Finding a safety looks like Bears' top remaining priority

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by ZifanQ, Apr 20, 2014.

  1. ZifanQ

    ZifanQ Pro-Bowler

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    Thin crop in draft means they might need to pick one in first round

    Brad Biggs
    3:41 p.m. CDT, April 19, 2014


    A busy offseason with more twists than Phil Emery could have predicted leaves the Bears in an interesting position with the NFL draft less than three weeks away.

    Depending on how things shake out, the Bears have signed or re-signed as many as seven starters on defense since a disappointing 8-8 season ended. They overhauled the front by adding ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, and veteran cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman return. Ryan Mundy is the projected starter at strong safety, D.J. Williams has the best shot — for now — of being the middle linebacker and Jeremiah Ratliff could win a starting tackle job.

    The draft will put the finishing touches on a rebuilding project for a defense that surrendered 478 points and 6,313 yards in 2013. Emery will seek offensive players with some of his seven draft picks, but the greatest need is impact players for an aging defense.

    Free safety remains unsettled. Coach Marc Trestman and Emery have been positive talking about fourth-year pro Chris Conte, but he won't retain his starting job without facing legitimate competition, and now he could be sidelined until training camp opens after shoulder surgery.

    When you consider the possibilities, four positions emerge for the No. 14 pick: safety, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback.

    There might not be a player who has ever been linked to the Bears in mock drafts more than Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the top projected three-technique. He had an extremely productive college career, and his stock has risen since the Senior Bowl. Some think he could sneak into the top 10. If the Bears don't pick Donald, the good news is there's quality depth at the position to consider in later rounds.

    Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley could be attractive in the first round as an impact player at a position in flux, with Lance Briggs the only definite starter. But does Emery want to draft a linebacker in Round 1 after using two of his first three picks there last year and shifting former first-round pick Shea McClellin to the position?

    The Bears don't need a starting cornerback for this year but might in 2015, and this is another position with solid depth in this draft, giving Emery Day 2 options for the second and third rounds.

    That brings us back to safety. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor are widely considered the two best in a thin crop. Most believe there's a significant drop-off to the next group that includes Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward, Washington State's Deone Bucannon and Florida State's Terrence Brooks. Ward and Bucannon could come off the board in the second round before the Bears pick again at No. 51.

    While the Bears lack an ideal three-technique to replace Henry Melton, and Emery regretted not having ample depth at tackle last season, the team has options and the dip in talent at tackle isn't as great. There isn't a lot to pick through at safety in later rounds, where the Bears have had mostly unfulfilling experiences drafting safeties in recent history, selecting one in each draft from 2005 to 2012. They never made second-round finds like Eric Weddle, Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward.

    The Bears believe they have a window to compete for a championship after an aggressive free agency period. But Emery couldn't fill every hole in free agency and didn't need to with a pick in the top half of the first round. There's no guarantee Clinton-Dix and Pryor will be available. The Rams, who pick 13th, are believed to be looking for help at the position.

    Emery can't create a player who isn't there at No. 14, and we don't know what grades the safeties will have in relation to players at other positions. Maybe he lets the draft come to him, meaning he goes into it ready to take the best player available without feeling obligated to get a safety.

    What we do know is the position is one of the last remaining bits of work for the offseason, and after the first round, pickings will be slim. Recent history shows to get a quality safety, you need to find one early.

    bmbiggs@tribune.com

    Twitter @BradBiggs

    Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/ct-biggs-bears-spt-0420-20140420,0,6371841.story


    Personally I would be happy with either Donald or HaHa, but I do feel that HaHa would have bigger impact than Donald and strengthen a weaker area.
    10 bucks on Emery not being one of them if both are available, anyone? ;)
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I still think he'd take Donald but chances of Dix being there are less than 10% and even Donald is only about 50%. I have to disagree with Biggsy on one if his points here though.

    I don't see that drop off in Safety talent to be as great as he thinks it is. Part of the problem is that in general this crop of Safeties, even at the top, is not as good as we've seen in some previous years. Neither Dix or Pryor are elite players who would be rated this high if some of the Safeties who've gone in previous drafts were in the mix.

    That necessarily knocks the second tier group down in comparison to those taken in the past but I don't see the spread between the top tier and the second tier as being that great. I think many are misinterpreting the comments that it's weak crop or that there's a lack of depth. Yes, in comparison to other years maybe so but within the group this year maybe not.

    Overall this is probably not the very best year to be drafting a Safety at the top of your draft. You aren't getting the type of player who was taken there in the past when Safeties merited picks in the top half of the draft. It's questionable whether Dix even deserves a top ten ranking period yet he'll probably go that high out of need and that lack of top players.

    This has to weigh into the Bears decision with that #14 pick. It's too bad our need is as great as it is but I think that's one reason Phil went out and signed several vet Safeties.......competition to get the best two on the field. I also think that he may pass on a 1st round Safety if he feels he can get a quality prospect in the 2nd and coach that player up.

    With the FA signings he did do and assuming Conte is healthy before camp Emery may not feel his need there is quite as desperate as many fans seem to. He signed vets all of whom have previous starting experience. They may be 2nd tier pros but they're far above Street Free Agents. I see the need at Safety but what I don't see is the sense of spending a prime draft pick on a guy whose not elite at that position if you can draft players who are.

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