Dec 30, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (90) during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Chicago won 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Every general manager is equivalent to a chess player. Those who live in the moment lose. It’s about think three or four steps ahead in order to win. The Chicago Bears want to win in 2013, but GM Phil Emery always has his eye to the future. What needs will his team have next and who will be available to them in the 2014 NFL draft?
Quarterbacks – Tajh Boyd, A.J. McCarron, Bryn Renner
There is perhaps no situation more fluid and questionable for the Chicago Bears than quarterback. Not only is starter Jay Cutler in the last year of his contract and a threat to leave without a new deal, but the team also has very limited depth behind him. At present there is no developmental quarterback on the roster, the team relying on veteran Josh McCown to back him up. Head coach Marc Trestman will certainly want to get a quarterback regardless of the Cutler situation, but if there is a separation, Chicago will have options.
Tajh Boyd is a growing Heisman favorite at Clemson. What he lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism, arm strength and leadership. He is a classic dual threat but prefers to throw first. A.J. McCarron is the two-time national champion from Alabama. Known as a “game manager”, scouts have begun to take notice of his skills as an accurate passer who excels at the fundamentals, especially running the play action. Provided he doesn’t have to run much he could become a very effective precision passer in the right system. Bryn Renner is one of the risers to watch. Coming out of North Carolina he has the prototypical size for the position along with a good arm and developing mechanics that could make him a popular choice for late in the first round where Chicago is expected to pick.
Cornerbacks – Louchiez Purifoy, Jason Verrett, Aaron Colvin
The Chicago Bears are known for defense but up until recently cornerback wasn’t really their thing. Then suddenly they featured two Pro Bowlers in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. Unfortunately, both they and three others on the depth chart could become free agents at the end of the season. That increases the need for Emery to find some young blood for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to develop. As a former defensive back himself, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Bears went for a corner early, and there are certainly some interesting names on the board.
Bradley Roby out of Ohio State is expected to go earlier than where the Bears will likely pick, but that doesn’t decrease the chances of landing a home run. One player scouts love is Louchiez Purifoy of Florida. Ideal size and pro speed, Purifoy was left in man coverage a lot by the Gators and more than held his own. He is a dynamic athlete that can change games. Jason Verrett gives up something in the height department (5’10”) but makes up for it with excellent ball skills. He is a natural at causing turnovers and doesn’t fear bigger receivers at TCU. One school Emery likes to dip into frequently is Oklahoma. Aaron Colvin hasn’t gotten much attention there but he is a potentially perfect fit for the Chicago defense. Good height and speed, he showed both the ability to cover and blitz in 2012. Most importantly, he tackles well in the run game, a must for Bears corners.
Defensive ends – Trent Murphy, Aaron Lynch, Kareem Martin
Nobody has called it into question just yet, but the Chicago Bears are inching closer and closer to parting ways with star defensive end Julius Peppers. They renegotiated his contract recently that cleared $2 million off the salary cap this season, but in doing so increased his cap numbers to $18 million in 2014 and $20 million in 2015. With him turning 34 next year, it’s almost a guarantee his time runs short. That means the team must continue to feed their defensive line with young pass rushers.
Jadeveon Clowney is obviously the ultimate prize, but barring a monumental collapse the Bears have no shot at him. Trent Murphy meanwhile has had a productive career at Stanford. He had 10 sacks in 2012 and relies on power and technique to win his battles while still keeping enough athleticism to surprise tackles with an edge rush. Aaron Lynch is by far the hot topic. His ceiling is nearly limitless and he has the body to beat defenders with power or speed, depending on his preference. More experience can only help him. Another upside athlete is Kareem Martin. He had a down year in 2012 for North Carolina, but has the polish and blossoming talent to dominate his senior season. Doing so will get him into the first round for sure.