Pre-draft speculation is like a plan for a battle, before it begins. There is a lot of tactical deception and no plan remains intact after first contact with the enemy. In the case of the Bears on day 1 of the draft they are facing 31 other enemies. Once the first draft domino falls, all bets are off on who actually selects whom next.
The Bears need to address a variety of needs on the defensive side of the ball and I am confident Emery will do just that. There is a lot of talk on who the Bears will take versus their needs and, talk of a first round safety like Calvin Pryor (Louisville) or Ha Ha Clinton Dix (Alabama) have graced the pages of many a mock draft. These players are talented and time will tell how well they adapt to the pro game but neither is likely a game changer.
Over the last 30 years the game has evolved on many levels to a pass orientated league. One would argue that this simple fact would place more emphasis on the safety on draft day but I disagree. Quality safeties can be found later in the draft but very few impact defensive lineman are found later in the draft.The league places a high emphasis on playmaker wide receivers and of course the quarterback but no team goes far at all without a solid line. The goes for both the defense and the offense.
Super Bowl winners rarely lose the battle of the line of scrimmage. He who controls that area usually wins the game. The time a QB has to throw the ball or the lanes open for a RB to maneuver are irreplaceable. Same fact is true for the opposite side of the ball. If the opposing team is limited in it’s options on offense due to a lack of time to throw or and ability to run the DB quality is not as important and weaknesses in the secondary can be masked to a point.
The Bears success on offense was in large part due to the improvement on the offensive line. Bears QBs spent a lot more time upright, coupled with the weapons they were provided with, they reaped the rewards. The defensive effort suffered due to multiple injuries and those weaknesses in the defensive backfield were highlighted and exploited.
I do believe the Bears need an upgrade at safety but a quality one can be found in later rounds in the draft. The emphasis in the first round needs to be on the defensive line. There are three quality candidates likely to be available when the Bears pick at number 14. I have listed them in the order I believe the Bears should consider them.
Ra’Shede Hageman Minnesota. 6’6” 310. He fits the mold that Trestman and Emery like. Solid but not flashy stats with a strong motor. Performed at a high level with constant double teams throughout season. He was the target on the line for opposing offenses. Paired with Ratliff in the middle could make for very tight throwing lanes in the middle.
Aaron Donald Pittsburgh 6’1” 285. A little undersized but plays bigger than he looks. Quick and disruptive first step and solid 3 technique tackle the bears Tampa 2 thrives on. Potential to be man handled off the ball my bigger NFL lineman but uses hands well and plays with good leverage.
Timmy Jernigan Florida St. 6’2” 299. Solid nose tackle run stopper with potential. Played with speed but might not equate to quickness in the NFL especially in the pass rush. Upside he is very young at 21 and can be mentored.
The bottom line for this years draft is depth. There will be a few sleepers and the Bears might be able to parlay the 14th pick into an additional pick in the 3rd round. The best defensive players available need to be considered in the first three rounds. Rounds 4 and on need to be best available and a running back or tight end might emerge as a sleeper in the later rounds.