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Hoge's Bears Things: Sorting through Ryan Poles' possible draft plans

Adam Hoge Avatar
April 18, 2022

Welcome to the new, (almost) guaranteed to be weekly edition of my long-standing “Bears Things” column, which now lives on CHGO. I’ve decided to no longer limit myself to 10 “things” because some weeks call more and others call for less.

Regardless, you’re still going to get the same Bears content you’re used to seeing in this space and I’m grateful you’ve made the decision to sign up for a CHGO membership to read all of our outstanding content on AllCHGO.com.

The NFL Draft is almost here and the Bears are taking the field this week for their first minicamp under new head coach Matt Eberflus, so let’s jump right in:

The Draft Plan

It wouldn’t be hard to make a case that the Bears could target any position in this year’s NFL Draft. Heck, you know I’m willing to make an argument to draft the “Punt God” — San Diego State punter Matt Araiza. We’ll save that for another time.

But while no position is off limits with the Bears’ 31 remaining roster spots, I believe there are five that are of greater need, especially with the three picks they own between No. 39 and 71 overall.

3-Technique: New Bears general manager Ryan Poles tipped his hand a little bit with the three-year, $40.5 million contract that was originally offered to Larry Ogunjobi in the opening hour of free agency. This is a team that hasn’t spent big money on anyone else this offseason and hasn’t signed any players to contracts longer than two years. But Ogunjobi — who would have played the all-important 3-technique position in Eberflus’ defense — was prioritized with a big contract right away. That aggression in an otherwise very patient free agent season gives you a good idea of how the Bears view that positional need.

The Ogunjobi deal ultimately fell through and Justin Jones was signed to a much less notable two-year, $12 million deal instead. If I were the Seattle Seahawks with back-to-back picks at No. 40 and 41, I’d certainly be prepared for the Bears to select a 3-technique at No. 39.

One intriguing option is Houston defensive lineman Logan Hall. A 6-6 1/8, 283 pounds, Hall is a long, explosive pass rusher who is a little bit of a tweener at his current weight. He primarily played the 3-technique position at Houston and improved/got stronger every season. There’s still more room for him to grow in his impressive frame so if the Bears evaluate him as a potentially dynamic 3-technique, he could be a great addition at No. 39. And, as a fallback plan, his traits suggest he could be a good 4-3 defensive end as well.

Another possible option in the second round is Oklahoma defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey, a local product from Maywood, Ill.

Offensive line: The Bears’ offensive line is unsettled to say the least. If the season started tomorrow, they’d be starting the season with two unproven tackles (Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom) and a right guard who is better suited as a backup (Dakota Dozier). Some talent evaluators feel strongly that Jenkins is a right guard and Borom is better suited to play guard. I actually didn’t mind how Borom looked at left tackle, but that’s still a risky projection.

Between the team’s first minicamp and the NFL Draft, we should get a much better idea of what the Bears’ plans are on the offensive line. It would seem necessary to draft either a tackle or guard with one of their first three picks.

If the Bears go with a tackle in that area of the draft, Tulsa’s Tyler Smith and Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele are interesting names to watch. If they go with a guard, keep an eye on Kentucky’s Karian Kinnard and Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer.

Wide receiver: Good luck finding a Bears fan who doesn’t want to see the Bears draft a receiver with one of their two second-round picks (if not both). But it might actually be the position to wait on until the third round because of the depth. Intriguing, polished route runners like Alabama’s John Metchie III and Purdue’s David Bell could be available with the 71st overall pick. Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, who played at Glenbard West, is another interesting option. Of course, it would be completely justified if Poles went with a wide receiver with his first pick, but it wouldn’t shock me if they don’t take one in the second round.

Cornerback: The Bears still don’t have two of their three cornerback positions sorted out and it’s hard to envision them coming out of this draft without one or two more corners. Early starters can be found at that position in the second round (i.e. Jaylon Johnson). Two names to watch: Washington’s Kyler Gordon and Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt.

Linebacker:Maybe the Bears were just spoiled with two elite linebackers in the Lovie Smith days with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, but it’s hard to picture this defense being at the top of the league again without a difference making linebacker next to Roquan Smith. Nicholas Morrow wasn’t a bad signing, but I’d still have my eye on a better longterm solution at inside linebacker. Wyoming’s Chad Muma is a highly instinctual tackling machine who could be an ideal Mike linebacker, allowing Smith to use his outstanding sideline speed at the Will linebacker position.

Random Things

– We did an interesting “Would you rather?” exercise on The CHGO Bears Podcast last week where we went through every NFL team and asked a simple question: Would you rather have that team’s current QB situation or Justin Fields?

Our consensus was that there are 12 teams that can comfortably say they don’t need Fields right now. A more in-depth discussion can be found in Thursday’s (NFC) and Friday’s (AFC) episodes of the show, but if you’re looking for some Bears optimism, it’s pretty impressive that Fields would still rank somewhere around No. 13 right now despite his underwhelming rookie year. From my view, that’s an indication that he managed to show some signs of progress and hope despite not being put in a great position by the organization to have success.

– Anyone watch the USFL over the weekend? I caught a little bit, but anytime there is a new spring league I think about how great it would be if NFL teams could send a handful of their own developmental players to get some playing time in those leagues. And it got me thinking, if I had to pick five young Bears players to put in the USFL right now, who would I send there? Here’s my list:

  • CB Thomas Graham Jr. — Hasn’t played a lot of football the last two years, but showed promise in limited reps last season.
  • TE Jesper Horsted — It seems like Horsted makes plays every time he actually gets on the field, but the Bears don’t put him on the field.
  • Punter Ryan Winslow — Winslow is the only punter on the Bears roster right now and he’s not exactly proven. You can send a punter to play in the spring without much fear of losing him to injury in the fall.
  • OT Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — This is actually an example of a player who already benefited from a spring league. He played in “The Spring League” last year and converted from tight end to tackle in the process. The Bears signed him and kept him on the practice squad all year. Wouldn’t it be nice to get more tape on him this spring?
  • CB Kindle Vildor — Maybe Vildor played too much last year to put him through more games this spring, but it could serve as a confidence boost after he struggled at times in 2021.

What you missed…

Former Bears great Tommie Harris joined The CHGO Bears Podcast to talk about the importance of the three-technique in this defense. He also provided a breakdown of Oklahoma defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey.

We also broke down multiple NFL Draft prospects every day and will continue to do so in every episode leading up the selection meeting.

What’s on deck

It’s a big week at Halas Hall as the Bears will have their first minicamp under Eberflus. The three-day minicamp will run Tuesday-Thursday and practices will be open to reporters. That means we’ll be moving our live shows to 5 pm on those three days so we can provide the best coverage to you after every practice.

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