Dec 26, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) during the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ford Field. Pittsburgh Panthers defeated Bowling Green Falcons 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Chicago Bears May Pass On Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald is unquestionably the best pass rushing defensive tackle in the NFL draft, and he might not be a priority for the Chicago Bears.

Donald doesn’t fit the parameters of GM Phil Emery

In terms of explosion and quickness there is nobody more gifted than Donald.  He gets out of his stance so fast and is so quick that blockers repeatedly struggle to get a hold of him before it’s too late.  His pass rush skill from the interior is rare and would be coveted in the right system.  That is why the Bears are widely considered his top destination.  The departure of Henry Melton at their three-technique position, the pass rusher spot makes Donald look awfully enticing.  This especially after the acquisitions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston at defensive end.  However, there is one rather dubious sticking point that can’t be dismissed.  Donald is small.  No, not small but he is short.  At 6’1″ he doesn’t have ideal length for a defensive tackle nor the long arms that would help him shed blocks, which is why he’s reliant on speed and quickness.  Bears GM Phil Emery was asked months ago if he’s learned anything from his experiment with his first defensive line draft pick, Shea McClellin.  He responded honestly, stating he would put size and length higher on the list of priorities.  If that is true, then Donald doesn’t fit the criteria.

Justin Gilbert and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix offer more upside

Besides, there is a legitimate argument that he might not even be the best player available at #14 for the Chicago Bears to consider.  One thing to remember about Emery is he loves athletes first, versatility second and then size if possible.  That is why he moved up to get Alshon Jeffery in 2012, took Kyle Long earlier than expected in 2013 and might overlook Donald in favor of a couple other options.  Something to remember is that the secondary of the Bears is far from fixed.  Their top three corners are all over the age of 30 while their safeties don’t inspire comfort on the back end with Chris Conte still smarting from his colossal miscues last season to Ryan Mundy coming in to start after being a career backup.  Both positions could use a quality talent upgrade.

At corner the Bears could look at Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.  He’s fast, lengthy, athletic and couples his great coverage ability with prowess in the return game.  A great player with versatility screams “Emery Pick.”  Then there is Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.  Scouts widely consider him the best centerfielder type in the 2014 NFL draft class.  He has the length to blanket tight ends, the range to cover sideline to sideline and the instincts to track where quarterback will go with the football.  Putting him behind that front with Allen and Houston could prove quite beneficial.

Kelcy Quarles or Stephon Tuitt could be waiting in second round

Perhaps the most damning evidence that the Chicago Bears could spurn Aaron Donald though is what might await them in the second round of the draft.  The 51st pick puts them within range of a number of high quality defensive tackles.  One is Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame and the other is Kelcy Quarles of South Carolina.  Tuitt played primarily at defensive end for the Irish but his 300-lbs frame and speed make him a tantalizing option as an interior pass rusher.  His 7.5 sacks further that idea.  Quarles meanwhile was a favorite interview target of the Bears during the pre-draft process.  His 9.5 sacks as a defensive tackle at South Carolina, the same program that gave Chicago Alshon Jeffery, is hard to ignore.  What makes them such easy consolation prizes is the fact that they meet the Emery criteria.  Tuitt is 6’7″ and 322 lbs.  Quarles is 6’4″ and 298 lbs.  They have the pass rush ability and the physical parameters to get even better.

Donald cannot say the same.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Aaron Donald Chicago Bears Ha Ha Clinton-dix Justin Gilbert Kelcy Quarles NFL Draft Phil Emery Stephon Tuitt

  • o.metoikos

    Twice in as many days…
    Grow a vocabulary already, will you?

    “Perhaps the most damning evidence that the Chicago Bears could *spur*[??!]
    Aaron Donald though is what might await them in the second round of the

    The word is ‘SPURN’, as in ‘to reject’.
    ‘SPUR’ is to goad (..or do you even know what *that* means?) on, or coax (..or *that*?) into action.

    • Erik Lambert

      Yes, professor. Don’t break out the ruler. I’ll do the 40 lashes myself.

