I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked this week what the Bears greatest needs are heading into the offseason, and I’ve been trying to find a different way of framing an answer that might be fun for us all to debate.
I found it this morning in an interesting piece from Bucky Brooks at NFL.com .
Brooks spent eight years as a scout with the Seahawks and Panthers, and he writes: “As a young scout, I learned that it typically takes eight to 12 blue-chip players to field a championship roster.
“Those blue-chip players are regarded as top-10 players at their respective positions and they are the difference makers on your squad. From a draft perspective, I was also taught first- and second-round selections should form the nucleus of your team and they must play at a high level for your team to have any chance of competing for the title.”
OG Kyle Long, WR Allen Robinson, DT Akiem Hicks, ILB Danny Trevathan, EDGE Khalil Mack, CB Kyle Fuller, S Eddie Jackson and RS/FLEX Tarik Cohen, I believe, are blue-chippers right now by Brooks’ 10 best at their position definition — the minimum eight studs required.
And the Bears are better than that.
Though I know this will spark debate and even be a hot button with some, since only Zeke Elliott and Todd Gurley have rushed for more yards than Jordan Howard over the last three years, how is Howard not one of the 10 best running backs?
James Daniels made great strides at guard this year, and though I don’t know if he’ll ever be top 10 there, I think he’d absolutely be a blue-chip center, if they move him, and Cody Whitehair might have more upside at guard than he does at center.
Eddie Goldman is a top-10 nose tackle for sure, but probably not a top-10 defensive tackle yet. But he and Bilal Nichols have both shown that type of ability.
I would also argue that Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith were among the top 10 at OLB and ILB late in the season and both have a chance to own those rankings for a while with continued improvement. Bryce Callahan also was playing at that level before his injury.
Mitch Trubisky has the tools and want-to to be a top-10 quarterback, but whether he has the ability to get there is anyone’s guess. He is clearly the man at the position for the foreseeable future, though, so you’re not going to call QB a need.
Long, Mack, Fuller, Floyd and Smith are all former first-round picks; Robinson, Daniels, Whitehair and Goldman are twos; and Jackson would have been a one — certainly no less that a two — were it not for his injury history at Alabama.
The Bears don’t currently have any blue-chip talent at offensive tackle or tight end, although clearly neither Adam Shaheen nor Trey Burton has reached their ceilings yet.
Throw in that the Bears' only starters who will be free agents are Bobby Massie, Adrian Amos, Callahan and Patrick O’Donnell, and offensive tackle is the Bears' greatest need.
More talent at tight end would be nice. But because you never have enough cornerbacks, and we don’t know if the Bears can retain Callahan and Prince Amukamara will be 30 when training camp opens and can be a bit brittle, that position is the team’s second-greatest need.
If Amos is back, they’re fine with Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson behind him, but if he leaves, another starting safety is need No. 3.
Next up is tight end or running back. As much as I like Howard, he doesn’t appear to be a favorite of Matt Nagy’s. Taquan Mizzell is clearly not the answer, and the Bears can use more speed at the position.
Lastly, while I will say again that Cody Parkey is not the reason the Eagles beat the Bears — he just blew his chance to beat Philly — Chicago needs a kicker who will hit more than 77 percent of his field goals, and more than just one from outside the 50 and better than 93 percent of his extra points, which is what Parkey gave them this year.