Chicago Bears April Scouting Report
This month, we'll recap the Bears' moves from the past few weeks and look at the Bears' needs for the 2021 NFL Draft, which starts on April 29th. Before I start though, I wanted to send my thoughts and prayers out to Steve "Mongo" McMichael and his family. One of the most popular players from the '85 Bears (and one of my personal favorites as well), Mongo was recently diagnosed with ALS. It's very tough for me and all Bears fans to see him have to deal with this now, but he's taking it on with the tenacity that he always showed during his playing career. Wishing him all the best.
Quarterback (need: high) (duh)
GM Ryan Pace has probably had many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to get one of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft. After all, the Bears can't just go into training camp with QB Andy Dalton and QB Nick Foles, can they? Of course, Pace put the Bears in this mess by picking the wrong quarterback four years ago, and then the team screwed itself out of good draft position (again) by going on a hot streak in the second half of 2020 and squeaking into a playoff game that it had zero chance of winning. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are virtually assured to be the first two overall picks, so the conversation in terms of the Bears' realistic options starts with Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance.
Jones has great processing ability, accuracy and leadership qualities but doesn't have great athleticism or a huge arm. Fields has a big arm, accuracy, toughness and 4.44 speed but isn't great against blitzes. Fair or not, there have been questions about his work ethic as well, though that could be false gossip from a team hoping he falls to them. There was also a recent revelation that he has epilepsy, though by all accounts he's managed it well. Lance is big and strong with a huge arm and great intangibles but played only one season in college (and at an FCS school). All three could go in the top ten (many think Jones will go at three to the 49ers), but any of them could also fall out of the top ten because of their question marks. For the Bears to realistically trade up from #20 overall, I think one of them would have to fall to at least the eight-to-twelve range (and in front of the Patriots at #15). A trade up to the four-to-seven range would be too costly IMO, especially when the team still has other needs to fill.
If the Bears were to trade up for one of them, Fields and Lance intrigue me the most because of their dual threat ability. I look at Fields and see a faster version of Deshaun Watson. I see some Daunte Culpepper in Lance with his big arm and power running ability, but he may take the longest to develop of the top signal callers because of his lack of game experience. Would Pace, in a win now year, be willing to gamble on Lance? I think so, because he could just sit behind Dalton for a year. The obvious comp for Jones is Matt Ryan, but I just feel like his upside is limited because of his lack of mobility. If I had to pick one of the three, it would be Fields, but Lance would be a close second.
If the Bears opt to wait until the second or third round to address the position, then you're looking at Davis Mills, Kellen Mond or Kyle Trask as potential options. Of this group, Mond intrigues me the most because of his big arm, athleticism and experience level (44 starts), but accuracy and decision making can be problematic at times. Mills is also interesting as a poor man's Mac Jones but lacks experience (11 starts) and has had injury issues. Trask is accurate and put up good numbers with the playmakers he had at Florida but lacks mobility and isn't great at anything in particular. I think Pace is itching to do something big on Thursday night, but the stars would have to align for him to be able to get one of the top five signal callers. If he can't, hey, maybe he'll throw his next three drafts at the Seahawks for Russell Wilson. More realistically though, if the top five quarterbacks are gone, I could see the Bears trading down to get more picks and fill more holes. If the Bears wait until the second round (at #52 overall), they may need to trade ahead of Washington, which has the 51st pick and may also want a quarterback.
Runningback (need: low-medium)
On March 24th, the Bears signed free agent RB Damien Williams to a one-year deal. Because he sat out 2020 due to COVID concerns, his last action was in Super Bowl LIV, where he scored twice. With RB Cordarrelle Patterson leaving for the Falcons and RB Tarik Cohen coming off ACL surgery, the team needed to add some depth here behind RB David Montgomery. This signing makes tailback a lower priority in the draft, though it's still possible the team may take one in the later rounds.
