NFL draft 2021: Where Bears will be picking, biggest team needs

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NBC Sports Chicago Staff
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NFL draft 2021: Where Bears will be picking, biggest team needs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off in Cleveland in two weeks, 32 teams will have an opportunity to change the future of their franchise. 

With this year’s class featuring some of the most talented quarterback prospects in recent memory and a deep pool of wide receivers, the next Patrick Mahomes or DeAndre Hopkins could be sitting in the green room on April 29. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock expected to draft Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall. Here is everything else you need to know ahead of the draft:

When is the 2021 NFL Draft?

The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 29, when all 32 selections in Round 1 will be made. Rounds 2 and 3 take place on Friday, April 30, beginning at 7 p.m. ET, and Rounds 4 through 7 will be on Saturday, May 1, beginning at 12 p.m. ET.

What is the 2021 NFL Draft order?

After the 2021 NFL Draft order was finalized in mid-March, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the No. 3 overall pick. The Miami Dolphins then traded the No. 12 pick they got from San Francisco to the Philadelphia Eagles for the sixth overall pick. More trades could shake up the order before the draft begins, but here’s how it stands as of now:

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Will this year’s draft be in person or virtual?

After the NFL held a virtual draft in 2020 due to COVID-19, this year’s draft will be held in person in Cleveland. Some of the top prospects will be there to take the stage when they’re selected, while others will appear from their homes. Lawrence declined an invitation to Cleveland and will watch the draft at Clemson.

Can fans attend the 2021 NFL draft?

Yes, fans are allowed to attend this year. A select group of fans who are vaccinated will be chosen by each of the 32 NFL teams and will be seated in the "inner circle" near the main stage. The league’s main website has more information on NFL Draft tickets and events.

How can I watch the 2021 NFL Draft?

The draft will be broadcast live on the NFL Network, ESPN and ABC on all three days.

How many draft picks do the Bears have in 2021?

The Chicago Bears enter the 2021 NFL Draft with eight picks. It will be the first time in three years that the Bears will select in the first round.

The Bears don't have their original fourth- or seventh-round picks due to trades. During last year's draft, they sent their fourth-rounder to the Vikings to trade up and select edge rusher Trevis Gipson in the fifth round. Chicago traded their seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Eddy Pineiro in 2019.

Despite those losses, the Bears have ample opportunity to fill some of their roster holes in this year’s draft. In addition to their first-rounder, Chicago has one pick in the second, third and fifth rounds, along with four selections in the sixth round.

Here is a list of all the Bears’ 2021 draft picks:

  • First round: No. 20 (own pick)

  • Second round: No. 52 (own pick)

  • Third round: No. 83 (own pick)

  • Fifth round: No. 164 (own pick)

  • Sixth round: No. 204 (own pick)

  • Sixth round: No. 208 (from Seahawks through Dolphins)

  • Sixth round: No. 221 (own pick)

  • Sixth round: No. 228 (own pick)

What are the Bears' biggest needs?

The Bears roster looks different after making a few moves in free agency, but Ryan Pace still has his work cut out for him in the draft. Chicago can target several different positions with the picks they have, and have the potential to load up on even more draft assets if they were to work out trades up or back.

After releasing Kyle Fuller this offseason, the Bears could use help covering the pass. Even after signing Desmond Trufant, Chicago should consider it a high priority to fill out their depth at cornerback.

On the other side of the ball, the Bears have some serious roster holes to address on offense. From receivers to offensive lineman to even quarterback -- you name it, they need it.

At quarterback, the Bears signed veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year deal in free agency. Though Dalton will be their starter in 2021, Chicago could use the draft as a chance to grab a long-term solution. Even if they don’t use their No. 20 overall pick to target a top QB prospect, there will be plenty of names available for the Bears to go after in Day 2 of the draft.

The Bears’ offensive line could also use some assistance. Though they brought back Germain Ifedi on a one-year deal and have a lot of the same faces returning from last year’s roster, Chicago could use this year’s draft to grab some new guys to develop.

If the Bears can’t grab a QB or offensive lineman early, they should consider using their No. 20 pick to go after a top wideout prospect. After making an “aggressive” offer for Kenny Golladay in free agency, Pace obviously understands that Matt Nagy and the Bears could use help at wide receiver.

Bears’ draft needs: CB, QB, OL, WR

Kelley Ekert contributed to this story.