The Jared Allen signing has once again altered the big board for the Chicago Bears. Who are now top priorities in the NFL draft for them?
Part of constructing a big board means putting players on it even you know won’t be there when you pick. However, there is always a chance, no matter how small, that one of them might slip. That won’t happen with Jadeveon Clowney, but if the physical specimen and gifted pass rusher from South Carolina is there, the Bears cannot pass him.
Linebacker is not the first need position but Khalil Mack is the type of player that transcends need. He has so much athletic ability that his value goes beyond one thing. He can rush the passer, track runners and play coverage equally well. Put simply, he’s a playmaker.
The same can be said for Anthony Barr. His ceiling is extremely high. While not as versatile or experienced as Mack, the UCLA outside linebacker has rare pass rush potential. If properly cultivated he can become a nightmare for offenses to block.
This is the first real player the Chicago Bears should have a legitimate shot of getting. Justin Gilbert not only is the best athlete at corner in the NFL draft, he’s also very good on tape when covering receivers. Throw in his outstanding return ability and he can be the one who bridges the gap from veteran star Charles Tillman.
The additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young have bolstered the defensive end positions but Chicago still needs an interior rusher. If they were land Pitt standout Aaron Donald, it would seriously alter the landscape of the NFC North. That is how explosive, quick and dynamic he is.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Chicago hasn’t selected a safety on Day One of the draft since Mark Carrier way back in the ’90s. They’ve gotten by too long on mid or late round picks since then. Perhaps the time is right to add a true difference-maker at the position. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the best cover safety in the 2014 class with good size, range and instinct.
On the flip side, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor is more of a wrecking ball type. He has the size and range as well but his best strengths are tackling, deliver powerful hits and blitzing the quarterback. He had improved in coverage too, which is why some favor him over Clinton-Dix.
The first attempt at replacing Brian Urlacher failed with Jon Bostic. That doesn’t mean the Bears should stop trying. C.J. Mosley would make a great second attempt. He comes from a proven program at Alabama, is very athletic with the intelligence and leadership intangibles a team searches for in a middle linebacker.
While not the athlete Gilbert is, Darqueze Dennard has plenty of physical ability and makes up for whatever he lacks with intelligence, effort and work ethic. Nobody will push themselves harder than him to get better. That is why he was a shutdown man at MichiganState and should do well as a pro.
His domination of the national title game was no fluke. Timmy Jernigan is a force at defensive tackle. Teams find it nearly impossible to run at him and his quickness and burst have allowed him to improve as a pass rusher too. He’s not quite as dynamic as Donald but he’s a better run defender for sure.
As stated above the additions of Allen, Houston and Young have more than eased the need for help at defensive end. Not long ago though Kony Ealy would’ve topped this list. He has good size for the position along with the burst and technique to beat blockers in a variety of ways. There is no shame if the Bears land him in the first round.
Gilbert and Dennard are the best press corners in this class but Kyle Fuller might be the best zone corner. He’s not the fastest on the field but he’s alert, smart, throws his body around, tackles and has the agility and reflexes to make plays in coverage.
He might be a better fit as an outside linebacker in the pros but Dee Ford is an accomplished defensive end nonetheless. He dominated down the stretch last season and then showcased his ability at the Senior Bowl. Pass rushing is in his blood but his size would have to improve to become a full-time starter.
Size is no issue for this kid. Phil Emery said the Chicago Bears would pinpoint length and weight as key points when researching defensive linemen in the future. Ra’Shede Hageman is a physical specimen and an athletic wonder at over 300 lbs. His pass rush ability is very inconsistent but he’s already becoming an excellent force stopping the run.
Many would argue Jason Verrett should be placed ahead of Fuller. He’s probably the best pound-for-pound corner in this draft class given his athleticism, instincts and nose for the ball. The problem is he’s only 5’10″. That might relegate him to the nickel position in the pros but given the success of Tim Jennings (5’8″) in Chicago, he could find a niche with the Bears.