Tech), Thayer Munford (Ohio State), Daniel Faalele (Minnesota)
Round 6, Pick 186: Chris Paul (Tulsa), Alec Windstorm (Boston College), Doug Kramer (Illinois)
• The Bears were set to visit with Texas A&M All-American Kenyon Green.
• Tulsa’s Tyler Smith was sent to the Bears in a mock draft last week.
• Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum might see his stock drop into the second round — and right into the Bears’ laps.
• Combine visit: Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa), Braxton Jones (Southern Utah)
• Top-30 visit: Kenyon Green (Texas A&M), Veteran Lowe (Illinois)
• Virtual visit: Matt Waletzko (North Dakota)
Zack Pearson of Bear Report does a tremendous job compiling Bears prospect visits. You can follow his work here.
If I Had to Pick One:
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum has been on our radar for a few years now. Linderbaum could’ve come out for the 2021 NFL Draft, where he would have likely been a second-round pick. A year later, Linderbaum is garnering attention as a possible first-round selection. However, there has been some recent buzz suggesting Linderbaum’s draft stock is dipping because he is seen as just a center. And if team’s aren’t valuing centers as much as they are tackles or guards, then Linderbaum will fall down draft boards. If that’s the case, the Bears should probably jump on the opportunity to solidify the interior line with its best center prospect since drafting Olin Kreutz in 1998.