With the Bears' final pick of the 2013 NFL Draft officially written in the history books, this has certainly been a very interesting 3 days for both the front office and the fans. In an off-season that has presented more changes to the organization than I can recall in recent years, nothing was more apparent than a complete transformation in philosophies when it comes to drafting players.
Instead of choosing players who have a "high floor", Phil Emery believed in selecting the best athletes available to aid in solving problems at major areas of need, regardless of any checkered past(s). Gone are the days of selecting defensive linemen who amaze people by jumping out of swimming pools. Gone are the days of shying away from "bad boys". The days of simply choosing the best physical specimen for his coaching staff to develop, have arrived. Some of his picks may not have seemed to make too much sense to begin with, but rest assure, he has a brilliant plan laid out for the future of the Chicago Bears. Without further ad-due, let's see who our newest members of the Chicago Bears are.
Kyle Long, OG, Oregon - The son of HOF Raiders DE Howie Long, and the younger brother to Rams' DE Chris Long, his football pedigree is one of the highest you'll see in today's game. To some, he was perhaps the biggest reach made in quite some time, as he comes in with but only 1 season of experience in the Div 1 level. All 5 of his starts at Oregon came at LG, a position where he will start off with in Chicago. Before he was named a starter at Oregon, he first transferred from Florida State to Saddleback Junior College in 2010 after failing out of school as well as being arrested for a DUI. It was at SJC, not Oregon, where he began playing collegiate football, albeit to a much smaller degree. From there, he started off as a DL, just like his bloodlines would have initially indicated. But, he wound up switching positions and becoming an OL, where he would remain through his stint at SJC. Following his 2 seasons with Saddleback, he chose to transfer and enroll with then Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks in 2012.
His playing career at Oregon started with him rotating at OT with a true freshman, where the offense was so fast-paced, one could still see plenty of snaps per game as players regularly rotated in and out after several series. It was when an injury came to their starter at LG, where Kyle Long seized his opportunity for a starting role. He would finish the season as the starting LG, which ended in a big win over Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. He initially applied for an additional year of eligibility, yet his application was denied by the NCAA. So, he decided to declare for the NFL draft, a decision that resulted in a remarkably high reward.
Despite his lack of experience, he came out, and showed out at the NFL Combine. Where his counterparts in Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack were widely regarded as the top pair of interior offensive lineman to be had, Long proved to be the biggest athletic freak available. Long posted the single fastest 40 time of any OG with a 4.94, and that is absolutely insane considering he's also 6'6", 313+ lbs. Simply put, he was faster, larger, and more athletic than either Cooper or Warmack. Long's combination of size and athleticism bodes well for him in Aaron Kromer's blocking schemes, which normally featured massive as well as nimble guards such as Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. What I like most about Long, is his versatility. He has (minimal) experience at both OT and OG, where he will start off as a Guard, but could transition into a Tackle later on in his career. My feeling is that Bears' OC and OL coach Aaron Kromer has been provided with the most physically gifted player ever in his career. If Kromer can turn mid round picks like Carl Nicks, Jermon Bushrod, and Jahri Evans into Pro Bowlers, then you better watch out for Kyle Long. His ceiling, is incredibly high at this point.
Initial Grade: A
Jonathan Bostic, MLB, Florida - Now here is a player I'm extremely eager to talk about. Unlike Kyle Long, Bostic comes in with a deep resume in a power conference known as the SEC. These past 2 seasons, he's started every single game including Bowl Games at MLB. Prior to that, he came in as a former DB out of high-school that was converted into at first a WLB. When Will Muschamp took over the program in 2011, he immediately kicked Jon Bostic inside at Mike, which is where he remained through the duration of his career. I've read plenty of comments on these boards where some are quick to point out his flaws, such as being a "stiff" player in coverage, and he's a bad fit as a MLB.
I can say with the up-most confidence, that not only is Bostic a fit as a MLB for Chicago, he is a superb fit as a Mike. He's definitely not to be confused with Brian Urlacher, but his coverage skills are rather sharp, and he tackles with force. He's also a fantastic athlete when it comes to making big plays, whether it's in zone coverage down the deep middle, or in run support against a speed sweep. Much like the overall theme of Emery's draft plan, he also ran the fastest time of any true "Mike" linebacker with a 4.61. Phil Emery spoke in length yesterday about how he saw Bostic as a "3 position player", one of which that can fit at any of the 3 LB positions in their 4-3. His best fit, though, is as a Mike, and if he can't beat D.J. Williams out this year, then he will be a starter within the next 2-3 seasons. Much like Long, he has all the physical tools to become a great linebacker, all it's going to take is time and coaching.
Initial Grade: B+
Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers - Many people, including myself, felt that the Bears were going to look at a DB or a WR with their 4th round pick. Instead, we see a real play-maker at linebacker fall right on their lap, where he was snatched up smartly by the front office. He might not be as fast or athletic as Bostic proved to be, but Greene has made himself well known by setting the NCAA career record for forced fumbles with 15. The more tape I watch on him, the more I'm reminded of a young and unpolished Lance Briggs. He takes great angles, and rallies to the ball-carrier with cat-like reflexes.
