The Chicago Bears’ critical offseason of talent acquisition has one more – very important – step: The Draft.
After GM Ryan Pace added several starting-caliber players to short-term deals in free agency, the organization’s focus now shifts back to the future and long-term health of the organization.
And because of the team’s many needs, we’re going to take a look at some of the best prospects at various positions of interest everyday leading up to the draft.
Positions: Linebackers, running backs
Need: Medium-low (linebackers), low (running backs)
Linebackers Currently on the Roster (2016 Pro Football Focus grade)
- Jerrell Freeman (93.8)
- Danny Trevathan (78.4)
- Nick Kwiatkoski (54.8)
- Jonathan Anderson (43.3)
- John Timu (43.1)
Top 5 Linebackers (Pro Football Focus Overall Rank)
- Reuben Foster, Alabama (5)
- Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt (30)
- Jarrad Davis, Florida (38)
- Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State (94)
- Blair Brown, Ohio (119)
Running Backs Currently on the Roster (2016 Pro Football Focus grade)
- Jordan Howard (81.0)
- Bralon Addison (65.5)
- Ka’Deem Carey (63.0)
- Benny Cunningham (60.0)
- Jeremy Langford (54.5)
Top 5 Running Backs (Pro Football Focus Overall Rank)
- Dalvin Cook, Florida State (9)
- Christian McCaffery, Stanford (16)
- Leonard Fournette, LSU (23)
- Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (34)
- Alvin Kamara, Tennessee (44)
Given the relatively low need for impact on both of these fronts – together with the plausible need for depth – the seemingly disparate groups have been paired together.
The tandem of interior linebackers the Bears signed in free agency during last offseason raised the team’s talent level at that position when it was sorely lacking. Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan are veteran linebackers still in the prime of their careers who have more to offer for a team building for better days. The depth behind them is suspect, even though Nick Kwiatkoski performed admirably as a rookie. Even still, Freeman missed four games due to a PED-related suspension and Trevathan’s knee injury put him on IR after playing only nine games. The Bears could use this pick to add to the team’s depth and guard the unit from a potential extended absence from Trevathan.
With Pro Bowl rookie Jordan Howard leading, the Bears seem set at running back. HOWEVER, no position battles attrition more than running back. So while it’s nice to see Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and Benny Cunningham behind Howard on the depth chart, the running back situation can be fluid in the blink of an eye. While the Bears won’t likely use an early round pick on a running back, Ryan Pace’s recent history suggests he might pluck someone in the later rounds. After all, the team picked Langford in the fourth round when it had Matt Forte still on the roster, then picked Howard in the fifth round a year later when it appeared as if Langford was the heir apparent.
Most Likely to be Available When the Bears Are on the Clock:
For what it’s worth, the Bears have met with Reuben Foster, and could be worth picking if the team traded down and out of the third overall pick. But it’s more likely the Bears add to their linebacker room in the fourth or fifth round. The same can be said about running back, a position the Bears don’t necessarily need a starter but could seek to add another player to increase competition during training camp.
Perhaps Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. or Pittsburgh running back James Conner will catch their eye with the team’s fifth or seventh round selections.
If I Had to Pick One:
Even though the Bears re-signed Deonte Thompson and brought Cunningham into the mix to return kicks and punts, the Bears still don’t have a dynamic player at the position. North Carolina’s T.J. Logan fits the bill as a late-round pick who could immediately contribute to a special teams unit that needs help.
Connor Harris, who played at Div. II Lindenwood, seems like he could be a late-round. He played for the John Fox-coached North team at the Senior Bowl, so the Bears should have a good feel for what Harris can do moving forward.