We’re at the (sort of) halfway point of the Chicago Bears’ 2021 season, and with the Bears on their bye in Week 10, it’s a good time to cycle through the roster’s biggest needs and how the 2022 NFL Draft can fix them.
The Bears have eight games remaining on their schedule and it’s certainly in the realm of possibility that a player who has yet to make an impact emerges in the second half of the year and fills one of the below weaknesses. But, let’s face it, that’s unlikely. As a result, identifying some team needs is a worthwhile exercise.
Top Need: Center
The nice story that was Sam Mustipher’s rise from the practice squad to an every-week starter is, essentially, over. He’s been the Bears’ worst offensive lineman in 2021 and an obvious target to upgrade in the 2022 NFL Draft. Mustipher is Chicago’s lowest-graded starter on offense, per Pro Football Focus, and he has four games with a grade of 47.7 or worse from PFF this year. If you aren’t familiar with what those numbers mean, it’s simple: Mustipher has been terrible.
April’s draft should provide the Bears with an opportunity to infuse talent into the interior of the offensive line, including at center. The Draft Network’s Joe Marino published his updated Top-100 Big Board this week and nine interior linemen appeared on his list. Whether all or most of them can play center is something that will be filtered during the draft cycle, but for now, it’s shaping up to be a solid draft class at a need area for Chicago.
Jaylon Johnson is a stud and has the CB1 spot locked down, barring injury. His complementary skill set of physicality and plus-athleticism make him a player who’s on the rise as one of the top young cornerbacks in the NFL. But he can’t do it alone. Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor have been fine, but an upgrade should be a priority. Johnson proved that quality cornerbacks can be found in the second round and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bears prioritize the position with their first selection. Remember: the Bears don’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft (Justin Fields trade).
Roquan Smith is the centerpiece of the Bears’ defense but the combination of Danny Trevathan and Alec Ogletree, while OK at times, leave the defense vulnerable. Inside linebackers often slide in the draft, so Chicago will have a chance to add a potential starter with one of their first few picks in 2022. Neither Trevathan nor Ogletree are under contract for 2022, so expect the void to be filled via a combination of veteran free agency and an early-round pick.
The Bears hit on Darnell Mooney in the 2020 draft, but he stands alone as a wideout the team can count on being back next season. Allen Robinson is likely to depart in free agency, while Marquise Goodwin and Demiere Byrd are playing on one-year deals. Rookie Dazz Newsome hasn’t registered a snap yet. Chicago will be very active in the wide receiver market, via both free agency and the draft, and if they’re unable to reach a long-term extension with Robinson, it’s a position group that could vault to the top of their 2022 draft needs.