When the Bears drafted Oregon offensive tackle Kyle Long with the 20th Overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the selection was seen as a reach and a desperation move by the Bears. Turns out Phil Emery is a genius and walked away with an outstanding 2013 class.
You can look to the right side of the Bears’ offensive line where Long is performing very well at the new position and looking more like a veteran than a rookie. Meanwhile the man just outside of him at right tackle, Jordan Mills, has flourished and proven to be a steal being taken in the fifth round and the 163rd player taken. Meanwhile Chicago’s second-round pick, Jon Bostic, has done an excellent job filling in at middle linebacker replacing Brian Urlacher and showing why he is the future of the Bears defense.
Emery will face more challenges and needs to fill for his team entering the 2014 NFL Draft. The Bears’ dominant defense of years’ past is aging and he needs to find replacements at cornerback, defensive end and defensive tackle. He also will need to address the safety position where the Bears have been torched all season long. The biggest question for Emery though will be at quarterback, does he give Jay Cutler the big bucks or find someone younger to learn from Marc Trestman.
First Round: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma
Chicago has arguably the best cornerback-duo in the league with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. The two corners have not only been great in coverage, but perfectionists when it comes to forcing turnovers.
The problem for Chicago is that Tillman will be turning 33 in February and Jennings will be 30 in December.
On top of that, both corners will hit the open market after this season along with Zack Bowman, and Kelvin Hayden set to join them as well.
Even if Chicago can bring back both of their top corners they need to bring in a young cornerback who can learn from the veterans but not have to serve in a big role right away.
When you look at where Gilbert was last year at this time compared to now, he has made tremendous strides with his technique and fundamentals. Now you bring him into a locker room where he can learn from the best, that is a formula for success and a plan that will pay dividends in 2014 and in the future.
Second Round: DaQuan Jones, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
The Bears has done a decent job stopping the pass this year ranking 17th in the league, but they are horrendous against the run. Even before losing Henry Melton and Nate Collins this team wasn’t very good but the run defense vanished when they lost both defensive tackles.
The team is second to last in the league, giving up 133.9 yards per game and almost 200 to a Packers defense that played most of the game without Aaron Rodgers to even threaten a passing play. The days of a run-stuffing Bears defense are long gone, this group has been an eyesore this season. Bringing in more depth at defensive tackle will be key especially with Melton coming off a torn-ACL in a contract year.
Even if Chicago is able to bring him back, it’s going to take a lot of fixing to repair this defense. Jones knows how to get into the backfield quickly to blow up plays and keep the running back from finding space right up the middle. He is still developing as a prospect and has more room to grow, and will also added another great locker room player for the Bears.
Third Round: Stephen Morris, Quarterback, Miami
This will be the biggest decision for Emery in the offseason and it will come down to money and who gives Chicago the best chance to win in the future.
Cutler has shown improvement during the 2013 season with Trestman as his head coach, but once again injuries are costing him games.
Meanwhile there has been mild speculation about a possible change at quarterback this season, because Josh McCown has looked impressive filling in for Cutler.
The problem is McCown isn’t a young quarterback, he is 34 and will be 35 on July and probably doesn’t have much longer of a career ahead of him.
If Emery decides to save his team money and let Cutler walk, quarterback will be a major priority for the Bears in the draft. While Morris may not be polished as many of the other quarterback prospects in this class, the physical tools are obviously there and it’s the fundamentals and footwork that needs improving. So you bring him to a place like Chicago where he has a great coach to learn from, a good, young offensive line and plenty of options to work with. McCown could start for another year or two until Morris is ready to take control of this franchise and lead them to the promise land.
Fourth Round: Dee Ford, Outside Linebacker, Auburn
After finding Bostic and Khaseem Greene in last year’s draft, now the Bears need to find just one more outside linebacker to complete a group that will dominate for years to come. While Greene is preparing to eventually replacing Lance Briggs the team also needs to find a replacement for impending free agent James Anderson. While Anderson has had a solid season he is another piece on this aging defense that may be shown the door after this season. The Bears will also need more depth at outside linebacker with Blake Costanzo also set to become a free agent. Ford is rocketing up the charts right now and would be a steal for the Bears in the fourth round. He knows how to get pressure on the quarterback and his motor never stops. You plug him in with Bostic, Briggs and Greene, it will be a fearsome group in the future.
Fifth Round: Tre Boston, Free Safety, North Carolina
The Bears’ secondary as mentioned before is unwatchable, at this point they might as well have fans pay to suit up and just throw them out there.
This safety group needs a lot of help but unfortunately for Chicago, it just doesn’t set up right for them to take a safety early. They would love to add someone like Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix but unless they go on a losing streak he won’t fall far enough to them in the first, and the same could be said in the second with Lamarcus Joyner.
So they have to wait until the fifth round where they finally find their free safety. While Boston may still struggle against the run, he knows how to play in coverage and he can make plays when his team needs a turnover.
He shows excellent range in the secondary and moves quickly to the intended receiver to either break up the play or make sure the wide receiver doesn’t take the ball another inch forward. He can sit back and watch Tillman and Jennings play excellent coverage and when a quarterback tries to test the Bears deep Boston will make them pay.
Sixth Round: Hakeem Smith Strong Safety, Louisville
After not being able to address the safety situation until the end of the draft, the Bears will have to invest consecutive picks into filling the gaps. Major Wright has been solid this year but he needs help behind him and that’s where Smith comes in. While Louisville may be known for Teddy Bridgewater, Smith is a name who really has started to stand out. While he doesn’t get a lot of interceptions, he is a warrior who never comes off the field and gets to the football quickly. He isn’t afraid to come screaming down into the box and blowing up the running back or cutting the wide receiver short on a short pass across the middle. He would plug in nicely to the Bears’ defense and add depth to a secondary that desperately needs it.
Sixth Round: Chaz Sutton, Defensive End, South Carolina
For me it’s always important to add depth to the defensive line and that falls in line with what the Bears need to do in the offseason. Julius Peppers doesn’t dominate consistently like he used to as his body starts to age and he doesn’t have as much endurance. Meanwhile Shea McClellin has shown flashes this year of why he was taken in the first-round but just doesn’t look like an every-down player in the long-term. By bringing in a player like Sutton, Chicago adds someone who can take some of the extra reps away from Peppers and McClellin to keep them fresh. With both of those players having more energy, they won’t have to force themselves through every snap, instead they can come in fresh and play at a high level when they are on the field.