Wide receiver (need: high)
The fact that the Bears went hard after Kenny Golladay in free agency last month would seem to indicate that the front office has placed an emphasis on adding more playmakers. WR Allen Robinson signed his franchise tender, but we still don't know for sure whether he will play this season, sit out some or all of it, or force a trade. WR Anthony Miller is still on the trade block, so the closest thing the Bears have to a sure thing here is WR Darnell Mooney, who is coming off an impressive rookie season. LSU's Ja'Marr Chase is considered by many to be the top receiver in this draft and won't be there for the Bears at #20. Jaylen Waddle is expected be a top 10-15 pick. His Alabama teammate, Devonta Smith, has top ten talent, but there are concerns about his size at 6-0 166. If he somehow fell to #20 (unlikely but not impossible), would the Bears consider taking him when Mooney is already pretty skinny himself at 5-11 174? If it was up to me, I would. The guy just knows how to create separation and get open, and his numbers in 2020 were mind boggling, especially in the national championship game against Ohio State.
Again though, it's unlikely that Smith will be there at #20, so let's look at some more realistic options at #20 or later. Now you're looking at players like Florida's Kadarius Toney, Ole Miss' Elijah Moore, Purdue's Rondale Moore, Minnesota's Rashod Bateman or LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr. Toney, who some have mocked to the Bears, is an explosive playmaker who can juke defenders out of their cleats but could use some refinement in his route running ability. The Bears could really use a player who can score from anywhere on the field, and Toney is that type of player. Elijah Moore is a smooth and fast (4.34 40) but undersized (5-9 178) slot receiver with great hands and route running ability. Rondale Moore is undersized at 5-7 180 but may be the most electric playmaker of the bunch and has unexpected play strength. He reminds me of Darren Sproles, a player I always enjoyed watching. Moore could be an exciting return man as well, and there's a need there with Patterson's departure. Due to injuries and sitting out part of 2020 due to COVID concerns, Moore never recaptured the form he had during his amazing freshman season in 2018, but the 4.29 40 he ran at his pro day served as a reminder that teams shouldn't forget about him.
Looking at bigger receivers, Bateman can line up in the slot but has the size (6-0 190) to play outside as well. Marshall has great size (6-3 205) and speed (4.38 40) but apparently had some injury concerns pop up at the medical combine that may drop his stock. If the Bears do go receiver in the first round, which one they take might be affected by how they view Mooney. Is he more of an outside guy or more a slot guy? He was mainly used outside last season but has the speed and quickness to play in the slot. If the Bears select a bigger receiver, they may do so with the idea that that player could potentially replace Robinson if he isn't a Bear in 2022. The team signed free agent WR Marquise Goodwin to a one-year deal earlier this month. Another player who opted out in 2020, Goodwin has good speed but has been pretty average in his career. He looks more like a depth addition than anything.
Tight end (need: medium-ish) (yes, I just invented a word)
If the Bears are planning to keep and use TE Jimmy Graham this season (and he's still here at the moment), then there isn't a huge need here after the team took TE Cole Kmet last year. Could the Bears use another playmaker here? Sure. But there are bigger needs.
Offensive line (need: high-ish at right tackle)
After the Bears cut ties with T Bobby Massie, many mocks had the team taking a right tackle at #20 overall. However, Chicago re-signed T Germain Ifedi, who was serviceable at right tackle while Massie was out injured last season, to a one-year deal for $5 million. As Brad Biggs from the Chicago Tribune has pointed out in the past, would the Bears pay pretty decent money for Ifedi and then use a first-rounder on his eventual replacement? I tend to think not, but anything is possible. Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw and Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins are possibilities if the Bears do go tackle at #20.
Defense/Special teams (need: high at corner, medium at inside linebacker)
The glaring need here is at corner after the Bears let CB Kyle Fuller go. CB Desmond Trufant isn't exactly #1 corner material, CB Artie Burns is coming off a torn ACL, and I'm not sure if CB Jaylon Johnson is quite ready to be a #1 corner in his second season (though he may have to be). Northwestern's Greg Newsome II, Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley and South Carolina's Jaycee Horn are possibilities for the Bears at #20. The team signed free agent ILB Christian Jones to a one-year deal last month, bringing him back to where he started his career. With ILB Danny Trevathan clearly losing a step or two last season, the Bears may look to draft his eventual replacement at some point on Day 2 or 3. The team re-signed S Tashaun Gipson to a one-year deal last week, so he'll continue to start alongside S Eddie Jackson.
Kicker (need: none)
The Bears are set here after they signed PK Cairo Santos to a five-year extension last month.
More to come next month!
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