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Saturday, April 27, 2013

2013 Bears Draft: Talent Trumps All

Every year I think it's expected that every blogger give their half-assed draft grades after the whole process is done. I've never really done that and still won't. The draft is a crapshoot and millions of dollars are spent trying to determine whether these kids are any good or not, and half or more of them will still fail. So I'm not going to say before anyone's taken a snap whether they're an A or a C. With that said, with all we have to go by being physical attributes, positions, and production...I am as excited about this draft class' potential as I can remember being at any point in recent years. Last year I was little more than cautiously optimistic about Shea, thrilled about Alshon, utterly befuddled by Brandon Hardin, surprised by Evan Rodriguez, and didn't expect much out of the rest (and none of them made the roster), but this year the Bears drafted talented players who fit clear needs in nearly every round, and it's quite possible all six players could make the roster and contribute on the field this year. That's the best you can really hope for.

#20 Overall, Kyle Long, OG, Oregon
So on last week's SKOdCast, we made a desperate plea to Bears fans to not immediately assume a guy sucks if the team drafted someone other than the names you kept seeing in mock drafts. Naturally they chose a surprise player and everybody lost their F*&KING MINDS.

After the dust settled, however, Long isn't really that big of a surprise. He was a top 30 player on ESPN's board, Scouts, INC had him ranked #26, he was the consensus third best guard in the draft...and the Bears badly needed a guard. Why is this so hard? As for the people who feel it's a reach, well, that seems unlikely for a guy who was a top 30 prospect. Some think the Cowboys traded back because they thought they could nab him and were shocked when he was gone and forced into taking Frederick. Others have said the Colts wanted him. I really don't care. In a draft like this, where top-level talent at the premier positions was largely lacking, the difference between a player at #20 and a player at #40 isn't that great, and those slots were going to be determined by team preference. If Long was their guy, and I have no trouble believing he was, it makes sense to me to take him as soon as you have the chance, because with nine offensive linemen off the board in the first round it wasn't likely he'd still be there later. Also, the 20th overall pick last year got $8 million for four years, so I really don't think the franchise is screwed if he bombs.

I don't think he will, though. He's a freak of nature athletically and he looks like goddamn Frankenstein's monster. Playing at guard he'll hopefully be less exposed as he learns on the run and his natural talent should help make up for his lack of experience. I don't think his inexperience is that much of an issue anyway, he got a full season of experience under his belt at a top five program (even if he only started five games) and started for a year at JuCo before that. The offensive line isn't exactly the most mentally demanding position on the field, and Aaron Kromer has a track record of developing linemen from Division II schools and turning them into immediate starters. I am excited to see what he can do, and unlike many, apparently, I'm willing to wait to see him do it before I pass judgment.

#50 Overall, Jon Bostic, MLB, Florida

Bostic actually makes the most sense of any linebacker that was in the draft for the Bears, if you think about it. He's not undersized for an MLB, like Arthur Brown, so he's less likely to struggle in the middle in the NFL, he was the 3rd-fastest linebacker at the combine with a 4.61 40, so he's more than capable of dropping deep into coverage in the Tampa Two, and he also made all of the calls in a Tampa Two style defense at Florida. I think Arthur Brown may have been a more tempting athletic prospect, but Bostic is as natural a fit as they were going to find, and the presence of DJ Williams keeps the pressure to produce immediately off of him.

#117 Overall, Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers

He's going to draw a ton of comparisons to Lance Briggs, who he's obviously intended to provide depth and a potential heir for, given his position, their similar measurables (and matching 4.7 40 times at their respective combines), and that's both unfair and understandable. No one can necessarily be Lance Briggs, arguably one of the two greatest players to ever play the OLB in a Tampa Two style defense, but Greene's numbers in college are promising in two categories where Lance has often thrived: impact tackles (gains of two yards or less that prevented first downs), where Greene led all college linebackers last year with 27, and forced fumbles (15 for his career). A lot of people will question his numbers by saying the scheme at Rutgers was designed to give him a free shot at the ball-carrier, but that's exactly what the Bears defense does for Briggs. It may have taken Urlacher's very rapid demise to give the organization some urgency, but it's nice to see them actively prepare for a world without their superstar linebacker. The Greene and Bostic picks should also put to a rest for all time the conspiracy theories that the Bears are still potentially planning a switch to a 3-4 in the near future, because Greene and Bostic fit exactly one type of defense perfectly, and it's the one they're already running.

