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soulman

Analyzing Chicago’s Roster Needs Heading Into the Draft

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This is a nice summary of the Bears 2019 draft needs and a potential portrait of future concerns (especially cap concerns) Pace may face in 2020 and 2021.

Even with an expanded cap limit we'll be pressed to hold onto as many key higher priced vets as we have now so this draft and the next should be all about filling future needs as much or more so than current needs which fortunately are more limited.  As usual I think Jonathan Woods does a nice job here and whether or not you agree is what discussion and debate is all about here so please do so and add your own thinking.  With one week to go draft talk should be spirited.

 

Analyzing Chicago’s Roster Needs Heading Into the Draft

5fb7dabcc9ddb6eb415d87bdfbe6736d?s=16&d= Johnathan Wood | April 22nd, 2019

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The draft is this week so it’s time to think seriously about what positions the Bears need to address with their limited picks. Let’s start by taking a look at their current roster so we can see what positions they might need more help at. My best guess at an approximate depth chart if they played a game this week is shown below.


pre-draft-depth-chart-1.png?resize=1728%

 


A few thoughts:

  • This list has 48 names on it. Teams dress 46 players for game day. Remove one of the kickers and probably Nick Williams and that’s your 46 man active roster.
  • Honestly, where are the holes on that roster? Kicker is one, but otherwise running back is the weakest spot, and even that isn’t completely terrible. Outside of those two positions, it’s hard to see a spot where a rookie is going to beat out the veteran ahead of him for a spot on the active roster.
  • Combine the caliber of this roster with the lack of high picks for the Bears, and Chicago is probably not looking at rookies making instant impact in 2019 outside of running back and kicker (barring injury).
  • One exception to this might be on special teams. The Bears lost core special teamers in Josh Bellamy, Benny Cunningham, and Daniel Brown this offseason, and only brought in one veteran to replace them in Marvin Hall. There are snaps to be earned on special teams in training camp, and rookies at positions like TE, LB, CB, and S could be in that mix.

 

Draft for the Future

But in terms of offense and defense, what you see is basically what the Bears are going to have to work with for 2019 (besides at running back). This means the draft priority shifts from drafting for the present to drafting for the future. Once he has taken his running back, Ryan Pace should be thinking about potential roster holes in 2020, and drafting guys who might be able to fill them.

With that in mind, let’s look at where those holes might be a year from now.

