My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the Chicago Bears who hold the #14 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
People have begun to wonder how Michael Sam was SEC player of the year out of Missouri after a rough combine. Perhaps it was because he played across from Kony Ealy. The Missouri defensive end finished the 2013 season strong and is looking more and more like one of the top pass rushers in the NFL draft with plenty of room still to grow. He’s tall with long arms, athleticism, burst off the snap and adequate size at 270 lbs to hold up against the run. Bulk is a minor issue at present but should improve with time in the weight room.
Why: Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin issues make Ealy look good
One would think with so many issues on defense that the Chicago Bears front office is free to simply take the best defender available at #14. While true to an extent, the fact is their defensive end position might be the worst of the bunch. Shea McClellin, their 2012 first round pick has flamed out there so he’s already been moved to compete at linebacker. Solid role player Corey Wootton is a free agent. Then there is veteran Julius Peppers who carries an $18 million cap hit into 2014 at age 34, dropping big hints that the team could decide to cut him loose and save the money. That would leave just David Bass and Cornelius Washington as the only ends under contract. Between them they produced one sack last season. On top of all that the free agent market looks rather thin at the position, which isn’t good since several teams are in the hunt for pass rush help. Hence why Ealy makes a ton of sense.
Argument: Timmy Jernigan and Justin Gilbert offer more potential
Debating this pick won’t come about the fact that he is a defensive player but more about whether Ealy is the best defensive player available. A lot of experts see high quality targets like FloridaState defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan or OklahomaState cornerback Justin Gilbert still being on the board when the Chicago Bears go on the clock. Jernigan was dominant at times for the Seminoles during their title run, especially when stopping the run, a problem the Bears had worse than any other team in pro football last year. Gilbert meanwhile hauled in seven interceptions and blew out the scouting combine with his impressive blend of size, speed and athleticism. He would make an excellent replacement for Charles Tillman.
Counter-argument: Ealy is one of the few legitimate 4-3 ends in 2014 class
The key with either of those picks is they aren’t pressing. Both free agency and the NFL draft have good or adequate crops of defensive tackles and cornerbacks for the Chicago Bears to pick from. The same is no so for defensive ends. After Ealy the pickings for legitimate 4-3 types drastically drops on days two and three. So if the Bears have any plans to get one with serious talent who can help right away, it will have to be early.
That is why I would take Kony Ealy if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?