It seems like such a simple question, but no one can provide a definitive answer.
In free agency, the Bears did quite a bit in terms of addressing some of their most glaring needs. The offensive tackle, tight end, and linebacker positions were all upgraded.
But with the NFL Draft less than a week away, predictions are still all over the board for who the Bears may take with the 20th selection.
In my opinion, this is a two-horse race: offensive lineman, or linebacker. Apparently, most draft experts don’t agree with me.
Just peruse any major sports media outlet’s mock draft section and you’ll see a smattering of options for who the Bears might take in the first round. Cornerbacks, defensive tackles, tight ends, wide receivers, linebackers, and offensive linemen fill up that list.
This begs the question: why is it so hard to pick a consensus for the most pressing need that the Bears have?
I’ll do my best to answer my own question by giving a reasoning for why each position is considered a need for the Bears. I’ll also include my pick for who the Bears should take at each position if they end up doing so in the first round.
This is “Need 1A” for the Bears.
Signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod from the New Orleans Saints will go a long way in solidifying the line. His presence will also allow for greater competition for spots on the right side of the line, as former left tackle J’Marcus Webb can battle it out with incumbent Gabe Carimi for next year’s starting spot.
But the simple fact is a premium has to be put on keeping Jay Cutler upright this season. Webb and Carimi were inconsistent at best last year, and who’s to say they’ll improve this season? The interior of the line is also a bit suspect, especially with the departure of guard Lance Louis to the Miami Dolphins.
Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer’s offense features plenty of designed quick release plays for Jay Cutler to keep him out of harms way. Even so, protecting him will be paramount, and adding quality youth to the line is never out of vogue.
And until he has a serviceable line in front of him, we’ll never be able to fully evaluate Cutler to determine if he’s the quarterback for the future or not. Everybody has the same completion percentage of passes they throw from the ground, and that percentage is 0. We need more time to analyze how he can operate within the pocket before we jump to any conclusions.
My pick: D.J. Fluker, Tackle, Alabama (Read more about Fluker here)
And here we have “Need 1B.”
I’m not sure what’s more surprising at this point: that Brian Urlacher will no longer suit up for the Bears, or that he still doesn’t have a job with another team yet. Regardless, the Bears must move on.
They’ve started that process by signing some experienced veterans to fill the voids left by the departures of Urlacher, outside linebacker Nick Roach, and backup Geno Hayes. Former Denver Broncos defensive co-captain D.J. Williams and Carolina Panthers outside linebacker James Anderson will at least provide a stop-gap for the next wave of talent at the position.
But that implies we need youthful talent to provide that next wave, and there’s nowhere better to get that quality talent than the first round of the NFL Draft.
My pick: Alec Ogletree, Middle Linebacker, Georgia
Many experts find cornerback to be a much more pressing need than I do. I understand Charles Tillman is getting older, but he was one of two cornerbacks the Bears sent to the Pro Bowl last season. I don’t see the current state of cornerbacks to be as bad as the two positions I’ve mentioned earlier.
D.J. Moore won’t be returning to the team, which means the team will need to find a new nickleback. The quarterback play in the NFC North is also pretty tough: you can never have too many weapons to try to stop Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford (when he’s on his game).
But this is a need that can be addressed in later rounds of the draft, likely the 3rd round or later.
My pick: Desmond Trufant, Cornerback, Washington
For some reason, experts don’t seem to think signing Martellus Bennett was enough to improve the tight end spot. I have no idea why.
Bennett is 26, entering the prime of his career, and coming off of a career year with the New York Giants. His height and speed will create mismatches in the secondary and provide Jay Cutler with a big-bodied target in short yardage and goal line situations.
What more could you ask for? I think using a first round pick on a tight end is a huge reach. I know New England can pull off a two tight end system, but the Bears offense isn’t exactly at that level yet.
My pick: Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame (Read more about Eifert here)
I never thought I’d be saying this, but the Bears are pretty set at wide receiver. I can’t even wrap my mind around that concept, but it’s true.
Martellus Bennett will compliment the wide receiving corps made up of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Earl Bennett. I fully expect Jeffery to step his game up to a true #2 NFL receiver level next season.
Would a speedy slot receiver be nice? Yes. Is it worth a first round pick? Hell no. Much like cornerback, this is a need that can be addressed later in the draft.
My pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Yet another need that can be addressed in the later rounds.
Sure, losing defensive tackle Matt Toeina hurts the rotation’s depth, and it’s still uncertain whether Israel Idonije will return. But people quickly forget about Stephen Paea, who had a MONSTER training camp last season before his season got derailed by a knee injury.
People also forget about Henry Melton, who turned in a Pro Bowl season last year. The play on the ends will continue to improve. Julius Peppers is still Julius Peppers, and both Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin showed flashes of their potential last season.
The current state of the defensive line doesn’t scare me one bit, and adding young depth in a later round makes way more sense.
My pick: Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri (Read more about Richardson here)
I’m a firm believer that the top priority remains to be the offensive line and the linebacking corps, with a slight edge going to bolstering the line.
If you want to see how I think the Bears should attack the entire draft, and see what round I think the Bears should address each of the above needs in, check out my full 7-round mock draft here.
What do you think is the Bears most pressing need? Who should they select with the 20th overall pick?