What is one thing Chicago Bears fans can say about the past two NFL draft periods? They never see the eventual pick coming.
Shea McClellin and Kyle Long show popular picks don’t fly in Chicago
Aaron Donald and Justin Gilbert are the most talked about names flying around Bears fandom. The defensive tackle from Pitt and corner from OklahomaState are arguably the two likeliest picks should they be available for Chicago at #14 when the NFL draft starts next month. Donald is the best interior pass rusher in the 2014 class. Gilbert is the fastest, most athletic cornerback. Both fill needs on the Bears defensive roster. Yet, if there’s one truth fans have learned in two years under GM Phil Emery, it’s expect the unexpected. In that time span Emery has shown he just seems to think differently than the mainstream. Nobody saw his 2012 first round pick Shea McClellin coming. The same can be said for his 2013 version Kyle Long. Both were under-the-radar prospects almost in no way connected to the Bears prior to each draft. As the say goes, “Fool me once…” and so on. That can only mean the names fans have zeroed in on, despite their clear fits, might not be in concert with what Emery is thinking.
Pryor may be a more complete safety than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
One name has been conspiculously absent from the Chicago Bears radar, at least until recently. That is Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. Only now did word surface that he paid a visit to the team, long after his first round counterpart Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama. No mock draft expert has yet to connect the Bears and Pryor. Does further examination show that might be a mistake? Let’s review. Safety play was one of the key reasons Chicago missed the playoffs last season. They haven’t added a player at that position of a first round caliber in over two decades. A majority of fans feel it’s time for that streak to end, but most favor Clinton-Dix. It’s understandable. Scouts agree he’s better on tape in coverage than Pryor is and he played for a more proven program. Still, there are signs Pryor could actually be the better prospect. Unlike Clinton-Dix, he excels around the line of scrimmage where he tackles, delivers hits and can blitz the quarterback. What separates the two is the coverage ability, and by all accounts that gap is growing smaller.
Mel Kiper of ESPN stated, “Pryor finished his season with a string of good performances. He displays the ability to cover significant ground in coverage with anticipation and speed, as well as a willingness to come downhill and make plays at the line of scrimmage. And he packs a punch. He gets great reviews on work ethic and growth from his coaches.”
In other words Pryor has the physical ability to get better in coverage and it began to show in his game tape. Meanwhile Clinton-Dix showed no signs of becoming a better tackler, hitter or blitzer.
If upside and talent are the end games for Emery and the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft, then Calvin Pryor might be their man.