Free agency typically tells the story of how a team will attack the NFL draft. Are the Chicago Bears poised to pursue top cornerback Justin Gilbert?
Phil Emery and Charles Tillman news paint a clearing picture
Once free agency is in full swing and teams have made their primary moves it becomes easier for fans to deduce what the plan might be for the NFL draft a couple months later. The Chicago Bears are certainly sending out plenty of hints. GM Phil Emery was quick to attack two positions on the open market in defensive end with Lamarr Houston and safety with Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings. More moves are expected but the fact that the Bears conspicuously failed to go after a top cornerback or at the very least re-sign Charles Tillman seemed like an indication of what the team has in mind for May. Emery then somewhat confirmed those thoughts when he said he had no intention of paying big money to what he considers a rather thin crop of cornerbacks available on the open market. He believes the upcoming 2014 draft class is very deep at the position, meaning the Bears could conceivably land one or two starter-quality talents at a fraction of the price they’d have to pay for veteran free agents. It’s a risky but calculated move that Emery has perfected: purchase on the market what he can’t cover in the draft. However, is their more of a single-minded goal in mind for the Chicago GM?
Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard headline strong NFL draft class
Another fact that has become clear about Emery is that he LOVES athletes. He loves players who bring versatility to the game and can do more than one thing well on a football field. Previous draft selections like Kyle Long and Shea McClellin reflect that thinking. If the trend holds true then it’s plainly obvious that the third-year general manager has his sights set squarely on Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. The kid recorded seven interceptions in 2013, demonstrating his ability and instincts in coverage but also his toughness when defending the run. He’s got good height and length but what set him apart when his athletic potential. Scouts felt he had the most upside of any player in addition to already being one of the best on the board. That truth came to pass at the scouting combine when Gilbert put on a show. He posted a blazing 4.37 run in the 40-yard dash and graded highly in all the other drills as well. Some are still skeptical about his polish and technique but when game tape and combine tell the same story, it usually means the player is going to be really good at the next level. Failing an attempt to get him the Chicago Bears could easily turn to Michigan State All-America Darqueze Dennard. Though not quite the athlete Gilbert is, he is a tireless worker who hones his craft every week and has enough ability to play any receiver he lines up against.
Clearly there is still work to do for the Bears, but if things continue as they have, no one should be surprise if they make a serious play to go get Justin Gilbert.