Phil Emery has consistently flexed his chops on the pro personnel side as the Bears’ top decision maker, but he has also displayed some unpredictable tendencies when it comes to the NFL draft.
His two first-round selections to date, Shea McClellin and Kyle Long, have produced dramatically different results, but were met initially with similar raised eyebrows. Emery cares about only one draft board – his team’s – and isn’t afraid to make a pick that many perceive as a reach if he’s sold on a player.
In this exclusively Bears mock draft, I’ll take a stab at all seven of the Bears’ picks, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time on trying to read Emery’s mind (even with the draft pushed back, no one has that kind of time). Instead, I’ll focus on what I believe are the Bears’ biggest remaining holes and what player could be available – and most helpful – each time they’re on the clock.
Round 1, pick 14: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Is anyone else as concerned as me about the prospect of Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic battling for the starting “SAM” linebacker position? Both are being asked to learn a new position and, frankly, neither was very good at the one they performed last season. They certainly can’t match the instincts and overall presence of Mosley, a three-down player with big-game experience and loads of playmaking ability.
Mosley is ready to start immediately. His ideal position likely is in the middle, but he’s scheme versatile and could handle strong-side duties until the expiring contracts of D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs must be addressed after the season. True, the Bears desperately need help in the secondary, but Mosley has the look and feel of a perennial Pro Bowler, and a special linebacker has been in the middle of so many great Bears defenses. They’ve yet to find a replacement for Brian Urlacher, and are on the cusp of needing to replace a second all-time franchise great in Briggs.
Round 2, pick 51: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Even after adding several middling veterans in free agency, the Bears shouldn’t wait long to address this spot. The poor angles, missed tackles and breakdowns in coverage last season were almost comical. Bucannon might never be the type of player who will patrol the deep third, but he’s an enforcer near the line of scrimmage, a quality the NFL’s worst run defense could surely benefit from.
The Bears probably need two starting safeties – and the thought of starting two rookies at the last line of defense is a scary proposition. I think it’s a given the Bears draft a safety high and that player immediately projects as a Day One starter. I’m just leery about spending the 14th overall pick on Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix if it means foregoing a superior prospect such as Mosley.
Round 3, pick 82: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
The Bears reportedly hosted Sutton for a private workout a few weeks back – not a big surprise given his natural athletic ability and potential positional fit in Chicago’s one-gap defense. Sutton’s stock was much higher after the 2012 season than it is now, as he was not in ideal shape as a senior and it affected his quickness. Sound familiar? Alshon Jeffery, the league’s most dominant No. 2 receiver in 2013, played his senior season at South Carolina about 15 pounds above his max efficiency weight. Emery was willing to look past that and it’s resulted in his biggest draft-day success. Sutton has the ability to regularly reside in the backfield, and he could benefit from learning behind Jeremiah Ratliff. Even as a rotational player initially, Sutton would give the Bears another interior penetrator they sorely lack.
Round 4, pick 117: Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
There’s a lot to like about Exum, a strong, physical cornerback built to defend the NFL’s new wave of super-sized receivers. Exum is coming off an ACL tear, but he boasts the athleticism Emery loves. The Bears could draft Exum with the expectation he contributes little as a rookie, but hope that he falls in line behind highly respected Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. Chicago will continue to play a lot of zone, but Exum has the ability to press if Mel Tucker wants to get more aggressive on the back end. What’s more, Exum has experience playing safety, making him a potential wild card for a club in transition at the position.
Round 5, pick 156: David Fales, QB, San Jose St.
Fales won’t wow you in any one category, but he’s a good football player with desirable size and adequate arm talent. Josh McCown proved last season that it doesn’t take a special passer to thrive under the tutelage of Trestman. Fales is a project, something a coach with Trestman’s QB developing skills would ideally have on the roster at all times. Remember, the Jay Cutler contract was designed in a way that the Bears have several escape routes. Also keep in mind that Cutler has started 16 games just one time as a Bear, and 29-year-old journeyman Jordan Palmer has the same number of NFL starts as Fales.
Round 6, pick 183 (from Tampa Bay): Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
Jackson is a better athlete than football player currently. The Bears are looking down the road to life after Charles Tillman, their best playmaking corner in the franchise’s history, and Jackson is a former receiver with plenty of room to grow. Emery can never have too many athletes, and he likes experienced players from major college programs.
Round 6, pick 191: Trey Burton, TE, Florida
A talented play-caller like Trestman could get really creative with a versatile weapon such as Burton. The Bears are rock solid at the skill positions, and Martellus Bennett is the most productive tight end they’ve had in years. However, Burton potentially offers more flexibility than Bennett, and there was a severe drop-off at the No. 2 TE position in 2013.