NFL Draft: Bears’ way forward
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org April 24, 2013 10:36PM
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Eric Fisher (R) of Central Michigan Chippewas stands on stage with NFL COmmissioner Roger Goodell after Fisher was picked #1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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As active and aggressive as he was in free agency, Bears general manager Phil Emery likely doesn’t want that to be the norm during his tenure.
It just can’t be. It can be too expensive in a flat salary-cap world and too fickle to deal with year after year.
One big reason Emery was hired to replace Jerry Angelo was to stop the Bears from relying on parts from other organizations to fill key roles.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, left tackle Jermon Bushrod, tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive end Julius Peppers are among the Bears’ highest-paid players, but none was drafted by the team. Emery is responsible for some of those additions, but it’s a situation he walked into.
The only way to prevent that dependence is through the draft — make that, getting it right in the draft. Emery’s background in college scouting and all the resources poured into scouting by the organization have to pay off.
There have been positives, but the jury is still out on Emery’s first four picks in 2012: defensive end Shea McClellin (19th), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (45th), safety Brandon Hardin (79th) and tight end-turned-fullback Evan Rodriguez (111th). The Bears only have five picks this year.
The Bears’ four most pressing areas of need are linebacker, offensive line, cornerback and defensive line. A dream draft for Emery and Co. would be landing future starters at linebacker, offensive line and cornerback.
It helps that the linebacker, cornerback and offensive-line classes are deep. There are quality players who should be available at No. 20 and beyond.
Here are some players to keep in mind:
Linebacker — Alec Ogletree (Georgia), Manti Te’o (Notre Dame), Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Khaseem Greene (Rutgers), Kevin Minter (LSU), Jon Bostic (Florida), Zaviar Gooden (Missouri), Sean Porter (Texas A&M), Kiko Alonso (Oregon).
Cornerback — Desmond Trufant (Washington), D.J. Hayden (Houston), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State), Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana), Jamar Taylor (Boise State), Dwayne Gratz (Connecticut), Brandon McGee (Miami), Rashaan Melvin (Northern Illinois).
Offensive line — Kyle Long (Oregon), Larry Warford (Kentucky), Brian Schwenke (California), Barrett Jones (Alabama), Hugh Thornton (Illinois), Travis Frederick (Wisconsin), Justin Pugh (Syracuse), Reid Fragel (Ohio State).
“[Players] all need to be very thoroughly discussed, and the plan needs to get down on paper,” Emery said. “It’s a plan on paper. It’s a little bit in pencil. And you have to adjust as you go. You have to have some flexibility. But the planning process is far more important than the days of the draft.’’
With a bevy of players on their roster not signed past 2013 — including Cutler, Henry Melton, Major Wright, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Devin Hester, Roberto Garza, Corey Wootton, J’Marcus Webb and Robbie Gould — the Bears could be on the cusp of a significant overhaul.
Not everyone will be returning. They also can’t continue to rely on bringing in players on one-year deals to be starters.
They have to start getting it right in the draft.