It’s time to step back and take a full inventory of whom the Chicago Bears could conceivably target in the upcoming NFL Draft. Here are the first round options.
Aaron Donald – DT – Pitt
Hands down the best interior pass rusher in the draft. Aaron Donald is a quick, explosive defensive tackle who is terrific at shooting gaps and making plays in the backfield. He is undersized and lacking ideal length, which could make him a liability against the run. Yet it’s hard to overlook his disruptive ability.
Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
While Donald is a pure pass rusher, Timmy Jernigan is more of a hybrid type. His best trait is stopping the run. His size and strength coupled with good lateral quickness made him extremely difficult to move out of the way. He also has some pass rush upside but as of now he’s considered a run stuffer first.
Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
The scouting combine proved beyond a doubt that Justin Gilbert is the fastest and most athletic cornerback in the NFL draft. The Chicago Bears haven’t taken a corner in the first round since Walt Harris in 1996. Gilbert has enough potential on defense and on special teams to break that streak.
Darqueze Dennard – CB – Michigan State
By that same token the Bears should also look at Darqueze Dennard. He’s not quite the athlete Gilbert is, but Dennard may be the better football player. Receivers find it a tough task going against him and he’s also adept at making tackles and delivering hits. He already carries himself like a pro with a great work ethic and high intelligence.
Kyle Fuller – CB – Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech corners have a reputation for being tough and physical. Kyle Fuller upheld that tradition. His size and grit allow him to be a serious force against the run while instincts and vision lend a helping hand in disrupting passes in coverage.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – FS – Alabama
Fans would have to dig even further to find the last time the Bears took a safety in the first round. That would be 1991. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has the speed, range, instincts and size to become a Pro Bowl fixture on the back end, something Chicago hasn’t seen in years.
Calvin Pryor – FS – Louisville
Clinton-Dix is a sharp contrast to Calvin Pryor. The Louisville product isn’t a pure centerfielder in coverage. He’s more of a hybrid type. His calling card is toughness, tackling and the ability to blitz. His pass defense has improved but at present he’s more a box player first. A real tone-setter.
C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
Linebacker is not a solved problem for the Chicago Bears defense. They are still old at the position and despite their investments of Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene still looking for a young difference-maker. C.J. Mosley can be that. He’s tough, athletic, lengthy, fast and displays the kind of instincts and leadership that can command a defense for years.
Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
It’s really hard to see it happening but there is an outside chance that Anthony Barr slips to the middle of the first round. In which case the Bears would be in a dilemma. While he’s more of a natural 3-4 outside linebacker, Barr is arguably the second-most gifted pass rusher in the 2014 NFL draft. He has the frame to add bulk and possibly shift to defensive end. In which case a future heir to Jared Allen would be on the roster.
Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were fine additions to the defensive front for the Chicago Bears and pretty much fill their needs at end for 2014. Still, there would be nothing wrong if they took Kony Ealy. The Missouri product is big and athletic with advanced pass rush technique. Once his strength improves he can become a fixture at right end.
Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina
At present it’s realistically a 95% chance the Bears go defense in the first two or three rounds. However there is still a 5% possibility they target an offensive player at a certain position. Eric Ebron would qualify. Chicago could really use another weapon at tight end to team with Martellus Bennett and Ebron is a physical specimen with size and speed to go with great hands. He would be yet another big, dynamic target for Jay Cutler.