LAKE FOREST – Bears general manager Phil Emery must be great at poker.
After all, if Emery’s 45-minute news conference had taken place in a casino Thursday instead of Halas Hall, he would have thrown down a royal flush and collected about a million dollars. And nobody would have seen it coming.
Because Emery is really, really good at creating misdirection when it comes to discussing the NFL draft and other personnel moves. He’s friendly, he’s personable, and he’s entirely capable of keeping us guessing 100 percent of the time.
If there is an International Secret Keepers’ Hall of Fame, Emery deserves a plaque on one of its walls. Then again, for all we know, maybe such a museum already exists and Emery already has been inducted. I mean, it’s possible, right?
These were the thoughts traveling through my brain as Emery grabbed a seat and faced a few dozen reporters to discuss the NFL draft, which starts May 8 and continues through May 10. The Bears have the No. 14 overall pick of the first round and seven selections in total, and it stands to reason they will use the majority of those picks to continue to rebuild a once-mighty defense.
Your thoughts, Mr. General Manager?
“We like the balance of it,” Emery said. “That could mean all seven picks [are defense]. That could mean 4-3. If we pick up an extra pick, it could be 4-4.
“It also could flip the other way because as I just said, this is an offensive-orientated draft in terms of the talent level and the depth of the talent. It’s more on offense than it is on defense.”
The Bears could use their seven draft picks (or maybe eight picks, or maybe six picks, or maybe three-dozen picks) to select only defensive players, or to select half defense and half offense, or to select mostly offense and a little bit of defense.
Got it? Good.
As for the first-round pick, where would the Bears steer clear?
“In the first round, I would say only quarterback,” Emery said. “That would be the only surprise pick to me.”
That leaves (in no particular order) running backs, fullbacks, punters, kickers, long snappers, defensive tackles, safeties, cornerbacks, linebackers, wide receivers, mascot coordinators, offensive linemen, tight ends, defensive ends and burnt ends.
Could Emery draft a cornerback with the intention of converting him to safety?
“It’s a great question, Brad,” Emery said to a reporter named – wait for it – Brad. “I’m going to give you the honest end of it, OK? I’m actually going to give you some information today that has truth behind it, OK? So yes, absolutely. We’ve looked at every corner that has length as a possible safety.”
Still, I had no idea whether Emery was telling the truth.
Two years ago, nobody predicted that the Bears would select Shea McClellin in the first round. One year ago, nobody predicted that the Bears would select Kyle Long in the first round.
It’s normal, then, to expect the unexpected when the Bears announce their top pick next week. But if we step to the plate looking for Emery to throw us a curveball, a good chance exists that he’ll fire an obvious fastball right past our knees.
Emery, ever the poker master, flashed a big smile when he was asked whether he had a good idea of where second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson was in his bid to become the team’s No. 3 wideout.
“Well, he was in the building today, if that’s what you meant,” Emery said.
Was Emery serious? Was he joking? Who could tell?
“No, I’m kidding,” Emery said with a laugh. “We’ve got to have some fun here.”
Royal flush. Bravo.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.