Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 BEARS Draft hopes to provide more answers than questions ...

The 2013 NFL Draft wasn't short on it's share of surprise picks in Round 1. One of the biggest surprises, to many, was that there wasn't a Running Back selected in Round 1 for the 1st time in a long time. You saw players projected to go in the 1st Round not taken until the 2nd Round (Geno Smith to the Jets and Manti Teo to the Chargers) and another player projected to be a Top 15 pick last year not go until Round 4 just one year later (Matt Barkley to the Eagles). The one QB taken in the 1st Round was projected to be a 2nd or 3rd Round pick at best (EJ Manuel 16th to the Bills). What you DID know, coming into this Draft is that there would be a run on talented Offensive Lineman taken in the 1st Round and that was definitely the case as 3 of the first 4 picks were Offensive Tackles (Eric Fisher/Chiefs, Luke Joeckel/Jaguars, Lane Johnson/Eagles) followed by fellow Offensive Lineman Jonathan Cooper (7th to Arizona), Chance Warmack (10th to Tennessee), DJ Fluker (11th to San Diego) and Justin Pugh (19th to the Giants). With 6 O-Lineman taken in the first 19 picks, the Chicago Bears on the board with the 20th pick in Round 1 were left to make a BIG decision.                                                   
Many believed that the Bears set themselves up to have flexibility with their picks in this Draft, based on their moves in Free Agency. Bringing Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson and Eben Britton on board shored up one of the most maligned O-Lines over the past 3-4 years. Martellus Bennett was also brought in to upgrade the Bear's Tight End core that was one of the most unproductive units in the league last season. Linebacker was another area of need addressed by the signings of veterans DJ Williams and James Anderson. The reality is only Bushrod and Bennett were signed to multi-year contracts and the other signings were looked to more as "one-year warriors". With that being the case, GM Phil Emery would look to add more depth to the O-line and Linebacking units respectively in this Draft. Guard Kyle Long (6'6" 313 Oregon) would eventually be taken by the Bears over a few prospects I thought would be better fits (TE Tyler Eifert, CB Marcus Trufant and LB Alec Ogletree). Long has an impressive pedigree (Hall of Fame father Howie from the Raiders and older brother Chris currently with the Rams) and is regarded as the best athlete in the family (was Drafted as a 95 mph throwing pitcher by the Chicago White Sox) and turned heads with a very impressive Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Kyle didn't have a long trail of game tape (played in 11 gms with 4 starts last year for Chip Kelly's Ducks) but has the athletic ability and versatility to play Tackle and Guard (something the Bears covet in their Offensive Lineman). Many felt he was a reach with the 20th overall pick but Emery felt it wasn't worth the risk of trying to wait out another 30 picks to try and get him in Round 2 with the run of O-Lineman taken in the 1st 19 picks.
The Bears, having already secured the O-Lineman they identified as their guy looked to add youth and athleticism to their Linebacking core taking LBs Jon Bostic (6'1" 245 Florida) in the 2nd Round and Khaseem Greene (6'1" 241 Rutgers) in the 4th Round. Both are high energy, productive LBs that have the versatility to play all 3 positions in a 4-3 defense and will have a chance to compete for immediate playing time and starting jobs. Bostic was taken over Kansas State's Arthur Brown (a guy the Bears had in for a pre-draft visit) who was rated higher than Bostic and eventually taken a few picks later by the Ravens. The Bears, despite needing depth at CB and possibly another WR with speed that can play the slot, looked to Offensive Line again with their 5th Round pick taking Tackle Jordan Mills (6'5" 316 La. Tech) another player that impressed scouts with his versatility to play Tackle and some Guard at the Senior Bowl. the Bears acquired the 236th overall pick(in Round 7) by moving back 10 spaces in Round 5 after a trade with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Bears may have found one of the steals of the Draft (similar to Mark Anderson a few years ago) when they took LB/DE Cornelius Washington (6'4" 265 Georgia) in the 6th Round (188th pick overall). Washington is a freakish athlete that runs in the 4.6s (in the 40yd dash) has a 39 inch verticle leap and benched pressed 36 reps of 225 lbs at the combine. You didn't always see this athleticism show up on game film but the Bears believe if he's put in one position (played 3 different positions for the Bulldogs) where he can focus on rushing the QB (something he does well) that he'll get the most out of his athletic gifts. I can't wait to see this kid in pads and see him get to work. Great value pick here for a guy projected by some to be a 2nd to 4th round talent. The Bears used the 7th Round pick obtained from Atlanta on WR Marquess Wilson (6'3" 194 Wash. St.) a 20 yr old that needs to mature and get stronger (physically) but has tremendous athletic gifts and upside. Had an incident where he quit the team because of alleged abuse by Coach Mike Leach (a story he's recanted) but was very productive for one of the doormats in the Pac 12. Another solid value pick here late. the reward definitely outweighs the risk here and if this kid can make the team he adds another 6'3" receiver to the mix with Marshall and Jeffery that can go up and get the ball in traffic and make plays for QB Jay Cutler.
I'm just as excited about some of the 10 Undrafted Free Agents the Bears agreed to terms with after the Draft (LSU running back Michael Ford, Rutgers receiver Mark Harrison, Oklahoma cornerback Demontre Hurst, Iowa State receiver Josh Lenz, LSU center P.J. Lonergan, Montana State defensive tackle Zach Minter, Memphis receiver Marcus Rucker, Georgia Southern defensive tackle Brent Russell, Oklahoma punter Tress Way , North Carolina State cornerback C.J. Wilson) all of which the Bears are hoping can increase competition in camp in preparation for the upcoming season. With the team looking to bolster their depth at CB, WR and possibly add a Center keep a close eye on C.J. Wilson, Hurst, Harrison, Rucker and Lonergan as the team moves into the pre-season ... If I were to assign a Grade to this group of draftees it would be a (C) as in let's wait and "see" ... Solid crop but the jury will be out on this group for the next 2-3 years to see where they can take this team (if most of them can MAKE the team).

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