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Hub Arkush: Draft day is looming and the Bears have a dilemma

Offense or defense at 14?

Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack (46) runs on the field during the first half of an NCAA football game against the Connecticut on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

I believe the quote from Bears general manager Phil Emery from his predraft news conference last week in regard to how he feels about the past week or two leading up to the draft was: “Hey, this is where the juice is, isn’t it?”

In other words, he and the folks who work for him evaluating talent and helping him decide whom to draft are having fun now. This is what they live to do, what they’re paid to do, and what they love to do, so now they’re having fun.

We all are having fun, too. But on our side, we’ve got mock drafts galore ... and there’s a problem. The Bears need defense, defense and more defense, and most of the top talent this year is on offense.

Oh, there’s some depth on the defensive line and the talent runs fairly deep at cornerback, but the majority of the top talent, those first 15 to 25 players, is on offense.

I’ve compared a number of independent draft analyses, in addition to talking to as many sources as I can from NFL front offices, and the consensus I’ve come up with is this year’s top 20 talents include at least one quarterback, one running back, one tight end, five receivers and four offensive linemen.

All that leaves on defense is one cornerback, Justin Gilbert, three linebackers, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr and C.J. Mosley, and two defensive linemen, Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Tuitt.

I know, half the world wants to match three-technique defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the Bears, but for every list you’ve got that has him somewhere between 10 and 14, I’ll find you a list that has him somewhere between 22 and 40.

The last two members of the top 20 are probably safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, but the problem for the Bears is they fall somewhere between 19 and 24 on almost every list.

How would you feel about the Bears drafting the 19th best player in the draft with the 14th pick?

Here’s the way this works. Clowney and Mack will each be top-five picks minimum, and Gilbert, Barr and Mosley absolutely should go in the first 13.

If Barr were to fall to 14, the Bears would have a dilemma. He looks like a perennial Pro Bowler for the next decade or so as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker. He is much harder to project as an end in a 40 front or at the SAM linebacker spot in the Bears' 4-3. After the Shea McClellin experiment, the Bears don’t want to go there again.

If both Gilbert and Mosley are available at 14, the Bears should pull both Hammys racing to the podium to take one, most likely Gilbert.

What the Bears are hoping for is one of the teams in front of them will significantly overdraft Johnny Manziel – Blake Bortles is the QB who fits in the top 20 – and that among the Rams, Raiders, Falcons, Bucs and Giants, who all significantly are in need of offensive line help, one will draft Taylor Lewan after Greg Robison and Jake Mathews both come off the board in the top seven picks.

That scenario could leave at least two or possibly all three among Gilbert, Mosley and Barr to pick from.

Someone in front of them reaching too high for Donald also would really help in spite of the belief that he’s a good fit for the Bears.

That’s how the Bears get a shot at Justin Gilbert or C.J. Mosley.

But if the top-six defensive players all are gone, what are the Bears to do?

The answer is they have to exhaust themselves trying to find a trade down to 16 or 17 through 20, where they’d end up with both extra picks and Clinton-Dix or Pryor. Or, they should bite the bullet and go offense over defense with the 14th pick.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and ChicagoFootball.com. Write to him at harkush@chicagofootball.com.

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