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Prospector for Gold: The Phil Emery Draft Record, Part 1

Fact: Henry Melton has more sacks than any first-round defensive linesman from his draft year.  Question: Can Phil Emery find us another steal?
Fact: Henry Melton has more sacks than any first-round defensive linesman from his draft year. Question: Can Phil Emery find us another steal?

You know the players. You know the Bears' needs. But, with draft day inching ever closer, it's time to look at one key scouting report: the draft record of Phil Emery. After amassing a huge amount of draft data during the GM search, it was time to look at the numbers yet again to see Emery's strengths and weaknesses as a talent evaluator. Today, I'll look specifically at the defensive side of the ball, and tomorrow I'll turn to offense. Flip below the fold to look at the Emery draft record and to get a position-by-position breakdown of his drafting over the years. You're on the clock!

First, a disclaimer: I know Phil Emery did not personally make any of these picks. But as the head college talent evaluator for both the Falcons and the Chiefs, he did give his GMs his evaluations of all the players the GMs went on to draft. So while Emery cannot be held personally responsible for making the picks - especially high-round, high-risk ones - we can judge his talent evaluation skills based on the picks his teams eventually made.

With that important caveat in mind, here is a link to my chart on the eleven most recent Emery-scouted drafts. To make the data easier to process, I highlighted the Bears' four positions of greatest need - defensive line, defensive back, wide receiver, and offensive line - in different colors. I also provided a couple of quick and dirty ways to judge the success of these picks. I put picks who played more than 13 games a season on average in green and players who played fewer than 4 games a season in red. I applied a similar scheme to total seasons played: players with zero or only one year in the league are in red, and players with only two or three years of service are in yellow. If you want to delve deeper into the performance of the drafted players, the easiest references to work from are the PFR draft tables for Atlanta and Kansas City.

Again, feel free to pull up the charts I am working from if you want to follow along.

Phil Emery: GM - Wayne State University

Defensive Linesmen

Overall: Lacks major star power at the position - the highest sack total for all linesmen he's drafted is 19 by Jonathan Babineaux (2005). Missed on both of his top-10 DE picks with Jamaal Anderson in 2007 and Tyson Jackson in 2009. A quick glance at the first round of 2007, however, shows the DE class that year was pretty light. Has found quality players in the middle rounds, like Chauncey Davis (4th round, 2007). Was with the Bears when Jerry Angelo wasted a first-round pick on Michael Haynes (2003), but also when they got a great deal on Alex Brown (4th round, 2004).

Projection: Lacks intangibles but hopefully has learned from mistakes. When Emery's teams have needed defensive linesmen, they've always drafted at least two. Perhaps this is acknowledgement that d-linesmen are difficult to scout: even Bears homers would have found it crazy to predict that Henry Melton (4th round, 2009) would end up with more sacks than any of the 1st rounders from that year. Emery's teams have traditionally eyed up DEs in the earlier rounds, where the busts are bust-ier, and no amount of scouting can save you from getting burned by a weak draft class. Will do well if he has learned the lesson of his former bosses and doesn't get fixated on DE in round 1. Still, could see him going with two DL players in the first three rounds given his tendencies and the overall team needs.

Defensive Backs

Overall: Solid all-around performer, finding strong players in the early going - SS Eric Berry (fifth overall, 2010, one PB appearance in two seasons) - and value later on - FS Thomas DeCoud (third round, 2009) and FS Kendrick Lewis (fifth round, 2010). Has not drafted many CBs over career, and missed on the highest one taken: 2006 2nd-rounder Jimmy F. Williams. Was with the Bears when they found Charles Tillman in the second round (2003).

Projection: Will find quality DBs at the GM level. Emery's teams have hunted for value in the DB market, and given the Bears have only a moderate need at the position, he will probably continue in that tradition. Emery has a good eye for top-tier talent in this position area, so don't be surprised - or disappointed - if he takes a defensive back as the BPA in the first two rounds. Picks would add depth to his roster, a good thing to have given the high injury rate in this position group, and top-round picks (especially on CB) could do much to solidify D against Stafford's and Rodger's pass-heavy offenses.


Overall: Top-tier performer, especially good at finding starting LBs in the middle rounds: Michael Boley (5th round, 2005), Curtis Lofton (2nd round, 2008), and Justin Houston (3rd round, 2011) have all become consistent starters. Only one real miss on LB draft record was Jordan Beck in 2005. Was with the Bears when they stole Lance Briggs in the third round (2003).

Projection: For all the money the Bears wisely dumped into finding a quality backup for Cutler, Emery would be smart to take a mid-round pick to backup Urlacher. Emery's teams have had a very high success rate in finding value LBs, and drafted players would have the chance to develop before they were forced into action. Unless a major value player drops to the Bears early on, expect Emery to look at LBs in rounds 3-5 where he has a proven record of success.

What's your take on Emery's defensive drafting? Is he doomed to follow in his former bosses' footsteps and waste a first-rounder on an over-hyped DE? Will he look for another Lance Briggs-ish steal in the middle rounds? Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I'll break down Emery's work on the offensive side of the ball.