Watching the Bears ungracefully diminish into mediocrity last season, there was no other option than to look to free agency and the draft as an opportunity to say, “Next year is the year.” This year’s draft provides a glimmer of hope that Chicago fans can hold on to until they sleep through preseason and ultimately watch these young boys get thrown into a grown man’s game to either perish into nobodies or flourish into superstars.
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I’ve had a front-row seat for the way this team has tried to build in recent years. The Bears have had some great draft picks over my lifetime, such as Brian Urlacher, Matt Forte, and a blessing of two Pro Bowlers more recently in Kyle Long and Alshon Jeffery. Unfortunately, Chicago has had many more terrible draft picks, such as Cade McNown, J’marcus Webb, Gabe Carimi, Chris Conte; the list goes on and on. Phil Emery has impressed me with his savvy draft picks, even finding a 5th round gem in Jordan Mills who had a spectacular rookie season. With this draft being one of the deepest in recent years, I see no reason why lightning can’t strike twice.
The goal of this offseason was apparent for the Bears: rebuild the defense with an emphasis on the defensive line and the secondary. Emery has made some big splashes in free agency, acquiring Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, along with a host of solid players also at the end position like Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Israel Idonije. Emery has added competition at the safety position with the likes of Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, and Danny McCray. It’s been an extremely productive free agency for the Monsters of the Midway, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
The Bears have seven picks in this draft, one in each of the first five rounds and two in the sixth. My strategy going into the first three rounds of the draft would be to select a defensive tackle, a safety, and a cornerback. Other needs that can be filled in the later rounds are inside linebacker, running back, quarterback, a return man to replace Devin Hester, tight end, and ideally an offensive lineman that’s able to play multiple spots along the line. What they choose to fulfill these needs in these later rounds will largely be dictated by the best available at each position.
Below you’ll find my ideal picks for each round of the draft.
1st Round: Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Aaron Donald led the NCAA in tackles for loss last season and was a constant disruption in the opponent’s backfield. The only major concern about him is his size (he’s only 6’0 tall and 285 pounds), but he more than makes up for it in athletic ability. Donald would give a much-needed boost to the Bears pass rush and has the instincts and attitude to become a star in the NFL.
Donald’s availability is a bit of an idealistic scenario, seeing as the Giants, who are two picks ahead of the Bears, need an inside presence on defense just as bad as the Bears after losing Linval Joseph this offseason. That beings said, the Giants also desperately need an offensive tackle, and if Jake Matthews from Texas A&M has been picked there’s a good chance that the Giants will pick Donald.
If Donald isn’t on the board look for the Bears to take Ha Ha Clinton Dix, free safety out of Alabama, or Calvin Pryor, strong safety out of Louisville.
2nd Round: Deone Bucannon, Strong Safety, Washington State
Bucannon is an athletic, hard-hitting safety that plays with an old school mentality. He enjoys contact and is quick to close down ball carriers. What he lacks in coverage skills he can make up for in aggressiveness and tenacity. After a full season of watching Chris Conte and Major Wright miss tackle after tackle, Bucannon will provide great run support and has the athleticism and size to develop his coverage skills under quality coaching.
My ideal pick for this slot would be Jimmie Ward, free safety out of Northern Illinois, but he’s got a lot of hype right now, so I don’t expect him to still be on the board by the time the Bears are on the clock.
3rd Round: Pierre Desir, Cornerback, Lindenwood
You may not be familiar with Pierre Desir before because he played Division II ball at Lindenwood, but he’s definitely a notable prospect for this draft. What impressed me was his size (6’1, 198 lbs) and the fact that he was a three-time All-American. The Bears need a big corner to replace the injury-plagued and aging Charles Tillman1 and Desir fits the bill for someone who Peanut can coach up and mold into a solid starter for years to come.
Other prospects that could land at this spot are Keith Mcgill, cornerback out of Utah, or Stanley Jean-Baptiste, cornerback out of Nebraska.
4th Round: Storm Johnson, Running Back, Central Florida
Johnson has a good mix of a big frame and quick feet. With Michael Bush gone the Bears need someone who can take the load off of Matt Forte. The problem with Michael Bush was that he could only do one thing, gain two yards following a guard. Johnson would bring a little more versatility and can make plays in the passing game out of the backfield. He needs to work on his ball security and pass blocking, but that will be drilled into his head from the first day of training camp. Johnson would add some solid cushion for Forte.
5th Round: Max Bullough, Inside Linebacker, Michigan State
Bullough is a high intelligence and high character leader-type who is quick to fill holes in the run game, very physical when taking on blockers and was another coach on the field while playing for the Spartans. He’s very strong, but he lacks the foot speed and agility to chase down outside runs consistently, which is why he’s likely to still be avaible in round 5. He would be a welcome presence in Chicago and embodies what Chicago linebackers are all about.
6th Round: Marcel Jensen, Tight End, Fresno State
Jensen is a raw talent who originally arrived at Fresno State as a defensive lineman. He’s a mammoth of a man standing at 6’6 and 259 lbs. The part about this guy that I like so much is his untapped potential. On offense he has good hands and contributes substantially as a blocker, but he was involved in an offense that wasn’t able to use him to his full potential. He also blocked three kicks while playing for Fresno State.
Jensen does need to work on his route running, but I have full confidence that Head Coach Marc Trestman, Brandon Marshall, and Martellus Bennett have more than enough knowledge to spread. This guy could end up being one of the steals of the draft with the right coaching.
6th round: Dri Archer, Wide Receiver/Running Back/Kick Returner, Kent State
There is plenty of room in Trestman’s offense for a playmaker like Archer. He’s only 5’8″ and weighs 178 pounds, but size is what you give up for having a 4.26 second forty yard dash. He has decent strength for his size, scoring 20 reps at the combine. This guy can flat out fly, and with good coaching could be a great grab late in the draft.
There’s no doubt that the Bears will be dipping into the undrafted free agent pool to supplement their seven picks. Look for them to pick up a quarterback, like Connor Shaw out of South Carolina or Garret Gilbert out of Southern Methodist. They’ll also be in the market for more help in the secondary at both the corner and safety positions, because judging from last year, competition is greatly needed. The Bears won’t be in a position where they can instantly add more wins just through draft picks, but they have a chance to add to an already solid core. Quality picks in the 2014 draft could greatly help a deep playoff run next winter.
only played in 8 games last year ↩