I can hear the shrieks now.
Why on earth would Bob and I take another wide receiver over a cornerback or safety?
Bob's reasoning was simple: Criner is easily the Best Player Available. Bob had Criner as a third-round option in one of his mocks.
While I agree that Criner is easily the Best Player Available, I have another reason for this pick.
Almost everyone and their brother—if they are Bears fans—want an offensive line upgrade. In fact, we all want an offensive line upgrade more than we want a cornerback or safety upgrade.
The theory goes that "What good does it do to have all these receivers if we can't keep quarterback Jay Cutler upright?"
But there are two ways to keep Cutler upright.
One way—and the most obvious way—is to improve the offensive line. Despite what Lovie Smith recently said, the line isn't very good—particularly at left tackle.
The other way—the less obvious way—is to improve the offensive weapons.
New England, the New York Giants and Green Bay all have a below-average offensive line. Yet they all still put up Madden-like points on the board because of the number of talented receiving weapons for their quarterbacks.
And ultimately, winning games is about scoring more points than the other team.
On the other hand, the Bears receiving weapons—Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Devin Thomas, Dane Sanzenbacher, even Earl Bennett at times—haven't been very good. At least not good enough to string two good receiving games in a row.
And when the receivers aren't good enough to get open, the quarterback is forced to hold on to the ball longer.
And when the offensive line isn't very good, a quarterback who holds on to the ball longer is more likely to get sacked. Or killed.
Conversely, receivers who are good enough to consistently get open shorten the time that the line needs to pass protect.
So if Bob and I don't agree on the offensive tackles in the draft to improve the team, the other way to help both Cutler and the offensive line is to have a bevy of offensive playmakers for Cutler to unload the ball to.
The 6' 2" 220 lb. Juron Criner is just such a playmaker. Though he had a poor 40 time—4.63—scouts unanimously rave about Criner's football skills. He runs very crisp routes, has good hands and separates well from defenders.
Criner's hands, football skills and elite size give the Bears a third legit red zone weapon with Brandon Marshall and Rueben Randle. With this trio, along with Earl Bennett as the No. 4 receiver, Robbie Gould should mostly be coming onto the field to kick extra points rather than field goals.
In fact, Criner ranked as high as just outside the Top Five receivers by draft guru Mike Mayock.
Aside from a very solid season, Criner also outplayed all the cornerbacks who tried to cover him at the Senior Bowl, routinely beating guys like Ryan Steed and DeQuan Menzie.
Janoris Jenkins did cover him well on one play at the Senior Bowl but that was one play on an otherwise uncoverable day for Criner. Furthermore, Criner as the third Bears receiver on the field will likely face lesser-quality defensive backs.
Adding Brandon Marshall brought the Bears offense into the 20th century. Adding Rueben Randle in this draft brings the Bears offense into the 21st century. Adding Juron Criner along with Randle makes it elite.
With Marshall, Randle and Criner on the field, at least one of them is certain to be open. And if defenses try to bring the heat on Cutler, they could get burned.
On the flip side, if defenses would rather put more defenders in the secondary rather than on the line, that will also incidentally give Cutler more time to throw.
Either way, adding Criner is one way to help Cutler's offensive line.
It also gives Cutler an elite passing attack to rival any in the NFL.
As a bonus, drafting Criner forces Lovie to stop fantasizing about getting Hester more involved in passing plays. With Criner on board, Hester is strictly our kick/punt returner now, Lovie. Period. End of story.
As with the third round, we considered safety Antonio Allen. And we considered cornerbacks like Steed and Menzie. But we couldn't pass up the guy who routinely made terrific catches against Steed and Menzie.
And we couldn't pass up a guy who indirectly improves our offensive line, which is an area more important than cornerback or safety.
Consider that the New York Giants during the 2011 regular season had a below-average defense and that Green Bay and New England had the two worst defenses in the entire league. Yet those three teams have proven you can be perennial Super Bowl contenders even with really bad defenses—as long as you have an elite offense.
And the Bears defense, for all its individual holes, as a unit was not as bad as Green Bay or New England. For all the hand-wringing from Bears fans (including me) about the Bears defense, the unit actually was above-average last year.
That doesn't mean the Bears defense doesn't need upgrades. It just means it's not as dire as it seems.
So if Green Bay and New England can overcome bad defense with elite offense, what can the Bears do with an elite offense complementing an above-average defense?
Could be really scary for the rest of the league.