The 2018 NFL Draft is a little over two months away, but it’s never too early to look at draft needs. As it stands, the Chicago Bears will be set to pick at the eight position. Clearly, free agency and trade start-date have yet to arrive, so this will be mostly based off of the current situation.
The Bears have some holes in a wide receiver corps that finished last in receiving yards during the 2017 NFL regular season. Kendall Wright was Chicago’s leading receiver with 614 yards followed by Joshua Bellamy who posted 376 yards respectively. Wright and Bellamy will be free agents this off-season. The Monsters of the Midway look to revitalize their former defensive identity. The Bears’ cornerback group is depleted with only Marcus Cooper and Cre’Von LeBlanc under contract. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are set to become free agents, and drafting a cornerback could help fill the void. Fuller recorded 68 total tackles, 2 interceptions, and 22 passes defended. Amukamara tallied 48 tackles, 7 passes defended, and 1 fumble recovery. Chicago could use some help in the outside linebacker position, which will most likely be the case with Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston most likely hitting the free agency market. Veterans Willie Young and Pernell McPhee have played their best football in Chicago, and are both in for a substantial amount of cash next year. McPhee is scheduled to earn 7.2-million-dollars for the 2018 season, and Young has a base salary of 3.5-million-dollars with a 1-million-dollar roster bonus.
Looking at these three positions will be the focus of the 2018 draft. Here are some candidates for Chicago’s first-round pick.
Wide receiver: The Bears have a great opportunity to land a top wide receiver either in the first or second round. James Washington from Oklahoma State University took the 2017 Fred Biletnikoff Award given to the season’s best college wide receiver. Washington posted 1,549 receiving yards with 74 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Calvin Ridley is another option from the University of Alabama. Ridley did not break 1,000 yards-receiving for the second year in a row. However, in his true freshman year, the Alabama-product caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. Austin Pettis from the University of Washington, Simmie Cobb from Indiana University and Equanimeous St. Brown from Notre Dame are both options for mid-rounds.
Cornerback: Joshua Jackson comes out of the University of Iowa where he posted eight interceptions and 48 tackles in 2017. The Iowa-product received the Jack Tatum Award given to the top collegiate defensive back of the season. Jackson is the second Hawkeye to take the Tatum Award after Desmond King who was awarded the honor in 2016. Denzel Ward is another first-round talent out of the Ohio State University that can make an immediate impact on the Bears’ defense. Ward finished off the 2017 collegiate season with 37 tackles, 15 passes broken, and two interceptions. The Buckeye provides a quick-feet skill set along with NFL-level speed that makes up for his height, 5’11. Kevin Toliver II is another option that will most likely fall in the second or third round. Listed at 6’2 195 in the LSU Football website, Toliver posses the physical set to be a menace on defense. Toliver’s resume is only bulked by being an alumnus of a “DB-U following the footsteps of fellow alumni Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, Jamal Adams, and Tre’Davious White.
3-4 Outside Linebacker: Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia Tech University. Edmunds tallied 109 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, one interception, and finished as a finalist for the Butkus Award in the 2017 season. Standing at 6’5 and weighing in at 250, the former Hokie has the physical traits to excel as an outside linebacker in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame has great foot-work and balance who can play either tackle position. Quenton Nelson another Fighting Irish is a dominant guard that can provide lanes for Jordan Howard. Will Hernandez from University of Texas-El Paso is a strong inside lineman with great run-blocking abilities.
Free agency acquisitions will have the last say in what position-needs the Bears will look to fill in during the draft. The Bears also need help at the trenches, so looking for offensive and defensive line help will have an impact. All three positions mentioned do have some depth in free agency which will be interesting to see how the Bears use their $40 million cap space.