      • Rashid ChicagoBearsandbullsgri

        Thanks for another insightful article Erik Lambert. The real football fans that read your articles are more concerned with the intelligence of your argument, as opposed to whether or not your I’s are dotted and your T’s are crossed! I was really locking in on Donald, but I do remember Emery saying he’d place more value on his d-lineman’s size as well… So, if we can get Ha-Ha in the first, and still get a starting 3 technique in the 2nd, then that’s the play… I don’t think it will be Gilbert, bc although we need a corner to replace Tillman eventually, I tend to think that Emery wants his 1st round pick to be a day one starter; and any CB we draft this year will be relegated to a special teams/backup role unless one of our ProBowl caliber corners goes out with an injury… Personally I’m hoping that we trade down, and pick up more picks… Very insightful article though, as always!

        • Erik Lambert

          Thank you, Rashid for staying focused on the big picture. Believe me, I would not fret if they selected Donald but I also felt obligated to point out certain facts that can’t be dismissed. That’s a good point about GIlbert but remember his return ability. The Bears could use him to replace Devin Hester this year while affording him the chance to learn from Peanut and T.J. Still, you are right on the money about Ha Ha. He could add so much to the back end of the defense and I personally view safety as the weakest position on that unit at the moment. I too would love a trade down. It all depends on if they can get a fair deal and still land a quality player.

          • FJ doreza

            Sorry Erik, I love Gilbert, but I think he’ll be gone before Donald is and with all this “Emery wants size on the D line” makes sense in the case of Shea McClellin who obviously couldn’t get big or strong enough to play DE and should have been at OLB the whole time. Donald on the other hand is 25 lbs heavier and a hell of a lot stronger and is a “freak” athlete at the DT position, and how often do you even hear that? He is like an ILB on steroids but with the speed and quickness in tact. IF he is passed up by the Bears, this would be a bigger mistake than the team that drafts Manziel.

          • Erik Lambert

            The more I hear about him, the more I think that Donald might not be there either. For some reason, and it’s a complete hunch on my part, I believe Phil Emery has eyes for Ra’Shede Hageman. The kid is an absolute freak of nature. Big, power, nimble and fast. His greatest drawback at this point is inconsistency, which happens when you’ve only been playing the position since entering college. He’s another Kyle Long to me: a phenomenal physical talent with amazing upside provided he gets the right coaching. It just keeps blaring “EMERY PICK!” every time I look at him. I just hope they trade back before getting him.

        • Erik Lambert

          For what it’s worth, I just read Matt Miller’s updated scouting notebook on B/R and he has a credible source with a team picking after the Bears who says the team is looking “very hard” at the corner position and will take the best available at #14. That means Gilbert, Dennard or Fuller.

    • David A Maupin

      Really bro? Don’t even read it then. Great insight is all that matters. People have other things to do other than make sure every I is dotted. Go proofread the dictionary If you want a challenge.

  • Pedemegonz

    Look for the Bears not to draft at 14, no matter if Donald is available or not. If he is available, someone behind the Bears will make an offer they can’t refuse to get Donald. If someone has already taken Donald, there probably not be a player available worth the 14 pick given how the Bears have loaded up on the D line. If they trade down they will still have a shot at a really good defensive tackle and/or a really good safety plus a second or high third pick, which converts to a good running back or good cornerback or a good back up offensive lineman.

    • Erik Lambert

      I would not be opposed to that strategy at all, Pede. I’ve been one of the proponents for moving down because they really could use a heavy dose of youth on both sides of the ball. The issue is that every team wants to move down. So the right player will have to be in the Bears hands for them to entice a team to move up. I do believe quality talent will await them regardless of how far they move back though.

      • FJ doreza

        Yeah, I might agree with trading the 14th pick if Donald is gone, not that I like that option, but it makes a lot of sense if they can net a couple of early picks.

    • Jon feigenbaum

      I don’t disagree, IF they can trade for another a HIGH second or third round pick-otherwise NO DEAL.

  • Folt

    Did someone just respond to an article about possible draft selections with a grammar lesson. O. Metoikos I think there is a publication called I’m a freaking douche bag weekly. They are looking for editors. So how about you piss off, get a life and let us normal folk discuss our Bears.

    • Rashid ChicagoBearsandbullsgri


    • o.metoikos

      “Hark! Forest sounds! Animal noises!” Gutturals from the gutter!

  • Dr. Johnny Nacho

    I was thinking the same thing about Donald not being an Emery pick. Size, speed and agility are becoming the Emery way very quickly. Get those type of players and then coach them up…if they’re good enough then they’ll find a way to get on the field to produce for the team. I see them taking a DT somewhere in the draft, just doubt it’s the in the first round. After all the free agent signings the first couple rounds have “best player off the board” written all over it….defensively.