  • Edge Rusher: 3rd edge rusher Aaron Lynch is back on a 1 year deal, and Leonard Floyd is technically a free agent after this year as well (though Ryan Pace has stated he will exercise Floyd’s 5th year option). Even if he is back for 2020, Floyd will be expensive to sign long-term, and the Bears might decide that’s more money than they can afford to spend. Isaiah Irving (who will be a restricted free agent) and Kylie Fitts have shown nothing in the NFL so far to suggest they might be starting-caliber players, and this is a position that is very difficult and expensive to address in free agency. Add in that this year’s edge rusher class is supposed to be really talented and deep, and the Bears would be wise to add one at some point in the draft. They met with Christian Miller, a projected day 2 pick, earlier this month, indicating that point might be sooner in the draft than people think.
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  • Safety: Eddie Jackson is the only safety on the roster who currently has a contract that runs beyond 2019. HaHa Clinton-Dix, Eddie Bush, and DeAndre Houston-Carson are all free agents after this year. Houston-Carson will be a restricted free agent who is thus easy to bring back, but he’s a former 6th round pick who has shown nothing besides special teams ability through two years. Assuming Leonard Floyd gets his 5th year tag, this is the biggest hole on the 2020 roster as of right now.
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  • Inside linebacker: Danny Trevathan is a free agent after 2019, and the Bears might not be able to re-sign him due to cap concerns. According to Spotrac, they are currently projected to have just over $1 million in cap space for 2020, and that’s before you factor in a likely Cody Whitehair extension or Leonard Floyd’s 5th year tag. Nick Kwiatkoski will be a free agent too, leaving 2018 4th round pick Joel Iyiegbuniwe – who has only really played on special teams so far – as the incumbent starter next to Leonard Floyd. It’s hard to know if Iyiegbuniwe will develop into that caliber of player, so finding somebody who can play special teams in 2019 and compete for a starting spot in 2020 would be ideal.
  •  
  • Cornerback: We’re now moving to the point where players who might be cap casualties after 2019 start to factor into the thought process. At cornerback, that is Prince Amukamara, who could offer $9 million in cap savings if he is cut next offseason. Amukamara is a good player, but the Bears are tight against the cap, and those are the type of difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made. The only notable reserve right now is 2018 UDFA Kevin Toliver, who admittedly looked decent when filling in last year, but more developmental talent on the roster would be a good idea. This is also true inside at nickel, where backup Sherrick McManis will be a 32 year old free agent next year.
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  • Interior Offensive Line: The cut candidate here would be Kyle Long, who can be cut to save $8.1 million on the 2020 cap. Long is a good player, but his injury history is substantial and he’ll be 31 next offseason. There is no notable young backup on the roster right now, so getting a player to groom to either replace Long or be a key interior backup would be great. Of course, the Bears could wait to address this need using one of their two 2nd round picks in 2020, as Ryan Pace has drafted 2 interior OL in the 2nd round who played quite well as rookies in Cody Whitehair and James Daniels.
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  • Wide Receiver: Taylor Gabriel is a good but not great player who will likely be the Bears’ 3rd leading WR this year, and 4th or 5th in terms of targets and yards for the team as a whole. That has value, but the $4.5 million in cap space they could save by cutting him might be more useful to the Bears next offseason. If you really want to get bold, Chicago could save $13 million by cutting Allen Robinson. The Bears won’t cut both, but one is likely, and Gabriel is the more expendable player. Javon Wims is a promising young backup who could possible develop to step into a bigger role, but he is not the same style of WR as Gabriel. Drafting a speedster to develop would be a good idea, and I took a look at possible draft fits for that role a few weeks ago. The Bears have met with players who could fit that bill like Terry McClaurin and Emanuel Hall, both of whom would require Chicago to spend their top pick (if they’re even still around then).
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  • Tight End: Speaking of good but not great players who are overpaid, Trey Burton is Chicago’s lead tight end. We saw in 2019 that he’s not really a top-shelf player, and looking at Philadelphia and Kansas City makes it pretty clear that this offense works best when it has a tight end who is. Burton’s contract basically means he’ll be here for two more years (it only saves about $1 million to cut him after 2019), but finding a young player who can push him by 2020 would be good. I looked at potential fits in the draft here too, and judging by Chicago’s recent meeting with Josh Oliver, they’re thinking along those same lines.

The Bears are in a great position in that they don’t have many pressing needs for 2019. They could walk into the season with the roster they currently have and feel good about their chances of making the playoffs and competing for a title. That’s a fantastic spot to be before draft weekend, especially when you don’t pick until late in round 3.

But as you can see from the list above, the potential needs increase dramatically when you look a year to the future. The Bears will have plenty of picks next year to work with, but should be looking to fill some of those holes already in the draft this year.

When analyzing the Bears’ picks after this weekend, don’t think about their value in terms of how they fit in 2019 (with the obvious exception of running back). Look instead at how they might fit on the roster in 2020 and beyond.

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I'd like to make a pre-draft declaration here.

I really don't have a horse or horses in this race.  I've analyzed some guys I thought might be fits but my thinking about the success or lack of success of this draft won't be known immediately anyway.  Short of filling an opening at RB with someone who fits Nagy's need the rest is kinda wide open.

My overview is based more on some of the same points Jonathan Woods has brought up.

Via the draft Pace has done and incredible job of building his team needing to use FA more sparingly but still needing it to keep accelerating our rise to a playoff and hopefully championship caliber team again.  Both his drafts and his FA signings have improved dramatically since he arrived.

He's built a team whose gotten to the playoffs and maybe this year can be knocking on the door of a Championship and his biggest challenge now will be keeping it there through the attrition of some key core vets whom we know are likely to become cap casualties over the next two years.

IMHO this draft and the next will be extremely important in terms of drafting younger talent at positions we're likely to be replacing more expensive vets next year and in 2021.  Good drafting is gonna be critical as far as keeping us competitive with less cap available for pricier vet FAs.

