The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
Chicago bears 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (20)
Round 2 (52)
Round 3 (83)
Round 5 (164)
Round 6 (204)
Round 6 (208)
Round 6 (221)
Round 6 (228)
Chicago Bears Offense
By Rich Hribar
The Bears willingly committed to Andy Dalton being their starting quarterback for 2021 in March, really twisting the knife on a fanbase that has already been put through so much pain in what they have been forced to endure from the quarterback position in Chicago.
Dalton will turn 34 years old in October of the season, coming off completing 64.9% of his passes with 6.5 yards per pass attempt with the Cowboys last season, a team with markedly more talent than this current roster. From a clean pocket, Dalton averaged 6.8 yards per attempt, which was 37th in the league. At least it was ahead of Nick Foles, who was dead last at 5.9 Y/A from a clean pocket.
The Bears still have Foles under contract through 2022. The Bears are not in a position to land a top-flight quarterback in the draft, but should be expected to be in the mix for a passer outside of that tier. Whomever the Bears draft, that mid-round quarterback will have solid odds at seeing the field in 2021.
Chicago was 18th in the NFL in rushing expected points in 2020 and have gotten solid production from David Montgomery over the opening two seasons of his rookie contract.
After 1,074 yards and seven scores as a rookie (4.0 yards per touch), Montgomery produced 1,508 yards and 10 touchdowns (5.0 yards/touch) in 2020. Montgomery closed the 2020 season with eight touchdowns with over 100 yards in each of those games. The jump for Montgomery stemmed from a workload spike. He averaged 20.1 touches per game (seventh) and handled a league-high 89.1% of the Chicago backfield touches.
Montgomery went from 25 catches as a rookie up to 54 in his second season as Tarik Cohen appeared in just three games. After Cohen was injured, Montgomery went from running a pass route on 37.8% of the team dropbacks up to 69.0% afterward. Cohen signed a contract extension last year through the 2023 season.
The team also went out and added veteran Damien Williams after he opted back in this season and was released by the Chiefs. With both Montgomery and Cohen locked up for multiple seasons paired with bringing Williams in, Chicago is unlikely to add much to this backfield outside of depth on the third day of the draft.
No matter the quarterback, Allen Robinson just continues to produce. Robinson caught 102 passes for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns last season, receiving 151 targets, which ranked third in the league. Robinson has voiced his displeasure with his contract status, but signed his franchise tag for the 2021 season without a long-term deal.
Robinson dominated opportunities as he received 40.4% of the wide receiver targets (eighth in the league), but the Bears did find something in the fifth round last season in Darnell Mooney. Although he was the 24th rookie wide receiver selected last season, Mooney ended the season fifth among all rookies in receptions (61) and seventh in yardage (631 yards) to go along with four touchdowns.
Outside of Mooney, the only other wide receiver on the roster signed beyond this season is Riley Ridley. 2018 second rounder Anthony Miller is in the final year of his rookie contract and reportedly a trade target this offseason. With Robinson’s future in the air and lack of contractual depth, Chicago needs to add more to the roster at the receiver position.
Chicago targeted their tight ends 23% of the time in 2020 (14th), but ended the season 31st in yards per target (5.6) on those throws.
The team went out and signed veteran Jimmy Graham last offseason. Graham was better than most expected (50-456-8), but was reduced to a complementary red zone role to close the season as second-round draft pick Cole Kmet had extended playing time over the back half of the season.
Kmet only played 34.4% of the Chicago snaps through nine games, catching six passes over that span on eight targets. At that point, Chicago leaned into giving the rookie tight end more opportunity. For the rest of the season, Kmet played 84.6% of the team snaps, catching 22-of-36 targets (5.1 per game) for 164 yards and a touchdown. Kmet only managed 8.7 yards per grab. The Bears can save $7M if Graham is released this offseason, but is still currently contract this season.
Behind Kmet and Graham, only Darion Clark is signed beyond this season. The Bears do not have an absolute need for a tight end after taking Kmet highly last year, but could add a back end option in the later rounds.
LT: Charles Leno/ Badara Traore
LG: James Daniels/Arlington Hambright/Deiter Eiselen
C: Cody Whitehair/Sam Mustipher
RG: Germain Ifedi/ Alex Bars
RT: Elijah Wilkinson*/Lachavious Simmons
The Bears were in the middle of the pack last year, 15th per ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (58%) and 12th in their Run Block Win Rate (71%). Per Pro Football Focus, they ranked 20th in both overall pass and run blocking grade.
