With the 2012 NFL Draft in the books, we're usually in an immediate rush to judgment on how these players will do, what the Bears didn't do, Angelo (now Emery) is a moron and why does he still have a job with da team. I'll give you the same warning as Lester did after the 2011 draft - until the players produce, and are given time to produce, we can't give a true grade of the draft. Picks that don't make sense to us now might turn out to be just what the Bears needed and planned for, and even the most surefire pick or top-of-the-line first rounder could prove to be a complete waste of a pick. With that being said, here are your 2012 Chicago Bears draft picks.
1st Round - Shea McClellin - Some say he's more of a 3-4 fit, because he could rush the passer standing up. Even when he put his hand in the dirt though, he could still rush the passer. But he only played half his team's snaps, or played all over the field - he's a versatile player who can rush from about anywhere. And just because he can contribute on special teams doesn't make him a special teamer. Julius Peppers isn't a field goal blocker - he's a defensive lineman that contributes on special teams by blocking field goals.
Most of the knocks on McClellin, it seems like, are because he's too versatile. Fine by me. I'd like to see this team move McClellin around, send him from anywhere - wide 9, traditional end, blitz from the strong side linebacker spot on second and long - and even create some more blitzing schemes sending the corners, other LBs, as he drops into coverage. McClellin gives the Bears some interesting possibilities, more so than if they'd just drafted a true "end." If versatility is this kid's truest weapon, by all means, break out the whetstone and sharpen that thing up. If he picks up 8-12 sacks this season, this pick is a win for 2012, but I think we'd be delighted if his versatility created a few more sack opportunities in addition.
2nd Round - Alshon Jeffery - I like this pick. The Bears picked up Brandon Marshall, but still needed a young stud of their own to develop as a future number 1 - that's Jeffery. The Bears are actually in a real strong receiver situation now with the Jeffery selection - Marshall is the number one, no question. Jeffery is the number 2, and can quietly develop into the number 1 with no distraction or real pressure.
And this pretty much completes the receiving corps - two guys over six feet tall with some solid size and good speed, Earl Bennett at 6' himself, Knox when he's healthy could return as the 4, and if not Knox then Hester, with some combination of Devin Thomas, Eric Weems and Dane Sanzenbacher as the five and six. We've been saying Bennett is the best receiver the Bears have but is only a three on a good team - well surprise, now Bennett's instantly a three. If Jeffery performs as he's capable, the Bears have a legit receiving corps, and going on a limb, top five in the NFC. Unfortunately, two of those are in the Bears' division.
3rd Round - Brandon Hardin - Here's where Emery seemed to lose most people, drafting a safety that didn't play all last season with a broken shoulder. Never mind of course he played in last year's East West Shrine Game making four tackles, and everything I've read about his shoulder indicates it's completely back to where it was. He was also tagged as injury prone - but most of his injuries are breaks, not strains, sprains, or other nagging injuries. I'm inclined to say that while the breaks concern me, it's not like he's having back surgery the week after the draft. Get the man some calcium supplements, and we have a 6'4", prototypical free safety who can match up with tight ends well (and the division has some good ones) and play some solid matchup coverage in man.
Some might say it's another third round pick into a position that's had two third round picks thrown at it in the last two years - that's not Emery's fault. Right now, the corps has one starter (Conte) and one good backup (Steltz). I'm not sure where Major Wright stood or stands, but Hardin gives the spot some much needed depth as well as a likely eventual starter.
4th Round - Evan Rodriguez - When NFL Network announced the pick showing "FB" I was confused too. But, after researching, this kid's a tight end/H-Back and a receiving specialist to boot. Good hands, will make a tough catch, Greg Olsen's straight-line speed (I think Olsen's faster by .02 seconds), and a willing blocker that just doesn't sustain them well. The flaws he seems to have are to a degree correctable.
Right now I see him as the #3 tight end on the team behind Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, but I could see him getting some early use as a chipper on third down and coming into the flat. And I think he could be an offensive contributor midway through the season.
5th Round - Traded Up To Get A Big, Good Wide Receiver
6th Round - Isaiah Frey - Developmental body at the moment, pure and simple. He's got some good size, good speed, great ball skills, but is pretty raw in his coverages and can often get caught peeking in the backfield, probably due to Nevada and playing in a smaller conference. But this is one of the late-round developmental guys Emery was talking about.
This year, he's in the mix with Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite, and will likely keep a roster spot, pushing one of them out, or (gasp) the dreaded redshirt spot if he can't beat out Hayden and Wilhite. But at that spot on the depth chart, Frey will be under no pressure to play immediately, but he might rotate in with DJ Moore at the nickel once in a while.
7th Round - Greg McCoy - A second defensive back immediately after a defensive back is a little odd, but from what I can tell, he has a purpose. McCoy is not a big corner and will not be a top corner in the league, especially since large receivers ate him alive at the collegiate level. But he does have value as a dime or maybe even a nickel back (two interceptions, seven pass deflections last season) and primarily as a kick returner (over 30 yards per return last season at TCU). He had decent combine measurables, with solid speed, a 38-inch vertical, and decent agility, and actually has some decent defensive skills - as mentioned in yesterday's selection post, he can recognize routes, locate the pass and hit hard.
I'm okay with this draft. I'd've liked to see a bit of a different direction on the back end initially, but looking at the roster and a possible motive behind the selection, I understand why the pick was made. A thing to note, yes, Frey didn't have that good of a draft ranking. Taking badly-ranked players doesn't sit well with fans, and GMs know this. If one is taken, like Frey, they have to be sure and comfortable it's their guy. And for a sixth rounder, which Emery's designated essentially as developmental, Frey's got a solid foundation.
The other thing is the offensive line. I'm sure most of us would have been happy with Decastro. But as far as the tackles go, their reluctance to take any shows two things. First, Gabe Carimi is now and forever a right tackle. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure with Massie there in the sixth, he'd've been the guy. Maybe they'd take Martin in the second if they wanted a right tackle and drafted receiver in the third, but we'll never know. Second, they might try to solve the tackle problem internally - Lovie was noncommittal in yesterday's post-draft presser about Chris Williams' spot in the line, so we'll see.
Otherwise, the Bears got what they asked for. Two day one starters and a possible midseason or eventual starter, another weapon for Cutler to allow for some different options, and a pair of developmental bodies with some skills.