So as opposed to looking at specific players I'm more about drafting for the positions we will need to fill and not believing I know better than Nagy, Pagano, Pace and the scouting staff who the best prospects are to select.  Pace has proven himself and I'm gonna trust in and live with his picks.

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I was just about to add a post that covered the exact same thoughts as the one above. I have no idea how the Bears can afford to keep Floyd; to me, pass rush is a YUGE need. As for cap causalities, I think that Gabriel and Long are as good as gone next year. I'd love to have a player replace Burton, too. (I don't see any way that the team can trust a guy whose menstrual cramps keep him out of big games.) My preference would be to keep DT and Prince, but they're probably gone, too. 

So, my forward-looking draft needs (in no order) = G, WR, TE, OLB, ILB, CB, S. Yikes. I hope that they don't draft a RB this year; that position is a dime a dozen and a FA / undrafted rookie can provide the ~75 carries needed this season. Not allocating a mid-round draft pick to the position this year isn't going to keep the Ursines from winning a Super Bowl. 

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I wonder how serious they are about RRH taking reps at OLB.  Is he a rotational piece that is battling for the 4 spot behind Lynch (with Fitts and Irving)? Or is he just a guy who will get a few reps out there to see if he is a last resort option and stay at DE?

 

Either way in nickel he can put his hand in the dirt, and be moved around to be an interior rusher even. That will be one of the more interesting positional questions for me to see answered this season. Because Hicks is a stud, Goldman is a damn wall, and Nichols flashed a lot for us. That looks to be the starting DL for the next few years, so RRH is either a top rotational piece on that line or will also need reps elsewhere if he is still ascending. 

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32 minutes ago, Sugashane said:

I wonder how serious they are about RRH taking reps at OLB.  Is he a rotational piece that is battling for the 4 spot behind Lynch (with Fitts and Irving)? Or is he just a guy who will get a few reps out there to see if he is a last resort option and stay at DE?

 

Either way in nickel he can put his hand in the dirt, and be moved around to be an interior rusher even. That will be one of the more interesting positional questions for me to see answered this season. Because Hicks is a stud, Goldman is a damn wall, and Nichols flashed a lot for us. That looks to be the starting DL for the next few years, so RRH is either a top rotational piece on that line or will also need reps elsewhere if he is still ascending. 

With RRH I think his effectiveness as an edge guy depends on how much of his speed and quickness he's retained while gaining 30-40 lbs over his college weight.

I see more of an Aaron Lynch type in him.  More power than speed or finesse but with a quick first step and he has serious length so kind of a second tier Julius Peppers and we can use that.  I think he's more of a piece in a puzzle than the puzzle itself but it's time to find out all of what he's got.

At this point in time I believe Pace expects to retain Floyd and he if possible he should.  But I think he's still gonna begin preparing now for the possibility that he can't extend him and one place to start is with your own roster.

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Honestly this is my best prediction for Pace draft plan based in what I know of the man:

3rd: BPA per his board regardless of position except QB

4th: Best RB Available (Need Pick) 

5th: Best S, TE, OL, Edge, or CB Available   (Need pick - he wont double up on what he picked in 3rd or 4th).

7th: Traits potential available. 

7th: Traits potential available. 

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20 hours ago, soulman said:

I'd like to make a pre-draft declaration here.

IMHO this draft and the next will be extremely important in terms of drafting younger talent at positions we're likely to be replacing more expensive vets next year and in 2021.  Good drafting is gonna be critical as far as keeping us competitive with less cap available for pricier vet FAs.

 

I think it would be unfair to put a lot of pressure or hope on this years draft given lack of ammo.  Last years draft trades, Mack trade and FA counted as two offseasons.  I think if just one pick turns out to be a decent to good player, meaning solid starting capability by 2020, it was a successful draft.  I would include UDFA in that.  A lot of teams every year get just that with a full slate of picks.  

I think next years draft is far more important as far as restocking talent.  