#163 Overall, Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech

You never want to overrate the potential impact of a late round offensive lineman, but there's cause for optimism with Mills. He has good size and arm length and he was considered by many to be a potential 3rd round pick. Even more importantly is, as I mentioned with Kyle Long, Aaron Kromer's track record as an offensive line coach: Jahri Evans (4th Rd, Division II Bloomsburg University), Carl Nicks (5th Rd, transferred to Nebraska after two years of JuCo), Jermon Bushrod (4th Rd, FCS Towson), and Zach Strief (7th Rd, Northwestern) were all mid to late round picks mostly from small schools who have become Pro Bowl or All Pro caliber linemen under Kromer's guidance. Nicks and Evans both started and played well as rookies as well, so there's reason to believe that if Kromer thinks Long and Mills can play right from the start, he's probably right. Even if Mills is just a potential future starter and a guy who can add to the competition this year, it's nice to see that Emery has now added five completely new players to the offensive line, and that guys like Webb and Carimi (and hopefully even Garza) will have to earn both their jobs and their roster spots. The overhaul was long awaited, but better late than never.

#188 Overall, Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia

It's never a Bears draft without a defensive lineman (although we finally broke the 8 years long streak of safeties), but I didn't look into many defensive ends before the draft so I can't tell you shit about this guy. Mike Mayock says he's fast (4.55 40) and he likes the pick for a situational pass rusher. With Wootton, McClellin, and Kyle Moore (and the still possible return of Izzy) he seems to have the toughest task of cracking the roster of any of the picks, but we'll see.

#236 Overall, Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

Oh man do I approve of this. Marquess Wilson, ironically, is the only guy the Bears drafted that I've actually watched several games of, and I was hoping all along he might be an option for the team at some point. He's a first day talent (I don't know about first round, although some had him there before last season) who fell hard because of some admittedly concerning personal issues. As Iggins! can tell you, I'm not one to get scared off by drinking or pot (DRAFT THE WEED GUY! is one of my favorite chants on draft day, actually), but a guy who walked out on his team and made apparently false claims of abuse against his coaches probably has some maturity issues. In the seventh round, though? Absolutely worth the risk. He's 6'4'', he plays much faster than his 40 time (4.51, still not bad), and, like Jeffery and Marshall, makes himself a deep threat less through speed than his ability to create separation and fight for jump balls. In a best case scenario he's a solid #3 who rotates with Bennett, but he's also a similar type of player who can step in as a potential starter on the outside if Jeffery struggles or is injured again in year two. I just can't see a downside here.

Wilson also illustrates the difference between Phil Emery and Jerry Angelo's philosophies. If you look at the receivers that Jerry took in the 6th or 7th rounds (Derek Kinder, Marcus Monk, Jamin Elliot) or guys he signed as UFAs like Sanzenfucker or Mike Haas, Angelo preferred to go with productive college starters who lacked measurables but seemed valuable to a team through their hard work and potential production on special teams. Wilson was definitely productive (averaged 97 yards per game in his career at WSU), but Emery clearly values the potential of hitting on another big, physical receiver than on a smaller guy who might be more useful on special teams. High Ceilings, Low Floors (Emery) vs. High Floors, Low Ceilings (Angelo). Not that one option is necessarily better than the other over the long haul, but it certainly gives you more hope in the spring time when camp is still far away.

That's all for now. In short, I'm more than fine with taking a guard with tons of potential at #20 in a very odd draft, even if it may have been a bit of a gamble, but I'm even more excited about the depth and potential from nearly every round of the draft, more so than in recent memory. I can't wait for camp to start. While it's premature to tell whether they'll be any good or not, there's certainly a lot of questions I'm looking forward to seeing them answer. Go Bears.

Tune in to the SKOdCast this Wednesday for even more discussion of the draft.


Anonymous said...

Great Article, and like you I have no problem with the pick at #20. people can say all they want about not pickign different talent, but if they takle a defensive guy there and the Line is awful again, the offense sucks and then you have to rely on a Defense that at the end of last year was old and tired, good, but worn out.

Id rather try and give cutler more than a half a second to find a receiver to throw to than take a defensive guy or a TE who wont see the ball cause Cutler is on his ass again.

Erik said...

I think another thing that a lot of people fail to mention is that this defense will not by any stretch of the imagination be bad just because there's not the optimal player in that slot. Yes, somebody has to do it, but this was a top-five defense last season with Urlacher in there doing little more than high fiving and calling signals. So I think it's still going to be a good defense with even an average Cover 2 linebacker in there, where as leaving the line unattended is the reason we've been an almost-good team for the last five years.

Basically, you can either ensure that the defense remains "great" and do nothing to help the line; or you can shore up the line and take the risk that the defense might only be "really good" next season.