As of right now, the only two linemen signed beyond this season are center Cody Whitehair (who is also the team’s best lineman), and reserve Arlington Hambright, who they selected in the seventh round last season.
Left tackle Charles Leno allowed 42 pressures last season, which were the sixth-most in the league at the tackle position.
The Bears do not have either player that took snaps for them at right tackle last season in Bobby Massie and Jason Spriggs, opting to replace them with Elijah Wilkinson on a one-year deal, who has been with the Broncos. Wilkinson was the 117th graded offensive tackle per Pro Football Focus over his eight games played a year ago.
Guards Germain Ifedi and James Daniels were the 43rd and 45th graded guards per Pro Football Focus.
Outside of center, Chicago has a plethora of offensive line needs for immediate playing time and future depth.
Chicago Bears Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
Mario Edwards Jr.
Individually, the Bears have one of the best interior defensive lines for creating pressure. Akiem Hicks was 15th among all defenders in quarterback hits and 18th in pressure rate among defensive tackles, according to Sports Info Solutions. He wasn’t even the best on a per-play basis. Mario Edwards was fourth and Bilal Nichols was 12th. That pressure didn’t always come quickly off the snap, but there is the upside for pressure there. All three return for 2021, as does Eddie Goldman, who opted out of the 2020 season.
Both Hicks and Edwards will be free agents following the 2021 season.
Khalil Mack was just 59th among edge rushers in pressure rate. He did come in fifth among edge rushers in ESPN’s Run Stop Win Rate, so that’s something. Robert Quinn was brought in on a five-year deal last offseason and after a few years on the Pass Rush Win Rate leaderboard, he was 61st in pressure rate.
As a team, the Bears were 20th in pressure rate and relied on a four-man rush at the fifth-highest rate in the league last season at 74%.
Trevis Gipson has some upside as a 2020 fifth-round pick but got on the field for just 7% of the defensive snaps in his rookie season. Jeremiah Attaochu was brought in as some depth after five sacks with the Broncos last season. He ranked 35th in pressure rate.
With so much already invested on the edge, the Bears will need to hope for some better production by the players already on the roster.
Roquan Smith is still one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league while he played 95% of the defensive snaps. With him in the middle of the field, the Beas ranked eighth in DVOA against short passed, per Football Outsiders. It was not as good outside of him.
Danny Trevethan played 77% of the defensive snaps and looked slow, especially in coverage. He allowed 10.73 yards per target in coverage, which was the worst among 59 linebackers with at least 20 targets charted at them, per SIS. That figure was also a yard more than the second-worst linebacker at 9.74.
Trevathan was particularly picked on by the Packers and Lions in those four divisional games. When the teams that know the opposing personnel the best are picking on a specific player, that’s a sign.
Due to the rest of the roster, the Bears shouldn’t be taking a linebacker early, but they might need to add something on Day 2 to complete for some snaps in nickel personnel.
Jaylon Johnson had a number of flashes as a rookie. He was tied for sixth among defenders in passes defensed. But there were some lapses and he finished 109th among 148 qualified cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed (which factors in touchdowns and interceptions) per coverage snap. That’s still impressive for a rookie as many other first-year corners, especially the highly-drafted ones, were down toward the bottom.
There are a number of question marks behind him. To save cap space, the team chose to part ways with Kyle Fuller. That leaves Desmond Trufant, who signed in the offseason after he ranked 117th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap with the Lions last season. Artie Burns is likely to man the slot when he’s healthy. Burns was originally signed last offseason but suffered a torn ACL in training camp and missed all of 2020.
Eddie Jackson had been one of the league’s best young safeties but his ability to play a do-it-all type role was hindered by his need to do it all. That could be even more of the case in 2021. Tashon Gipson played 98% of the defensive snaps next to Jackson last season and is still a free agent. Gipson did not sign with the Bears until after the draft last season, so there is a possibility of a return but that currently leaves Deon Bush (6.2% of the defensive snaps) and DeAndre Houston-Carson (8.5%) as the next in line to play with Jackson, who has seen his defensive backfield partner change every season since Adrian Amos was allowed to hit free agency.