I’ll begin with a couple of brief announcements:
1) Iggins! says he won the draftkakke, and since I am both lazy and bad at math I’ll concede it to him. Congrats to Iggins! for winning both the regular season and draft prognostication bukakke. May he rot in hell.
2) Wait, that was the only announcement.
Anyway, now it is time to break down the 2012 Chicago Bears draft class:
1st Round, 19th Pick:
Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State.
6’3”, 260 LBs
I’m not going to stand in front of you and say why this is a good pick. I have no idea if it is or not because I don’t know much about Shea McClellin. I’m not, however, going to boo it and I’m also going to tackle some of the common misconceptions about why it’s a “bad” pick:
-HE’S TOO SMALL
Osi Umenyora is 6’3’’, 255. John Abraham is 6’4”, 263. Robert Mathis is 6’2’’, 245. All are highly successful 4-3 ends. Zack Zaidman noted on Twitter today that the average size of the top 11 defensive end sack leaders last year was 6’3,’’ 264. Now I’m not, as Boers and Bernstein mockingly said of the many callers who mentioned those guys, trying to say McClellin compares favorably to any of them in any other way (although he does in some respects) or calling McClellin a lock for double digit sacks like they are. All I’m saying is that there are plenty of examples of successful 4-3 ends at that size. There’s no reason to just toss out McClellin for his size, which is what I’ve heard plenty of people doing.
The other big knock I’ve heard regarding McClellin’s size/strength is that he can’t take on double teams. When the hell is he going to see one? You’ve got Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, and 18 combined sacks last year on one side of the line and a 6’1”, 300 LB monster who set the combine record for bench press at the nose. What team is going to look at that and decide to double McClellin? And why shouldn’t we thank them if they do?
-HE WENT TO BOISE STATE, HOW GOOD CAN HE BE?
Ryan Clady’s a great left tackle for the Broncos. He didn’t seem to suffer from low-level competition. Also, did I miss the part where everyone forgot Brian Urlacher went to New Mexico (he also came out of college with the knock of not having a true position)?
Also, Boise State has been one of the premier programs in the country for years. They’ve performed well in BCS Bowl games against future pros. McClellin had two of his best games this year against Georgia and Virginia Tech.
The other problem I have with this argument is that the guy most Bears fans wanted instead was Whitney Mercilus. Illinois has certainly had quite a few draft picks the last couple of years, but they’re not a great program. In fact, they suck. I know this because I root for them. If Boise State met Illinois they’d win by 30. This isn’t the best way to evaluate prospects but Boise State at this point isn’t much of a small school.
-HE’D HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE LATER. REACH!
First, no he wouldn’t have. Mike Mayock, a guy that many people trust, had him #14 out of his top #100 players. Mayock, while saying he expected McClellin to go to a 3-4 team, still liked the pick and said he would be fine with his hands in the dirt opposite of Peppers. SK Jensen, Mayock, and Matt Bowen are just three of the guys I trust that also said the Packers or the Patriots would have taken McClellin in the 1st if he fell to them. The idea that McClellin is a 3rd rounder at best is just sheer stupidity.
-THE OFFENSIVE LINE SUCKS AND THEY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN REIFF!
I’ve heard this one several times as well. I’ve already voiced my opinion in my offensive line review on why I think the line will be better next year, but here’s a brief recap
1) Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown made their numbers look worse. They allowed just 23 sacks per game with Cutler, with just 5 in his last 5 games, before Hanie managed to get sacked 19 times in 4 games. They paved the way for over 2,000 yards rushing and the team scored 30 PPG in the 5 game winning streak after Martz finally re-introduced balance on offense. Simply put, they weren’t as bad as the late season collapse with Hanie made them look.
2) The interior of the line is quite solid. Garza played well after moving to center. Spencer can play center and was very effective at guard. Lance Louis is a good guard who was overmatched after injuries and the awfulness of Frank Omiyale moved him to right tackle. Eddie and Chris Williams both played well at left guard, and Chilo Rachal was the best run blocking guard in all of football in 2010. There’s plenty of depth there to get three serviceable-to-good starters.
3) Martz is gone. This isn’t simply a matter of eliminating seven step drops, as some have said. The problem with Martz wasn’t just the drops so much as unbalanced playcalling. Take the Saints game for example, the Bears didn’t allow a single sack in the first half, but the offensive line wore down as Martz called just 12 runs all game and that led to the six sack barrage in the second half. The team scored more points and actually had more success going deep during the 5 game win streak because of a balanced attack. That’ll be the goal this year.
With all of those guys on the interior and Carimi coming back, the only whole is at left tackle. Riley Reiff is not going to be a very good NFL left tackle. At best, he may be an okay starter there, but most scouts have him, like Gabe Carimi, as a future Pro Bowler at right tackle. Between Webb, Carimi, and Chris Williams the Bears have plenty of guys who can be good right tackles. Reiff doesn’t solve the left tackle problem, so he wasn’t taken.
