Prioritizing the Chicago Bears Draft Needs in 2016

Prioritizing the Chicago Bears Draft Needs in 2016
First Thing: Finding Shea's Replacement

Sunday's 26-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was a rude awakening for many Bears fans.

A weak NFC playoff picture combined with the Bears performance in Green Bay provided excitement for followers of the team.  However, a string of misplays, unfortunate special teams play, and horrendous game management led to a sobering loss to one of the NFL's worst teams.

The Bears truly are who we thought they were, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Make no mistake, Bears general manager Ryan Pace is well aware of the Bears' needs. No playoff appearance or torrid finish will sway him from the team's plan.

What Pace and his crew is looking at is 2016. Here is what the Bears may be looking at, and how they'll prioritize those needs.

(ALL LISTED ARE PRIORITIES; MOVING FROM HIGHEST PRIORITY TO LOWEST)

Not immediate needs: running back, punter

1. LINEBACKER

The Bears 3-4 scheme puts a priority on quick linebackers who can be disciplined and read plays. Without four down lineman, it's easier to be picked up at the second level by offensive lineman...this means that a linebacker in a 3-4 doesn't have as much time/freedom to roam and make a play. Plays must be read quick, and holes must be exploited quickly. For the Bears, this is an issue...because they probably only have one player who can do this semi-decently.

Pernell McPhee is a violent player, a prototype for what the Bears want on the outside. Sam Acho has developed to be more than serviceable as well.

The Bears issues are primarily on the inside. We could show a highlight reel of Shea McClellin reading the wrong hole, or taking too long at reading play...only to be taken out of the play by an aggressive guard who got to the second level. Fret not, McClellin is gone. Christian Jones vacillates between serviceable and horrendous.

What Do They Need: 2 more inside linebackers (1 Will, 1 Mic)

Via Draft or Free Agency: Two via draft; first should be rounds 1 or 2.  Second pick should be rounds 6 or 7.  OR 1 via draft 1st or 2nd round; other top tier FA.

2. OFFENSIVE LINE

The Bears have done a halfway decent job in regards to manuevering their personnel on the offensive line in 2015. There is still a ways to go, and two spots will need to be filled in 2016.

Despite a rough start, I am of the belief that Hroniss Grasu will evolve into a starting NFL center. This will permit Matt Slauson to stay at his traditional guard spot. I also think we're not that far from Kyle Long moving to left tackle. People might think that's nuts given his size, but the ever changing speed of NFL edge-rushers makes fleet-footed tackles more of a necessity.  It's easier to get a premier run blocking strong-side tackle, which I'd like to see the Bears wrap up in free agency. They also need a guard...badly. While Slauson is one of the best in the business, a rotation of Omameh and Ducasse is not going to cut it.

What Do They Need: 2 offensive lineman (1 SS tackle, 1 guard; versatile)

Via Draft or Free Agency: Prefer the tackle to come via draft (might be a 'best available' situation if you find him in the 1st; no problems in grabbing a guy in 5-7. Would like a tough run-blocking guard in rounds 3-4; if there's no fit, don't push it/get decent guard for second tier FA money)

3. DEFENSIVE LINE

Some people might think it's crazy to have the DL this high, but all good teams are built around their lines...and given today's ever-evolving climate on football injuries, you can never have too much.

Eddie Goldman is starting to evolve. Jarvis Jenkins gives us flashes. Will Sutton has the potential to be a stalwart. However, none of them will be booking trips to Hawaii. To make a 3-4 successful you need guys that are rocking the interior. I'm of the belief that if the Bears really want to strengthen their team, they need to do it via free agency with a top of the line nose.

What Do They Need: 1 more guy

Via Draft of Free Agency: If the right fit is there via free agency, give the bank.  If not, there's no problems in taking the right fit at any of the rounds. Defensive line is an area where if you find the right guy, no matter where in the draft he is, or what the priority is...you have to take him. Yes, even if you know that you need a couple linebackers, if the right fit is there at DL, you take the guy.

4. SAFETY

As Bears fans have been made keenly aware of over the last three seasons, having sub-par safety play in the NFL will destroy any chance of being competitive.

Antrel Rolle is old, and Adrian Amos is still developing. Amos has been a surprise, and has been pretty solid. The Bears will need to another safety of starting caliber by next year.

What Do They Need: 1 more

Via Draft of Free Agency: No safety should be drafted before Round 4; would rather take a serviceable starter via free agency

5. WIDE RECEIVER

The Bears seem to have a strong future with wideouts; Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White should be locked in as starters for the next couple of years.  But given Jeffrey's issues with health, and the non-development of Marquess Wilson, the Bears will surely need to put stock in another receiver; preferably a slot threat that can permit White and Jeffrey to perform downfield.

What Do They Need: 1 more

Via Draft or Free Agency: Look for possession receiver via FA; may find a good fit from a small school in rounds 5-7

6. TIGHT END

Many may want this higher. Martellus Bennett has been extremely vocal in his displeasure over targets during the last month. Bennett doesn't look like a player who is coming back. This fact, combined with Zach Miller's long injury record, should lead the Bears to shopping for a starting-level pass receiving tight end.

What Do They Need: 1 more

Via Draft or Free Agency: Don't be surprised if the Bears drop money on a solid FA TE; if they draft somebody it will be in the mid to latter rounds...looking at rounds 4-7.

7. QUARTERBACK 

This is an area of contention for most Bears fans. Jay Cutler has looked comfortable in the Bears' offensive scheme; something that we've only seen flashes of over the past seven seasons. Cutler will return in 2016, but the Bears will need to develop another quarterback as Cutler ages. The Bears seem to like David Fales, but to have him as a future starting quarterback may be a stretch. Look for the Bears to grab somebody in the later rounds.

What Do They Need: 1 more

Via Draft or Free Agency: This will be done via draft; Rounds 3-7

8. KICKER

We've finally hit the frightening wall in the 'Find a Kicker' game. For years, the Bears have been fairly lucky by grabbing special teams stalwarts. Gould looks to have finally hit his end. That still doesn't mean that Gould isn't on the Bears in 2016. He will, however, get real competition in camp...and on Draft Day, don't be surprised if we get a kicker at a higher round than believed.

What Do They Need: 1 more

Via Draft or Free Agency: This will be done in rounds 6-7, but this is usually based on how each team drafts...if a kicker goes early, that seems to drive the remainder of the draft. 

FINAL WORDS

It's important to understand that all of this can fluctuate. Injuries, contract disputes, and retirements can have a massive effect on draft priority. For now, the Bears are in good shape for 2016. The upcoming draft will have a massive impact on Pace's future in Chicago, and for the squads of the next five years.

 

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