Not every team has clear intentions for the 2014 NFL draft. The Chicago Bears are among them. What are their needs vs. wants?
Corner – Best available: Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert
Chicago was smart to lock up Tim Jennings before the regular season was barely finished. The reason being that four other corners on the active roster, including Charles Tillman are free agents. However, given the nature of the scheme they play the Bears don’t require cornerbacks who must play constant press coverage. As Jennings proves, smaller but tougher and smarter players not only suffice but excel. Taking a corner early wouldn’t be bad, but it’s not the biggest need on defense. Still, if a Darqueze Dennard or Justin Gilbert were there and the other options were limited, there is absolutely no harm in pulling the trigger.
Linebacker – Best available: C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier
The same goes for the linebacker position. Yes, the Bears are getting old at that spot and youngsters like Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene looked very inconsistent when they got chances to play. Obviously they deserve more time to develop though and like it or not linebacker wasn’t the primary problem facing them on defense despite the loss of Brian Urlacher and his leadership clearly being felt. If a talent like C.J. Mosley or Ryan Shazier is there, both of whom bring excellent speed and athleticism to the position, then taking them would be a great help. Otherwise the Bears should look elsewhere.
Speedy WR – Best available: Marqise Lee and Brandin Cooks
While not a problematic area Chicago did not get much consistent production from the slot receiver position. In general the Bears have an outstanding receiving corps with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. However they do suffer from a lack of game breaking speed. Adding that dimension to the offense with a player like Marqise Lee or Brandin Cooks would be cheating, but be mostly serving the selfish aims of an already proven offense. Taking such a position early in the draft would have to happen only because there is no other realistic talent available.
Defensive Tackle – Best available: Timmy Jernigan and Ra’Shede Hageman
Make no mistake. Things began to go south for the Chicago Bears defense the moment they started losing defensive tackles. In actually began in the preseason when key free agent signing Sedrick Ellis, who was expected to become big part of the rotation, abruptly retired. That was soon followed by both Henry Melton and Nate Collins tearing their ACLs in a three week span. That forced the team to sign the rehabbing Jeremiah Ratliff off the street and the unit never really recovered and was the biggest reason the team struggled to stop the run the rest of the year. They have to infuse some life into the position. Adding Florida State beast Timmy Jernigan or mammoth athlete Ra’Shede Hageman from Minnesota would be monumental helps.
Defensive End – Best available: Kony Ealy and Trent Murphy
Julius Peppers is aging and in doubt with a bloated contract. Corey Wootton is a free agent and Shea McClellin is clearly not a defensive end in the Bears system. That is too much instability to ignore. The 2014 NFL draft looked a little light on ends at first but a number of quality options have since surfaced. Trent Murphy out of Stanford is the leading sacker in the nation and Kony Ealy from Missouri dominated down the stretch, particularly in the Cotton Bowl. Either one would be a huge boost to the pass rush and alleviate some of the stress on the rest of the defense.
Safety – Best available: Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor
Fans certainly lost all their patience with the Bears safeties after the debacle at Soldier Field in week 17 against Green Bay. Indeed Chicago has lived for a long time without consistency or superior play from the safety position. Now Chris Conte and Major Wright are in serious trouble. Wright is a free agent and Conte is viewed as the goat for surrendering the winning touchdown against the Packers. Finding replacements for both would be ideal to fans. The options in the draft are intriguing. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is a tall, rangy center field from Alabama who can read quarterbacks like a book. Calvin Pryor is not only tall but big and athletic with a tough minded approach to tackling. Either would grant so much more versatility and range to the back end of the defense and with that more playmaking potential.