The running consensus has been that the 2012 draft was a balk for Phil Emery. Excuses seemingly run awry as to why the infallible Phil Emery could have messed up his first draft class. It was Lovie Smith's fault we drafted Shea McClellin! Emery is too smart for his own good! Dafuq is a balk!?
Let's review the results of the 2012 draft class.
Round 1 Pick 19: Shea McClellin DE
Easily the most mercurial pick of the draft. He's started an entire year in spite of being ineffective against the run. His transition to LB this year signals a shifting of expectations and for all intents and purposes represents a major demotion for Phil's first draft pick. However, Shea did show the ability to rush the passer and seemed to always be just a fraction of a second away from making an impact play last season. Perhaps a move to LB on passing downs might open up a niche for Shea to make an impact. Either way this pick represents Phil's largest failure to date.
Round 2 Pick 45: Alshon Jeffery WR
Later in the draft Phil Emery traded up to pick the overweight, overlooked Alshon Jeffrey at WR. This pick might have actually received more ridicule initially from opposing fans than the Shea McClellin pick. Jokes became prolific pertaining to Alshon and his big gut. The best WR from this draft class to date is a toss up between Alshon and the supplemental WR pick Josh Gordon.
Round 3 Pick 79: Brandon Hardin S
Failure. There were plenty of red flags for Brandin Hardin and this seemed like a luxury pick at the time. We already seemed to have two safeties in place capable of carrying the banner. Regardless of draft value/ red flags, this pick was ruined by Hardin's inability to stay on the field.
Round 4 Pick 111: Evan Rodriguez FB
Failure. Evan Rodriguez came to the Bears as a move TE Aaron Hernandez clone. While the comparison quickly became questionable and begged racial inferences, the pedigree was similar. Luckily Evan's issues off field weren't as severe as Aaron's moral depravity, but unfortunate for the Bears franchise nevertheless. Phil didn't keep the troubled FB long enough to see where the rabbit hole ended.
Round 6 Pick 184: Isaiah Frey CB.
For a 6th round draft pick, Isaiah was a rave success. While relegated to the practice squad in his first year, Isaiah stepped in admirably last season. To clarify, Isaiah was not an impact player, but looked like he wasn't the weakest link or out of place on a horrendous Bears defense. I look forward to seeing his development in the next few years and whether Frey is capable of transitioning to a starting Corner rather than just a Nickleback.
Round 7 Pick 220: Greg McCoy CB
Failure. It's a 7th round pick. The probability of hitting here is rare. McCoy did go on to bounce around a few practice squads, but now is a free agent.
The consensus is that even with Alshon Jeffery, this class was a dud for Phil Emery. Three players remain on the roster and a draft should yield three starters. Not only should those players be starting, they should be contributing. Right now, the Bears have 1 starter and two borderline players from this draft.
So that said, I'm going to call this draft an absolute success.
As the reader, you might not agree with me, but hear me out.
Barring injury or a catastrophic turn of events, Alshon Jeffery looks prime to become one of the biggest impact play receivers in Bears history and possibly the league. While those expectations are lofty, the current results are impressive. Alshon was recognized in the Pro-Bowl this year, however, admittedly as an alternative. That still puts Alshon in the top tier of his peers.
If the draft had shaped up for the Bears like the following:
1. Alshon Jeffery
2. Shea McClellin
3. Isaiah Frey
5. Brandin Hardin
6. Evan Rodriguez
7. Greg McCoy
I think most fans would be calling this draft a success. Media and fans alike would have been claiming that Shea was a value and steal in the second round as a developmental player with a high ceiling and Emery took players with a lot of value in later rounds that failed, because that's what late round picks tend to do.
Of course, this is not the way it worked out. There are also plenty of arguments for why missing on a first round draft pick represents a large setback for an organization. If the goal is to find numerous starters, perhaps the Bear's front office should be looking for players with high floors.
The truth is that baseline starters are relatively easily found in free agency. While finding contributors in the draft is very beneficial, the goldmine is finding superstars. Alshon looks prime to assume that role.
ATL receives: 6th overall pick Julio Jones
ATL spent: two firsts, a second and two fourths for a total of five draft picks.
Alshon's sophmore year: 89 Rec 1421 Yds 7 TDs
Julio's sophmore year: 79 Rec 1198 Yds 10 TDs
In that spirit, it's easy to say that Alshon's value is worth at least a first. If you stretch that line of thinking out and say that Alshon is as valuable as Julio Jones, you can argue that Alshon is worth the value of two firsts, a second and two fourths. I think his actual value is somewhere in between, but I think there are a a few teams that would readily swap our results from the 2012 draft for their results.
When you further factor in the value we received in the third round, trade value for Brandon Marshall, the draft looks like an ultimate success.
In recap, it is easy to knock this draft because of lack quantity or the first pick, but the result is to ultimately find solutions and this draft yielded the Bears arguably the best receiving corps in the league. If Shea develops into a league average defensive end or linebacker, his value will be minimal because similar players can be had for cheap in free agency. It would, however, relieve the nerves of plenty of fans.
So if we rethought the value of this draft:
Imagining that you'd only take Probowlers for first round picks, 2nd rounders for 6 year starters and 3rd rounders for solid role players.
Shea McClellin: 5th round (for the Bears at least)
Alshon Jeffery: 1st Round, 2nd Round
Brandin Hardin: UDFA
Evan Rodriguez: 7th Rd
Isaiah Frey 3rd Round
*Brandon Marshall: 1st Round
The above is very subjective, but conduct your own thought experiment and ask yourself if this draft was indeed a dud or a formative piece in a competitive team moving forward and what you'd spend in picks to take each player.