With one month to go until the 2022 NFL Draft, Bears needs have shifted somewhat over the course of the offseason.
They still could be altered by free agency to a degree but the big early signings are done and the players brought in from here on out would largely be support types or competitors—for either a starting or roster spot.
The plug-and-play part of free agency will end for the Bears if Buffalo declines to match Ryan Bates' offer, making him Chicago's starting right guard.
There is a difference between want and need in the draft.
With the roster being gutted, needs should take priority over wants.
Yet Poles seems more wed to a tried-and-true approach for the draft. Speaking on the team's website, he echoed the refrain of countless other NFL personnel people through the years.
"Generally speaking, you do want to stick with best available," Pace told Larry Mayer. "I think that's how you capture value the best on the board."
If ever there is a time to stick to the best-available theory, it is the first year of a rebuild. There is less pressure on the GM and coach because of lower expectations. Tearing apart the roster allows for almost an anything-goes mentality.
It's not going to be a finished product regardless of what happens, so taking a real talent over a need only makes sense. The team's need is to become competitive, and one position is rarely going to do this except at quarterback.
Ultimately, what the Bears really need in this draft is more picks. A team overturning the roster needs all the players coming in it can get. Remember this when draft day trades down for more picks begin rolling in for the Bears.
Still, there are some gaping holes where the Bears can't even field a team unless they target these specifically for help.
Once linebacker seemed a real problem but they at least have brought in a few who can fill out the lineup and played in this style defense, even if they aren't among the league's most feared. Nicholas Morrow should fit in nicely.
Here are the revised biggest Bears needs for the draft in the wake of Ryan Poles' first two weeks of free agency.
1. Wide Receiver
Considering neither Byron Pringle nor Equanimeous St. Brown are going to make anyone forget Allen Robinson soon, the only way they'll be fufilling their greatest need is to draft a receiver. That need is to get Justin Fields what he needs to succeed. Pringle is promising but hasn't yet even hit the production Anthony Miller had in either of his final two Bears seasons. The Bears must address their need for an X-receiver. Before free agency this didn't seem as great of a draft need because it was assumed they would be pursuing at least one top-level free agent. They didn't and now it seems more obvious why, as they've accumulated quite a war chest for next year's free agency period. Darnell Mooney can and actually must be regarded as their chief receiving threat for now. A rookie at the X-spot will take some time to adjust to the NFL, unless they somehow hit on a Justin Jefferson type. But that seems unlikely in Round 2. More than one receiver would help, but getting that X-type can balance out the passing game and is a must.
There seemed no sense of urgency in free agency to bring in a contributor so it must be assumed they have an eye on a few at some point in the draft. Cornerbacks in free agency always seem overpriced. No one on the new staff who looked at game film could have liked what they saw from the left cornerback or slot positions. There is a key stat from last year and it's not that the Bears were third against the pass. Instead, it's that they had the worst passer-rating against in the NFL (103.3). Their pass rush and inability to stop the run made their passing yardage-allowed look better than it was.
3. Defensive Tackle
It is a more pressing need than offensive tackle because the Bears have two second-year tackles on the roster and another backup in Lachavious Simmons. On the other side of the ball they currently have one player who started in a 4-3 with a single-gap approach and another situational player from this scheme who was cut by a team using this approach. When one of the tenets of your defense is a rotation of defensive linemen in order to keep them fresh so the pass rush can keep continue steady through four quarters, it's rather difficult to achieve with no one available for the rotation.
4. Offensive Tackle
Their only problem at the position now is inexperience. It's possible it isn't viewed this way by Poles, who was an offensive linemen and seems to like tinkering with these positions more. He might be looking for a more ideal fit for the Bears' wide zone scheme than Larry Borom. The fifth-round pick from last year showed he could move well for a player who weighed in at 333 pounds. Whether he can move well enough to suit Luke Getsy's wide zone scheme is the real issue. Tackle Teven Jenkins seems more like an actual fit for this scheme more than he would have for last year's.
As much as the Bears love what DeAndre-Houston Carson has done over the years, no one can realistically back him as a starting cover-2 safety with Eddie Jackson. There isn't anyone else at this position on the entire roster, so they better draft a safety at some point. It's going to take someone young, with good speed and play-making skills to start with Jackson.
6. Tight End
They have the same problem at this position as at safety. There are two people who play it on this roster. It's rather comical considering two years ago they were being widely roasted because they had 11 tight ends on the offseason roster. They had enough for a full side of tight ends. Now it's just Cole Kmet and Jesper Horsted. Maybe they'll finally give Horsted a real chance to show what he can do. Regardless, a roster needs at least three tight ends. Getsy was with a Green Bay offense that rarely seemed to overuse the tight end as a target but they did like using one as a blocker. So finding another multipurpose type wouldn't hurt.
This completes their pressing needs for the moment. When a team only has six draft picks, what's the point of worrying about other draft needs beyond the main six?