Bears HC’s comments could hint at team’s draft plans

    Are the Bears going on the defensive?

    Per the team’s official website, comments head coach Matt Eberflus made at last week’s owners meetings may have hinted at his wishes for the team’s second top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

    Chicago, which is widely expected to select quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick, also has the ninth selection in the first round.

    Based on what Eberflus said, the Bears might consider adding a defensive lineman.

    “It’s important that we get that piece because you have to have a 1-2 punch,” said Eberflus, noting the team already has one key cog with 2023 trade-deadline acquisition Montez Sweat.

    He expressed he wasn’t strictly speaking about edge-rushers, either. 

    “It can be inside as well. You look at who affects the quarterback the most, I would also argue that the inside piece is also something that we should be looking at,” Eberflus continued.

    Most mock drafts project offensive players to dominate early, potentially giving the Bears several intriguing defensive prospects at No. 9.

    For example, in Field Yates’ most recent mock draft for ESPN, the Falcons pick the first defender, edge Dallas Turner, at No. 8 overall. That would tie the 2021 NFL Draft for the longest wait for a defensive player to be selected since the AFL/NFL merger (1970-present), which would be excellent news for the Bears.

    UCLA edge-rusher Laiatu Latu is one of the most accomplished pass-rushers in this year’s class with 24 career sacks. Texas interior lineman Byron Murphy II ranks as a consensus top-20 prospect in big boards for Pro Football Focus (No. 13), Tankathon (No. 17), ESPN (No. 20), The Athletic (No. 15), and The 33rd Team (No. 20).

    Eberflus is likely familiar with Jer’Zhan Newton, who played collegiately at Illinois and is No. 8 on PFF’s big board. Deft in run- and pass-rushing situations alike, Newton could easily slide into Chicago’s defensive line rotation. The Bears’ rush defense, which ranked first in 2023, wouldn’t skip a beat, while a pass rush that ranked 31st in sacks (30) would receive a substantial boost.

    Yates has Chicago selecting Washington wideout Rome Odunze, which would give Williams a trio of excellent wideouts to work alongside, including Keenan Allen and D.J. Moore. The idea of pairing him with Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, the draft’s best tight end prospect and projected by Yates to be selected by the Jets at No. 10, is also tantalizing.

    If Eberflus had the final say, the Bears would probably pick a defensive lineman at No. 9. The debate will rage until the first round on April 25. But regardless of what Chicago decides, one thing is for certain. It will have plenty of excellent options no matter what route it chooses.

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