Narrowing the focus is always paramount for teams heading into the NFL draft. For the Chicago Bears that was their goal, and it seems they are set up perfectly.
Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy aren’t ideal safety options
The retention of Charles Tillman alters the board for the Bears heading into the draft stretch. Chicago now has both their veteran corners with him and Tim Jennings back in place for another year. That means the corner position should be relatively stable in 2014 barring another catastrophic string of injuries. Instead the focus should be on the safety position. GM Phil Emery made a couple of additions through free agency and one of them was Ryan Mundy. Primarily a reserve most of his career, 29-year old learned from some of the best in the business such as Antrel Rolle and Troy Polamalu. He’s athletic with good range and very tough. The other was M.D. Jennings who should compete with current starter Chris Conte but more likely is a special teams addition. At present logic says a combination of Conte and Mundy would start opening day in September. That isn’t a horrific tandem, but if the intention of the Chicago Bears is to get more dynamic on defense, that is not the ideal pairing they’ll want which is why it’s very likely both of them could see a rookie join the competition in the first round. The 2014 class is rich with safeties and have some very intriguing options on Day One.
Likely Pick: Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
Assistant defensive line coach Clint Hurtt came up from Louisville during the early part of the off-season where he was defensive coordinator. He has inside knowledge of top prospects coming from that program and should have detailed memory of free safety Calvin Pryor. The young man is already a physical player, showing the scrappiness to come downhill and tackle or deliver a fierce hit. What is pushing him up draft boards is his growing range and potential in coverage. Experts compare him to former Pro Bowler Bob Sanders. If that is true, then Pryor fits the exact profile Emery and the Bears want in their defensive backs: tough and athletic.
Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea are not dynamic interior men
With the primary focus of the free agency period being upgrading the defensive end position, the NFL draft has become about fortifying the probable loss of former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton. The Chicago Bears front office worked quickly to keep the position relatively stable by retaining veterans Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins on one-year deals. Together with nose tackle Stephen Paea they form a serviceable group but certainly not a dynamic one. Ratliff is 33-years old. Collins is coming off a torn ACL and Paea battled turf toe all year in 2013. Put simply the group is on shaky ground in terms of durability. That is why the Bears have to seriously consider adding another body to the depth chart, somebody who can force defenses to commit extra blockers their way and take heat off their newly acquired defensive ends.
Likely Pick: Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
This kid has set himself up perfectly. No matter how much the scouts hold back their admiration for him due to his being undersized for the tackle position, he has constantly killed their doubts in one way or another. He dominated most of 2013 for his team, showcasing some of the best explosion and quickness a defensive tackle has had in years. That was soon followed by a near flawless Senior Bowl in which he often humiliated some of the best guards in the country. It all then came together at the scouting combine where he posted top numbers among all the tackles including an incredible 4.65 40-yard dash at 285 lbs. Aaron Donald is unquestionably a first round pick and a perfect fit at the three-technique position to replace Melton.