Zeroing in on one player is typically bad policy for teams in the NFL draft. However circumstances will show the Chicago Bears must go after Kony Ealy.
Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton could both be gone
With all the talk about defensive tackle in regards to the Bears off-season plans, fans and experts haven’t stopped to examine just how bad the defensive end position is in as well. Most know the situation regarding veteran Julius Peppers. He’s coming off 7.5 sacks in 2013, his lowest total since joining the Bears three years ago. At age 33 his best days are clearly behind him and it seems the downturn in production has begun. Worst of all his contract will command over $18 million in salary cap this coming season. Those are too many factors to warrant the Bears keeping him on the roster, which is why many expect him to get cut at some point. On top of that, Corey Wootton, the best young defensive end on the roster is a free agent. So it stands to reason that Chicago could lose their top two ends before the draft even begins, and with Shea McClellin on the move to linebacker it creates a potentially disastrous situation for the front office to handle.
NFL draft 4-3 end class thin beyond Ealy and Scott Crichton
However the reasoning to go into the NFL draft pursuing Kony Ealy goes beyond that. First and foremost he’s a very talented player. He’s explosive, athletic and violent with his hands coming off the edge. Unlike McClellin he has the size to hold up against the run as well. In truth he is the best 4-3 end prospect in the 2014 class behind Jadeveon Clowney. The problem is the options after those two become scarce in a big hurry. Next on the list is Scott Crichton out of Oregon State, a solid second round option but beyond him things get thin. Names like Stephon Tuitt, Dee Ford, Trent Murphy, Jackson Jeffcoat and Marcus Smith seem like much better fits in a 3-4 defense, either at end or outside linebacker. After that it’s no guarantee of landing a quality prospect at all. Obviously Ealy himself is not a guarantee but given his talent and upside there is a much better chance of him panning out than taking chances on the thin depth the 2014 class has to offer. Meanwhile positions like defensive tackle and cornerback have plenty of notable options stretching as far as third and even the fourth round.
The reality is free agency alone won’t save the Chicago Bears with their problem at defensive end. If they truly wish to keep the talent respectable at such a key position they must lock their sights on Kony Ealy.