When should the Bears draft a defensive tackle and a safety?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears have three picks in the top 100 of the 2014 NFL Draft and an obvious need at safety and defensive tackle. If they pass on a DT in the 1st round, is there a good chance they can find a gem later? Some scouts aren't so sure.

If you were to take a poll around NFL circles, the top two needs for the Chicago Bears would probably be defensive tackle and safety, with cornerback sneaking in a handful of mentions.

You ask Bears fans the same question and odds are you'll get the same top two needs, safety and defensive tackle..

The majority of mock drafts floating around also shows the Bears going with either a defensive tackle or a safety at 14th overall in the first round. There are a few mock drafters that have the Bears going with a corner in the 1st, but my best guesstimate has it at least 75% d-tackle or safety, with DT being the most mocked to Chicago at 14.

The two most prevalent draft scenarios floating around about the Bears have them going with those top need positions in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. The order of selection has been the point of contention. Do they nab a safety at 14, then turn around and bolster their d-line in the 2nd. Or do they grab DT in the 1st, then address the back end of their D at 51?

Trading up or down is always an option, but we won't find that out until draft day.

There's always the chance that Bears G.M. Phil Emery throws a curve ball at us with his picks, but the consensus remains that DT and S will be addressed earlier rather than later.

The three defensive tackles currently on the Bears roster all have a recent injury history and their safety group doesn't really elicit any confidence. But should the Bears target a defensive tackle or a safety first?

The prospects in this draft class has been widely praised as having a lot of potential, but what about the defensive line in particular?

Last month Pat Kirwan, NFL Insider of CBSSports.com, spoke with NFL GMs at the owners meeting about the 2014 draft prospects at defensive line and "lack of quality depth" was the prevalent thought.

Over at nj.com they spoke with three men that have been part of Super Bowl winning teams for a recent series of articles. They talked with an executive in personnel from an AFC team, a scouting director from a NFC team, and an NFC scout. At least one NFC personal man calls this crop of defensive lineman the "worst group" he's seen in a long time.

At first glance this group seems to have a lot of potential talent for the early rounds, but the depth is in question.

The most popular choice for the Bears at 14 has been defensive tackle Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh, and here is their take on him.

"I don't know about this guy,'' the personnel man said. "You look at him, and he's too small. But then you watch him and all he does is produce. I'm torn on him.''

"Good player,'' the AFC executive said. "You have to be able to live with his size, but he's very productive.''

"He's a real good pass rusher,'' the scout said. "He doesn't kill you in the run game, but you don't want him out there all the time.''

I get the size concerns, but I also understand that at 6'1" 285 pounds, we're not talking about a small man. He's only seven pounds smaller than Geno Atkins who is a very good interior defender. As a smaller DT, Donald will either need a strong base to anchor himself from being blown off the ball, or just be that much quicker off the snap to get to his spot. In college he appeared to have both, which is why he the consensus top one gap DT in the draft.

Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is another possibility at 14 for the Bears, and here's what they all had to say about him.

"He can do a lot of things,'' the AFC executive said. "He's very strong. He's a first-rounder.''

"I think he's a little short,'' the personnel man said. "He'll go first round, but probably late.''

"He tapped out in the championship game,'' the scout said. "On that last Auburn drive, you couldn't find him.''

The Championship Game tap out is the last impression I have of him as well, but conditioning is something that can be improved upon in the NFL.

A dark horse candidate at 14 is Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman. Some mocks have him going later in the 1st round, but his ceiling is so high a team could conceivably pluck him earlier.

"When he wants to play, he can,'' the personnel man said. "You watch him for a couple of plays, and you see things. Then, you don't see him again.''

"He's big and talented,'' the executive said. "But he's lazy.''

"There's all kinds of ability,'' the scout said. "But he turns it on and turns it off. There's an upside there, though.''

We talked about Hageman in yesterday's Ten Thoughts on the NFL column, and he seems like a boom or bust type prospect. But if he can maximize his potential, he could be the best of the lot.

There are a few other DTs that could be in play for teams in the first round, but at 14 for the Bears, these three make the most sense.

If the Bears decide to go for a safety at 14, what kind of defensive tackle would be available at 51 when they pick next?

On NFL.com's most recent top 50 prospect list they have Donald at 17 overall, Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt at 27 and his teammate Louis Nix III at 33, Hageman is at 28, Jernigan at 30 and LSU's Ego Ferguson at 44.

On the SB Nation Top 200 list, they have Nix at 12, Donald at 13, Hageman at 19, Tuitt at 29, Jernigan at 33, Florida's Dominique Easley at 44, and the next DT is down at 58 in Penn State's DaQuan Jones.

The DT top prospect list from CBSSports has Donald, Jernigan, Nix, Hageman and Tuitt all in the top 40, with Easley way down at 59th overall.

The Bears will have to decide if the talent gap between the tackles available at 14 and then at 51 is greater than the gap between potential first round safeties and those they can grab in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Using the same three top prospect lists as above let's see where they rank the top safeties.

NFL.com has Alabama's Ha'Sean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix at 18th overall, Louisville's Calvin Pryor at 21, NIU's Jimmie Ward at 43.

SB Nation has Clinton-Dix at 10, Pryor at 24, Ward at 26, Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner (their scouts list him at CB/S due to his ability to play both) is at 43, Washington State's Deone Bucannon is at 49, and the next safety is way down at 88 where USC's Dion Bailey shows up.

CBSSports has their safeties ranked Clinton-Dix at 17, Pryor at 20, Ward at 41, and then down at 71 is Florida State's Terrence Brooks.

I think the depth of the safety class will see a few bottom 50 type players rise up on some team's draft boards, but that could be only on a per need basis.

Do you think the Bears will be better off going defensive tackle then safety or the other way around?

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