By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears are gearing up for the offseason and they have some work to do to get this team in shape to win more games and make it to the playoffs next season. Chicago has several areas of need on the team that need to be addressed and they will attempt to do that in free agency and in the draft. They have plenty of money under the salary cap to sign several free agents (or re-sign some of their players on one year contracts) if they chose to go that route and they have several draft picks which they can use to add some depth and potential starting power to their lineup.
The Bears will pick in the 11th spot in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft and picking in that spot will give them options for taking some of the top talent in the draft. Currently their biggest needs sit at inside linebacker, guard and cornerback but they have other needs in other areas that could fill them with their first pick in the draft. There are several quality players that could fall to the Bears in the first round of the draft and we are going to look at five players that the Bears could take in the first round that would help them out immediately.
Reggie Ragland-LB-Alabama-The Bears biggest need is at linebacker (inside) and Ragland could be just the guy they are looking for to help them fill a huge void that they have. Ragland is perhaps the most pro ready linebacker at the position in the draft. If he lasts until the 11th pick in the draft (his stock is sure to rise with solid offseason workouts and a good combine) then the Bears would be wise to pick him up. He’s a solid all around linebacker that could help in the run game as well as rush the passer. He may be the best linebacker in the draft but will he be around when the Bears make their pick?
Myles Jack-LB-UCLA-Some people consider Jack to be either the top linebacker prospect in the draft or the second best (behind Ragland) and if Ragland is off the board at number 11 the Bears may choose to go with Jack and fill their need at linebacker. Jack is a fast player but is big enough to play well against the run. He can also rush the passer, which would be a plus for the Bears. With good workouts and a strong combine, Jack may prove himself even more worthy of being picked up at this point in the draft. Keep an eye on Jack through his workouts and the combine, as he will be an interesting player to watch.
Deforest Buckner-DE-Oregon-The Bears need to get help at the linebacker position but they also need help at defensive end. Getting help at this position does depend on what they do with some of their players signed to one-year contracts but for the value they may choose to go with a defensive end here. To help their pass rush they may choose to go with a seasoned four-year player like Buckner. Buckner has impressed during his time at Oregon and appears to be a good fit for the 3-4 style of defense that the Bears are running. He is an avid pass rusher, which the Bears desperately need.
Jaylon Smith-LB-Notre Dame-Going back to the Bear’s biggest need, linebacker, Chicago may have the option of selecting someone like Smith to come in and start. Smith is a complete all-around linebacker that can do almost everything that you need at the position. He has solid speed, is a good tackler and brings a bang when he hits opponents. He can also rush the passer, which gives him huge upside. Smith is also adept in coverage and that can work to the Bears advantage. The Bears should be showing some interest in him heading into the draft.
Robert Nkemdiche-DE-Ole Miss-This would be an interesting pick for the Bears if they decided to go with him here. He had some problems in school (he threw himself out of a window) but if he can prove that he is over his issues he might be a wise pick here at number 11. The Bears need help rushing the passer and Nkemdiche can provide that help as he has proven that he is a good athlete and a solid pass rusher. He works well at shedding blockers, has a powerful lower body and has very good hands and footwork. Nkemdiche is one of the better defensive ends in the draft and if he can overcome his character issues he could be a high to mid first round pick and the Bears would be lucky to have him.
The players reviewed here are just some of many prospects who could be first round graded players that could be available for the Bears at the 11th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. These players cover a couple position needs (including the one serious need at linebacker) and have been rated to be potentially available when the Bears make their pick. Any of these players would be good fits with the team and could step in and contribute right away.
One common characteristic that all of the players mentioned share is that they have been solid starters throughout their careers in college and this would be a huge plus for the Bears. Another advantage is that these players have major college experience and which helps giving them the background the Bears would want in a first round pick.
We will take a deeper look at each one of these players as the build-up to the draft continues and see how they would fit with the Bears, what positives they bring and what drawbacks they may have. Stay tuned for more information on these potential Bears.