The reaction to Phil Emery's first draft with the Bears has been lukeworm at best. It's been mentioned several dozen times before and I think it bears repeating; we have to wait to judge the selections until they play on the field. That being said, however, Emery's first draft was full of surprises and, for me, left more questions than answers as far as improving the team goes. That's not to say that I disagree with the picks or think they are head-scratchers. I just wonder what can be said about what wasn't done versus what was. I am going to ponder these questions below and let the readers of this blog try to answer them for me or just call me an idiot for asking them in the first place. I'll also try to answer some other questions that have been lingering for me (and perhaps others).
This is easily the largest looming question for most Bears fans. It's obvious the Bears have had deficiencies along the line for some time now. I don't need to go into that. So how is it that the Bears are satisfied with what they have? Since the draft ended all I have read is how the Bears are actually content with what they have and will take the group they have and mold it into a starting group. This includes all the usual "Line Shuffle" stuff: The Bears could move Chris Williams back to tackle, change Lance Louis back to guard, switch Gabe Carimi's side from right to left, etc. etc. How long until the coaching staff gets sick of this every year? The line can't improve much when everyone keeps changing positions.
Also, no DT? I understand that expect Stephen Paea to take a step forward and that's all fine and well but the fact is they have five DTs on the roster; Paea, Henry Melton, Matt Toeina and some camp body named Jordan Miller plus the UDFA they signed yesterday. The still need to replace the snaps that left with Anthony Adams and Amobi Okoye. I saw suggestions in Den articles this morning about bringing back Tommie Harris. The team needs DT depth.
Really, another safety?
My whole thing about this is less the selection itself (although did it have to be an injury prone guy who sat our the entire 2011 season?) but moreso, who is pushing for all these safeties? Was Emery comfortable with this? Was Brandon Hardin a guy Emery wanted and thought he warranted the pick or was it pushed on him by scouts and/or Lovie Smith? Eight consecutive drafts selecting a safety and three years in a row taking one in round three.
How many kick returners does one team need?
The Bears draft for special teams. They sign free agents for special teams. They prioritize special teams unlike many other teams in the league. They continue to do it despite the NFL's crusade against that phase of the game in the name of player safety. But why did the Bears spend a 7th round pick on a CB with kick return ability, when that could turn out to be his best bet to stick with the team? Why select two CBs at all, right after you signed two FAs, albeit second tier free agents who aren't necessarily going to be day one starters.
Now some questions that I think I can answer;
Why Shea McClellin in round one?
Well, simply, Phil Emery has said, point blank, he and the team are in "win-now" mode and want pieces who can make an immediate impact. McClellin wasn't a reach, I believe, there were a lot of 3-4 teams who wanted him in the 20s. I heard Brad Biggs on the Score this morning say he asked a 3-4 team scout, "Can McClellin play DE in a 4-3, with his hand on the ground?" the scout said "Are you kidding? Yes, of course he can." Let's not forget Rod Marinelli here. One of the best line coaches in the biz. McClellin, the more I hear was a fairly safe pick; he has a low-bust risk because of his work ethic and motor. He is a
low-ceiling high-floor type guy. (EDIT: Sorry for the confusion here, for transparency reasons I am noting that I corrected my own error)
What did we learn about Emery?
This is a complex answer. It's easy to see the safety in the third round and say "Ah here's another Jerry Angelo." (Like I did on my Facebook page Saturday) but the more I look at the draft as a whole I see patterns. One; Emery values speed, Matt Bowen points out "Every player drafted over the last three days has a 40 time of 4.6 or better." He also takes risks. We knew that from the Marshall move, but the trade-up for Alshon Jeffery and the Evan Rodriguez pick solidify it. As does Hardin. Emery aimed to get guys with potential but big concerns; of health, character and work ethic. Emery says he and the staff did their due diligence and I hope he did. He is clearly more of a gambler after day one than JA ever was.
Lastly, as long as these players work out, which remains to be seen of course, Emery did what he set out to do; get players who can impact this team and make a difference. The Bears were by most accounts, close to a deep playoff caliber team. So then a speed rusher who should step in as a rookie on third downs and make a difference is good, even if he isn't a starter. Then Alshon Jeffery, a guy who can step in opposite Marshall and step up and play. From what we've seen on the "mic'd up" segments is there any reason to think that Jay Cutler won't keep Jeffery accountable? He demands a lot from his teammates and I think if Jeffery shows up in shape, Cutler can keep his focused. Evan Rodriguez is an intriguing guy, will he be ready as a rookie is his biggest question but if he can step into an H-back/TE role than that's a potential dynamic playmaker the Bears don't have at that position.
At the end of the day, the biggest question from any draft is, did you come away with three starters? We won't know for a couple more seasons but I think Emery has definitely changed some stuff in Halas Hall and I can't judge this class yet, but it's interesting and I'm excited about it. I haven't always said it about JA drafts (with the exception of last year) but moving forward, it's going to be a fun 2012 season.