Hub Arkush: Bears have more pressing needs with No. 9 pick than offensive line

Ohio State offensive lineman Dawand Jones plays against Arkansas State during the 2022 season in Columbus, Ohio.

Depending on whom you’re listening to right now, you may believe the Bears’ greatest needs are on the offensive line. I am not at all sure that’s true, and making the right call will have a huge impact on how general manager Ryan Poles approaches the draft.

Obviously, the front five on offense is a critical need for all 32 NFL teams, but it’s possible the Bears already have more developing talent than we realize. And a first-round pick could be much better used on a pass rusher, defensive tackle, defensive back, running back or even another receiver.

It’s OK to disagree on this, but let’s dive in a little deeper.

Tackle Braxton Jones and guards Nate Davis and Teven Jenkins are practically locked in as starters for 2023.

After being drafted by the Bears in the fifth round last year, Jones spent the entire season starting at left tackle and was chosen to the All-Rookie team. There is some thought he could be a better fit at right tackle, but there is no question he will remain one of the Bears’ starting tackles, hopefully for some time to come.

Davis was signed from the Tennessee Titans to a three-year, $30 million deal with more than $19 million guaranteed to start at guard for the Bears, most likely on the left side for the next couple of years.

The Bears drafted Tevin Jenkins with the 39th pick in the second round in 2021, and after playing tackle in college, he has performed well enough at guard. Jenkins has improved enough to pretty much guarantee him at least one more season to prove how good he can be.

That leaves two spots to fill. Seven-year veteran Cody Whitehair could be a salary cap casualty, but the Bears still have plenty of cap space, and another year as the starting center is a viable option for Whitehair. His move back to center certainly wouldn’t be a shock.

Now, if the above thinking is correct, that leaves the Bears with only a tackle spot to fill.

The Bears still have to consider Larry Borom, whom they drafted 151st in the fifth round in 2021. He started eight games at tackle in 2021 and nine games last season. He certainly hasn’t been special, but he hasn’t been awful, either, and there could be more in the tank.

Let’s be honest. Of course the Bears can get better on the O-line, and they do need to invest in more talent to accomplish that. But they don’t have the glaring needs there that they do at pass rusher, defensive tackle and perhaps running back, and they should use a first- or second-round pick on the O-line only if they think they can get someone special.

It is a good year to draft offensive line help, especially at offensive tackle. Ohio State’s Paris Johnson, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Georgia’s Broderick Jones are the three best in this class. All could be available when the Bears are on the clock with the ninth overall pick.

A major concern, however, is that Johnson may be the only one of the three worthy of a pick that high.

Skoronski fits Poles’ local kid mold. He played his high school ball at Maine South in suburban Park Ridge, and his grandfather was a legendary Green Bay Packer. Skoronski, however, is a tad undersized for tackle in the NFL, and although he may become a great guard, the ninth overall pick is a bit rich to draft him at that position.

The Bears’ best bet is to focus on pass rush in the first round and look for a tackle such as Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison, Ohio State’s Dawand Jones – a massive kid at 6-foot-8, 374 pounds – or Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron in the second round.

The bottom line is the Bears’ pass rush has to get better for this team to continue to improve. So, if they’re going to use the ninth overall pick on an offensive lineman, that pick better be an absolute home run.

As draft history has proved, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Hub Arkush is the senior Bears analyst for Shaw Media and

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and