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4 hours ago, dll2000 said:

I think it would be unfair to put a lot of pressure or hope on this years draft given lack of ammo.  Last years draft trades, Mack trade and FA counted as two offseasons.  I think if just one pick turns out to be a decent to good player, meaning solid starting capability by 2020, it was a successful draft.  I would include UDFA in that.  A lot of teams every year get just that with a full slate of picks.  

I think next years draft is far more important as far as restocking talent.  

I'd say both are.  These mid rounds are where you get your depth and guys with enough upside to become core starters and Pace does well here.

If you look at our starters quite a few were originally mid round picks or later or UDFA ;  Cohen, Jackson, Trevathan, Hicks, Nichols, Bullard, Davis, Leno, Massie, Gabriel, Burton.

Other than a RB to pair with Davis and Cohen I don't expect any immediate starters but I do want to see guys who can challenges starters and make the roster as a backup.  Two spots where this kind of player is needed are CB and SS and third might be TE.

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16 minutes ago, soulman said:

I'd say both are.  These mid rounds are where you get your depth and guys with enough upside to become core starters and Pace does well here.

If you look at our starters quite a few were originally mid round picks or later or UDFA ;  Cohen, Jackson, Trevathan, Hicks, Nichols, Bullard, Davis, Leno, Massie, Gabriel, Burton.

Other than a RB to pair with Davis and Cohen I don't expect any immediate starters but I do want to see guys who can challenges starters and make the roster as a backup.  Two spots where this kind of player is needed are CB and SS and third might be TE.

I agree it is important, but I was just saying his success rate in later rounds is something you can't expect to continue at same rate it has.  It has been phenomenal.  Let's hope it does.  

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Draft needs for the Bears:

1. Draft picks. 

I'm sorry. 

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, dll2000 said:

I agree it is important, but I was just saying his success rate in later rounds is something you can't expect to continue at same rate it has.  It has been phenomenal.  Let's hope it does.  

To be honest though I do expect it to continue especially in a draft reputed to have excellent 2nd tier depth.

What Pace decides to do at #87 will tells us a lot.  If he can turn that pick into other early 4th and 5th picks and still get one of his top guys I'd do it but trades require willing partners so I won't project what may not happen.

If anything I'd be looking to up my spot in round four in some way because I believe that's where we may see a run on RB and TEs.

If we keep #87 he takes his top guy there and then maybe looks to move up in round four.  Or he looks to trade #87 for earlier 4th and 5th round picks getting two in each round.  I don't believe any pick past the 5th is worth it unless it's a toss in to balance point value.

Then we can add to this what would Pace offer and SF be willing to accept for Gould if SF is willing to trade him?  Will it take as much as our 5th?

Edited by soulman

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29 minutes ago, Outpost31 said:

Draft needs for the Bears:

1. Draft picks. 

I'm sorry. 

You are right.  We desperately need a 3rd RB, 3rd TE and back up OL/S/CB.   No way we can get that with a 3rd, 4th and 5th round pick.  

 

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2 hours ago, dll2000 said:

You are right.  We desperately need a 3rd RB, 3rd TE and back up OL/S/CB.   No way we can get that with a 3rd, 4th and 5th round pick.  

 

I was just kidding.  Lack of picks won't effect the Bears this year.  The future it might get rough, but not this year.  Think of the Packers 2015 and 2016 draft class and how it hit them starting 2017 and then 2018.  

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4 minutes ago, Outpost31 said:

I was just kidding.  Lack of picks won't effect the Bears this year.  The future it might get rough, but not this year.  Think of the Packers 2015 and 2016 draft class and how it hit them starting 2017 and then 2018.  

2017 and 2018 draft class were very good.  We don't know that 2019 draft class will be bad despite lack of picks and we agree it is not needed to be good (at least for 2019).  We certainly don't know 2020 draft class will be bad.  

2018 FAs and trade acquisitions performed very well and all look to be better in 2nd year in same system.  2019 FAs look promising.  

Barring key injuries things look very good on paper for 2019 and 2020. 

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Our top need is K  ... 

  ... RB and Depth players that hopefully  become starters  everywhere else  ha   BPA 

I would be insanely happy to get starters at RB & K  out of this draft  !   Our first round pick is  kahlil MACK  !! IN HIS PRIME *******   !!!!

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