Pick #11 — Chicago Bears
The Bears are on a decent rebuilding path under John Fox, showing some surprising competitiveness — and grabbing a few unexpected wins — in the first year as the head coach in Chi-town.
Though they did exceed expectations last season, the team has a need for high-end talent in a few spots before these wins stop being surprising and instead are expected.
The offensive line has multiple players who graded well last season (in terms of Pro Football Focus’ rankings), but could use a long-term option at tackle to build around; Kyle Long is capable but would work best at guard, while Bobbie Massie is the very definition of a stop-gap.
Meanwhile, the defense could use pieces on all levels.
The defensive line has seen some draft pick & free agency investments, but while guys like Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks could be decent parts of a rotation they aren’t good enough as it stands for the line to reasonably be expected to have a consistent impact for the Bears.
They have a decent three-man group of pass rushers, but at least one of them (Willie Young) and possibly two (LaMarr Houston to a degree as well) is being used quite inefficiently in terms of his skill set (due to the 3-4 base defense installed under Fox, Young has to play 3-4 OLB instead of the 4-3 DE position he spent most of his career succeeding in); bringing in someone more suited for his snaps could elevate the unit.
Their secondary may be the weakest area; though the pass defense ranked #23 in pass defense DVOA — significantly better than their #31 rush defense DVOA — the unit is made up of one high draft pick (Kyle Fuller) and an assortment of aging/ineffective/inconsistent free agent castoffs (Tracy Porter, Antrel Rolle, Alan Ball).
When considering who is available — and the intrinsic value connected to them — the pick here I’d say should be Lawson.
As stated earlier, Lawson has the talent worthy of a slot this high, and would probably fit best as an edge rusher in a 3-4-style defense; also stated earlier, Willie Young doesn’t give the Bears his highest possible value due to not quite fitting the defensive scheme.
In this scenario, we could see two things happen:
- Young and/or Houston is traded/released, opening most OLB rusher snaps up to a Pernell McPhee/Lawson combination that is more suited to function at a consistently high level
- Everyone stays, giving the Bears a deep grouping of players who, while not all always being utilized to the best of their abilities, allow the coaches multiple options with which to throw at opposing offenses in a wide variety of ways
Either way, that defense would be set to take a healthy step forward with the addition of Lawson’s talents.