Projections have a wealth of possibilities awaiting the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft. Where do the top names fit in their plans?
Aaron Donald – DT – Pitt
A rule of thumb when running a 4-3 defense is when you have a defensive tackle who can command double teams and stop the run, you need a dynamic pass rusher next to him to exploit the one-on-one matchups. Jeremiah Ratliff is a veteran with that size and ability to play nose tackle. With Henry Melton gone to Dallas, filling in the three-technique pass rusher role remains a priority for the Bears. Aaron Donald has shown both on tape and in workouts that he is the quickest, most explosive interior defender in the 2014 class. Adding him to the mix would give Chicago a front of Jared Allen, Ratliff, Donald and Lamarr Houston. Safe to say there would be improvement from 2013.
Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are both Pro Bowl players. They are also over the age of 30 and reaching a point where their skills are going to decline, either slowly or quickly. A quick overview of the Chicago Bears roster shows they have no corner currently on the roster capable of starting on the outside who is under 30. Isaiah Frey is a nickel option at best while Sherrick McManis is a special teams ace. That is where Justin Gilbert comes in. The Oklahoma State product is an athletic freak with huge potential. He can play man coverage, zone coverage and isn’t afraid to get to physical with receivers. The scary part is he posted a very solid season in 2013 and is widely considered unrefined in his technique. Imagine what he will become once that is fixed.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – FS – Alabama
Major Wright signed with another team. Chris Conte is on the shelf for the next 4-5 months following shoulder surgery. At present the Chicago Bears really have no proven starters at the safety position. Period. It’s fact. M.D. Jennings was a washout in Green Bay while Ryan Mundy is a career backup. It’s no wonder fans are clamoring for the team to target the position in the first round. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama is the best on the board. He is the classic centerfielder type with great range, speed and length. His instincts show up frequently in coverage as he can diagnose where a quarterback is going with the ball and make sharp breaks to either break up or intercept the passes. There is little question he would be an improvement for Chicago.
C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
Any fan who watched that defense last year knows the linebackers are in line for their share of the blame. Lance Briggs looked like an aging player. D.J. Williams barely made it a third of the way through the season before getting hurt. Jon Bostic looked lost in the middle and Shea McClellin has never played linebacker in the pros. It’s little wonder people would be more than enthused if C.J. Mosley was the pick in May. He’s hands down the best linebacker in this NFL draft. He’s athletic, agile, fast, tough and instinctive in finding his way to the football. On top of that he’s lauded for his leadership on the field, something the Chicago Bears seemed to lose when Brian Urlacher retired. If he can fill in the middle, then he is definitely next in line to replace Briggs.
Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
Yes, the bulk of the work done by Chicago in free agency was rebuilding their defensive end position. The additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young give them three high quality edge rushers to rotate at their leisure. So why would the Bears consider making Kony Ealy their first pick? For the simple reason he’s another pass rusher, first and foremost. Pass rushers reign supreme in this league. Ealy is an outstanding talent who hasn’t finished growing yet. Better still his presence would allow the Bears to keep Allen and his 32-year old body fresher through the second half of the season when he’ll be needed most. Beyond that though it could also help the team solve their defensive tackle problem too. Having Ealy would enable defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to shift Houston, who has the size and strength required, inside to the three-technique position. Thus the line would have Allen, Ealy and Young on the outside with Houston joining Jeremiah Ratliff in the middle. Safe to say a good front would project to get even better.