So after all that I can only say that McClellin seems to be a promising guy. His size isn’t that far from where it needs to be, and it isn’t inconceivable that he could pack on ten pounds quickly in an NFL strength training program. His 4.6 40 speed time is going to be invaluable, and all he has to do is pin his ears back and take advantage of the single matchups offered by the double teams of Peppers. I think he’ll be an upgrade, which is all he needs to be.
2nd Round, 45th Pick.
Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina
6’4’’, 216 LBs
Holy shit, I love this pick. Iggins! and I were texting each other just before the beginning of the second round Friday, hoping Jeffrey would be the guy. I’m not really concerned with his “baggage” issues, which basically amounted to him putting on weight and getting into one fight. No arrests, no drug issues, no team suspensions, just getting fat and depressed because Stephen Garcia got himself suspended for the 6th time and Jeffrey’s numbers tanked thanks to terrible QB play. The Mike Williams comparisons are hardly fair, because Jeffrey did not sit out a year, for one, and also because the Bears organization is not in total disarray like the 2005 Lions. Jeffrey performed well at his pro day and has lost a considerable amount of weight now that he’s under the supervision of his agent (and let’s face it, Steve Spurrier has never been a strict disciplinarian), and I really think that weight gain is pretty low on the character issues ranking when it comes to the diva position of the NFL. These are exactly the kind of guys you want the Bears new administration taking a chance on in the second: first round talents with minor question marks.
As for the on-field stuff, Jeffrey pairs with Brandon Marshall to provide a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. If you aren’t salivating at the thought of a red zone offense with Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall (6’4’’), Kellen Davis (6’5”), Jeffrey (6’4”), and Rodriguez (6’3’’), well, you’re probably not Jay Cutler. Between the 20s, Jeffrey and Marshall open up a whole new route tree, with the fade route, the deep post, the deep dig, and back shoulder throws all options for the first time in years. You put those two big targets on the outside and then put the steady route running and sure hands of Earl Bennett or the blinding speed of Devin Hester in the slot and you’ve got an NFL offense, my frent.
3rd Round, 79th Pick
Brandon Hardin, SS, California
6’3’’, 218 LBs
I’ll grant the morons trying to compare Emery to Angelo one thing: drafting pre-injured players is kind of annoying. That said, Hardin, compared to most of the damn safeties the Bears have drafted recently, is a very intriguing prospect. Unlike Conte (who had a good rookie year, mind you, and seems to be developing into a nice player), Wright, Afalava, etc., Hardin, the former cornerback, has good 4.4 speed and is actually considered a strong pass defender. He also has great size and can hit, so you’d assume he’s going to play the run pretty well. Considering Major Wright’s issues in coverage, this move makes a lot of sense, provided Hardin can stay healthy. His track record would seem to indicate otherwise. This was the one pick that really gave me pause.
4th Round, 111th Pick
Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple
6’2’’, 244 LBs
Rodriguez compared himself to Aaron Hernandez, but he’s not the only one who has made that comparison, although most have prefaced that with the words “poor man’s.” He’s an intriguing prospect with good size who has solid receiving skills. His blocking may leave a bit to be desired, but hell, we’re used to that by now, aren’t we? Besides, Kellen Davis is a great blocker and Rodriguez wouldn’t have to be much more than a receiving specialist as a rookie. I approve of this pick.
6th Round, 184th Pick
Isaiah Frey, CB, Nevada
5’11’’, 188 LBs
Decent size for a corner, fast and athletic. Cover 2 corners usually aren’t terribly high draft picks, so it’ll be interesting to see how he develops. Not much else to offer here, other than that depth is always a necessity.
7th Round, 220th Pick
Greg McCoy, CB, TCU
5’10’’, 181 LBs
See Frey, Isaiah. We will see which one of them manages to earn a roster spot, considering Tillman, Jennings, Hayden, DJ Moore, and Jonathan Wilhite are all sure to be locks for the roster.
That’s all for now. I’m not going to assign draft grades, because that’s beyond stupid and the methodology consists of 1) WHAT POSITIONS DO THEY SUCK AT? 2) DID THEY DRAFT PLAYERS AT THOSE POSITIONS? 3) ARE THOSE GUYS PLAYERS WE HAVE HEARD OF? 4)DID THEY MAKE TRADES? TRADES ARE AWESOME. I’ll just say that it’s interesting, considering that Jerry Angelo’s drafts often seemed nonsensical, that Phil Emery clearly has a philosophy based on emphasizing size and speed above all else. We’ll see how much that upgrades the roster, but nothing about this draft has dissuaded my from my early impression after the Marshall trade and the free agency roster upgrades that Phil Emery is the right man for the job.