    • Erik Lambert

      Indeed. D-Tackle should have some quality options as deep as the 3rd round, which means safety, corner and linebacker are all higher possibilities in the first. It’s all about acquiring the best talent at this point.

  • Jon feigenbaum

    I agree that Donald is just too small. They need a big “load ” in the middle. Being a good pass rusher in the NCAA does not mean you’ll be one in the NFL, where all the linemen are larger.If HA HA Clinton Dix is still there at 14, I thing you have to grab him. There would be several quality DT”S to pick from still on the board in the second round. UNLESS Emory really has his eye on a particular player, and he’s still there with the first, At the positions of need, my take is you snag “the best athlete available” at the positions you’re trying to upgrade.

    • FJ doreza

      Too small would make sense if his size wasn’t an advantage, but it has been as many teams had to double team him or outright hold him just so he wouldn’t break through the line. Donald DOMINATED and unlike Manziel, who people think isn’t too small, for some stupid reason, is not a liability. Again, his height, strength, leverage, speed and quickness made it difficult for the much bigger, taller and slower O lineman to get reach down and keep their hands on him, these are the reasons why he dominated the ACC with 11.5 sacks and 28 TFL’s. He dominated against the best of lineman at the Senior Bowl and he was nearly unstoppable against any lineman in college so I don’t think it’s a stretch for him to be a very productive NFL player.

  • Shannon Thomas

    I was thinking why not Hageman? He would be a reach but could end up being a MONSTER. Hageman screams Emery pick and I would love it too. Allen, Hageman/Paea, Houston/Ratliff, Young along with Iggy, Cornwash and co look out!

  • FJ doreza

    No way they should pass on Donald because of an inch or two and ten pounds. He IS an athlete of the highest caliber and has the film to prove it. If Emery wants an athlete above all else than Donald is that player that can make an immediate impact on the Bears D line, and if they want to add bulk up the middle than there are players that can be had in the later rounds. I have stated many times that the DB class runs deep in talent which means coaching up great athletes from the later rounds makes a lot more sense as I don’t see the Bears wanting to start a rookie at safety or cornerback anyway. These are positions that require experience in the NFL and I believe it would be wise if the Bears chose a veteran FA to fill this role first. The DL and LB are far more important NEEDS as tempting as it would be to go DB in the early rounds. A great front 7 will have more impact and will make life a lot easier for the secondary. There is just so many good athletes to choose from like Dontae Johnson, Travis Carrie, Walt Aikens, Ahmad Dixon etc. and with the right coaching could all be just as good if not better than the early round DB’s. I like that the Bears are considering D. Thomas as RB/KR option. His size makes him a RB that could be marginalized just like Dri Archer and John Brown. The Bears still need that bruiser that can bust the line for short yards and still have the speed and catching ability to spread the offense. If they’re smart then they won’t overlook guys like Gator Hoskins, AC Leonard or Trey Millard. Trey reminds me of Brad Muster but with better athleticism. Hoskins and Leonard are extremely talented players who can not only take the handoff like a big RB but are also equipped to be extremely athletic TE’s. Check out these players on film and you’ll see what a late round pick can net you. I hope Van Noy keeps getting pushed further down and forgotten because he would be a steal in the second round. Another option is Shazier who could go early or may even drop to the second round. I also like Trent Murphy, Demarcus Lawrence or Jeremiah Attaochu, BUT very good options like Lamin Barrow, Ronald Powell, or players like KP Louis and Carlos Fields who both run a 4,51 40, are also interesting players who will be around late. I still believe that the best choice for a Bears QB is Zach M. a player who’s offense looks much like the Bears with their 2 playmaking WR’s, and because of all the HYPE on you know who and the other dudes, Zach would be a steal in the 3rd round. The “beef” of the DT’s can be found in Ego Ferguson, Zach Kerr, Khyri Thorton, Kelcy Quarles or Antoine Lewis and it’s possible that these guys will be around mid to late rounds. Dominique Easley may also be a steal due to his injury even Trevor Reilly who is also on the mend. I know Easley is a risk but he does prove that players who are considered undersized, like Aaron Donald and Daquan Jones may be a continuing trend at the DT position. Their size, quickness and balance makes it difficult for OL to gain leverage or get hands on them since they have to bend down to reach them. Hopefully the days of the big, fat, wallowing DT’s are going the way of the dinosaur, in favor of the smaller, stronger, faster athletes on the defensive front.