His playmaking ability, is what stands out most whenever someone turns on the film. Whenever he attempts to tackle the carrier, he's always making an effort to punch the ball out. It doesn't matter how worn out he is at any point in the game, once he sees pigskin, he attacks it. Charles Tillman would be impressed by how aggressive Greene is in attempting to strip the ball. His aggressiveness, though, is a mild issue. Sometimes, he won't focus on bringing the ball-carrier down, and he will try to tackle either too high, or too low. Nonetheless, he's an exceptional pick by Phil Emery, where he now has a pair of young athletes to mold behind his experienced starters at linebacker. I felt he could have been gone by as late as the 3rd round, and to see him fall all the way to the Bears in the 4th round, is a huge win for management.
Initial Grade: A-
Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech - In the same way Phil Emery double-dipped in searching for LBs, he decided that 1 offensive lineman alone wasn't going to do justice, and picked up a promising talent in the 5th round. At first, I was asking myself "who in the world is he?" Then, as time went on, he became increasingly popular with Bears fans, and for good reason.
He comes out as a versatile player much in the way Long is, where he fits in as a potential competitor at RT against J'Webb and his nation. If J'Marcus Webb isn't careful, this could very well be the player that wins the starting job. Moments after he was drafted, Mills spoke in length about how talented he felt the Bears offense was, and even spoke at one point about what it would feel like to be the starting OT adjacent of Jermon Bushrod. I like his enthusiasm, and Aaron Kromer has a history of transforming mid-rounders into stars. Yet, it's anyone's game at RT, where as many as 4 different players could fit in at RT. Those players include former 1st round pick Gabe Carimi, J'Marcus Webb, Jonathan Scott, and potentially Jordan Mills. Will he be a starter in year 1? That has yet to be seen, as it could take a while before he's ready to compete in the NFL. However, much like all the other picks in this Bears draft, he has a high ceiling, and he might very well be the next success story coached by Aaron Kromer.
Initial Grade: B
Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia - Here's another player from the SEC conference, one that is relatively unknown, yet possesses an enormous amount of potential. In a Georgia front 7 that included Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, and Alec Ogletree, his name wasn't called nearly as much, but after watching too much SEC football to remember, he's a name I'm familiar with. Just who is he, one may ask?
In Georgia, they ran a predominantly 3-4 front, where Cornelius Washington saw action in sub-packages that called for him to rush the passer much in the way Shea McClellin did while at Boise St. For the Chicago Bears, he is a perfect fit as a 3rd down DE, where he's at his best with his hand in the turf lined up as a 4-3 End. He not only ran the fastest time among DEs in the combine with a blistering 4.55, he also recorded the most reps on bench press with an astonishing 36 reps. His size is also solid at 6'4", 265 lbs. I do remember people initially thought he could transition into a 3-4 style OLB, where he rush off the edge. That won't be happening with the Bears, as he's going to be allowed to pin his ears back and hunt for cheese (or QBs that don't play for the Packers). His inability to play up to his potential in college is a concern, but he's in his best position to succeed right now as a pass-rusher on 3rd down situations. Allow him to groom behind Julius Peppers, and you could have a fierce 4 player rotation at DE in Peppers, Corey Wootton, McClellin, and Washington.
Initial Grade: B
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington St. - If there is any real steal in the draft this year, this is it. Before the dramatic events at Wash. St., he was poised to be a 1st rounder, even a potential top 10 according to some like our very own SMD. His production was off the charts, as he would set single season school records in 2011 for receptions (83), receiving yards (1,388), and touchdowns (12). Everything seemed to go well for the young star, at least until he got into a nasty incident with Head Coach Mike Leach.
Even though he was the team's leading receiver once again early last season, he was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and wasn't permitted to return to their pro-day. Right away, his character is a serious cause for concern, as being in a severe situation such as this, really scarred away a lot of teams. So, his draft stock fell off the Himalayan mountains and crashed hard to earth. Normally, one would feel wise to stay away from a potential head-case. Except, Phil Emery doesn't see it that way, as he's more than eager to give Wilson a second chance. It's not every draft where such a talent falls all the way to the final round, and when the Bears came on the clock, they moved quickly. The Bears were looking for another weapon to add into their receiving corps led by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the perimeter. Granted, he's not the "speed threat" many were banging the tables for, but a 6'3" option who runs a respectable 4.51 can't be ignored. He's definitely a bit light at only 194 lbs, but his frame could easily support more muscle mass. I know, he's just a 7th rounder, but he really reminds me of a slightly smaller, slightly faster version of Marques Colston of the Saints. If he works hard enough and keeps his nose clean, we could see a grand-theft auto in terms of how big a potential robbery this is.
Initial Grade: A+
At the beginning of the off-season, the Chicago Bears and their new coaching staff faced multiple concerns on their roster. By far the 2 biggest concerns were the atrocious state of the "offensive" line, and the depth deprived LB corps. Coupled with free agent signings, the Bears tackled the draft and continued to compliment those signings with young players to develop around them. Now, the Bears have a pair of excellent players to learn behind Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, and James Anderson. Now, the Bears have a pair of highly promising lineman to construct a new front 5 tasked with the duty of protecting Jay Cutler. And now, the Bears are ready to wreck havoc again, as Monsters of the Midway.
Overall Class Initial Grade: A-