The signing of veteran free agent Akiem Hicks (career-high seven sacks in 2016) added a much-needed pass-rusher to the Chicago Bears' defensive line, but finding another end to compliment Hicks and nose tackle Eddie Goldman -- presuming he can stay healthy -- remains an offseason priority.
Many believed 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard had all the necessary tools and quickness off the line to develop into a full-time starter by the end of his rookie season. However, Bullard (one sack) played only a minor role on defense and was even a healthy scratch one week because the coaching staff objected to his performance at practice.
After Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, whom ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has going No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns in his 2017 NFL Mock Draft 1.0, the next best defensive lineman in the draft class is probably Alabama's Jonathan Allen -- a versatile player who can line up inside or outside.
Kiper has the Bears taking Allen at No. 3; a move that fits with general manager Ryan Pace's philosophy of drafting the best available player on the board.
Named the top defensive player in the nation, Allen recorded 69 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss his senior year. As a junior, Allen's 12 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship.
A defense can never have enough pass-rushers. The Bears haven't given up on Bullard after just one season, but drafting Allen further solidifies the front-seven -- the unquestioned strength of the team.
For what it's worth, Kiper does have two quarterbacks in the top 10: Mitch Trubisky (No. 2 to the San Francisco 49ers) and Deshaun Watson (No. 10 to the Buffalo Bills). Chicago's need at quarterback is well-documented, but most draft analysts think the QB class is average to slightly below average. Unless the Bears are absolutely convinced Trubisky or Watson are franchise-caliber passers, then settling on the best available player at No. 3 (if they keep the pick) is the smart way to go.
This will be the third straight year the Bears pick in the top 10. The team can't afford to draft any more projects. Receiver Kevin White put up great numbers in 2014 at West Virginia, but his route tree was limited. Linebacker Leonard Floyd had seven sacks last season, but his body is a work-in-progress, and his durability (along with White's) is a question mark. A player drafted third overall should be ready to start Day 1. That doesn't sound like too much to ask for.