- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Neil Hornsby over at Pro Football Focus put together a piece Wednesday identifying five teams that could push themselves into the playoffs by identifying and addressing one specific positional need in the upcoming NFL draft.
He pointed to Carolina in 2013 as an example. Headed into last year’s draft, the Panthers needed to fix issues at defensive tackle. They did so by drafting interior linemen Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short with their first two selections, turning what had been identified as a glaring weakness into a major strength.
For the Chicago Bears, the significant weakness, according to Hornsby, is the safety position.
Horsby writes: “It would be far from unfair to say the worst position group in football last year was the Bears' collection of safeties. Both regular starters were listed in the worst five of our 86 ranked players at the position. Major Wright and Chris Conte combined to give up more than 1,000 yards in the air, and if anything, were worse as run defenders. Both missed more than 10 tackles in that phase alone, and were both in the top 10 for missed tackles overall.”
Obviously, the Bears tried to upgrade the safety position in free agency by acquiring Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, and Danny McCray. But at this point, those players appear to be depth signings, capable of starting games in a pinch. The club needs to raise the talent level, especially now that Conte might end up missing some training camp coming off a shoulder surgery.
Though it’s unclear whether the Bears will address safety immediately with the No. 14 pick, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point in the draft the team will take one, possibly even two.
By Hornsby’s rationale, that could be the difference in the Bears earning their first trip to the playoffs since the 2010 season.