This past Wednesday, the Chicago Bears surprisingly declined to match the offer sheet that the New Orleans Saints had signed WR Cameron Meredith to.
It had been a foregone conclusion that Bears’ GM Ryan Pace, who came from the Saints’ organization and signed Meredith as an undrafted free agent a couple season ago, would match the reasonable offer sheet and keep his promising, young receiver. But he didn’t, sparking surprise, and hilariously, panic, throughout Bears Twitter.
Losing Meredith isn’t a big deal, especially considering he was likely to be a prime PUP candidate to begin the year on a $5 million salary. The Saints, built to contend for a championship, could afford to wait for Meredith. The Bears, who need results this upcoming season in the worst way, couldn’t afford to wait.
Chicago made up for it, slightly, by signing former Broncos’ WR Bennie Fowler to a one-year contract to help provide some depth. But wide receiver certainly is a depth target in the upcoming NFL draft.
With that, we reach into this week’s Bears Mailbag. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions! We always appreciate the participation.
I feel like Pace won’t take a WR in the first 2 rounds. So who do you think he’ll target in the later rounds that could be similar to Meredith? Or does he go in a different direction with his choice (eg: a burner)
— ChiTownBearsFan (@chibears_fan) April 15, 2018
The prevailing thought was that the Bears wouldn’t need high-value depth at WR after their offseason because their free agent signings (Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel), along with Meredith’s return, would set the Bears up quite well in the depth department. But when Pace chose not to match Meredith’s offer sheet, WR became a pretty important need yet again.
So that being said, we have no idea where and when the Bears will choose a receiver (except we know it won’t be in the first round) because we don’t know how Pace’s draft board will stack up. Remember, he’s proven that he’ll draft the best player available (per his and his team’s scouting) in every round. So WR could very much be in play in the second round.
The thing about Meredith was that despite his size, he could play outside and in the slot, too. He had solid speed, agility, route-running ability, and his hands were above average. So he was more or less a full package at receiver. There aren’t too many full package receivers in this draft, so the Bears will have to do the best they can to find someone that can contribute right away.
Some of the better receiver prospects that I like in this draft that the Bears could target, and which round I think they could be available in:
Christian Kirk — 2nd round
DJ Moore — 2nd round
Courtland Sutton — 2nd round
DJ Chark — 4th round
Anthony Miller — 4nd round
Equinameous St. Brown — 4th round
Keke Coutee — 4th round
Michael Gallup — 4th round
Simmie Cobbs — 5th round
Deon Cain — 5th round
— Paul (@mrpchvz) April 15, 2018
Unfortunately, if the Bears don’t take an EDGE rusher in the first round, they have no shot at grabbing Harold Landry, who is the best pass rusher in this draft, in my opinion. And the issue with this EDGE class is that while there are a number of intriguing talents, they all have something or the other that hinders them from being considered worthy, high picks.
So, here are the prospects I like after the first round that I would hope the Bears would consider, along with a target round:
Lorenzo Carter — 2nd round
Kemoko Turay — 2nd round
Josh Sweat — 2nd round
Hercules Mata’afa — 2nd round
Jeff Holland — 4th round
Duke Ejiofor — 4th round
Dorance Armstrong — 4th round
The best thing what you can do in the first round is just to look at the talent and not at your needs. Who are the best talents (your top 5) and who should the bears target not looking at their needs?
— JanJa (@jalali_jan) April 15, 2018
You’re absolutely correct in saying that teams should be looking at talent and not just needs — but not just in the first round. That should be the case in every round. And credit to Ryan Pace, his draft strategy is clear that no matter what round it is, he will take whom he believes is the best player available. That’s commendable.
Here are my Top 5 prospects in this draft (non-QB edition). The nice thing is that since many teams ahead of the Bears need a quarterback, they’ll take one and push some of this talent down to the Bears. Here’s hoping they land one of them!
1. Quenton Nelson
2. Roquan Smith
3. Derwin James
4. Harold Landry
5. Denzel Ward
If I had included quarterbacks, then Baker Mayfield would be second, and Sam Darnold would be fourth for me. And no, your eyes do not deceive you: Saquon Barkley and Bradley Chubb don’t belong here for me.
With holes on OL, WR, OLB and DL; what do you think is the right mix at the top of the draft? Is there a certain position that they would definitely reach for?
— Kenneth Bronke (@KBronke) April 15, 2018
The Bears shouldn’t, and if we’ve learned anything during the Ryan Pace era, won’t reach for anybody. The picks may seem unconventional at the time (e.g. Adam Shaheen, Tarik Cohen, etc.), but Pace takes whom he really believes is the best available player at the time, at the right value.
That being said, whom the Bears take depends entirely on who has been picked already and who is available. Quenton Nelson is the (mostly) consensus best player in this draft, and if he’s available, I imagine that the Bears will submit their pick in under five seconds. There are a few others who, in my opinion, are worth taking at eighth overall: LB Roquan Smith, EDGE Harold Landry, and S Derwin James.
No WR is worth a Top 10 selection in this draft. Vita Vea is a great talent and would be a monstrosity on the Bears’ defensive line if they were to take him, but eighth overall seems like it might be too rich for Vea.
Of the prospects I listed, Smith is the best inside linebacker prospect in this draft, and would be a Day 1 starter next to Danny Trevathan. Landry is the best pass rushing EDGE in this draft, in my opinion, and would likely supplant Aaron Lynch across Leonard Floyd on Day 1 as well. James is one of the best DBs in this draft (I have him ahead of Minkah Fitzpatrick), and would solidify the Bears’ defensive backfield. Yes, they have Adrian Amos who is coming off a strong season in relief of Quintin Demps. But James is a very, very good prospect, and would be a big-time upgrade.
There you have it — that’s the pool of players from which the Bears should select at the top of the draft.
Keep in mind, no matter what happens, the Bears are in DIRE need of EDGE depth. So I imagine that they’ll double-dip at some point.