2012 NFL Draft Grades: Chicago Bears' Complete Draft Report Card
While I understand this is a honeymoon period for Emery as the new Bears GM, I'm still going to a realistic analysis of the picks rather than be an Emery fan-boy.
To recap the Bears' picks:
Round 1: DE/OLB Shea McClellin.
Round 2: WR Alshon Jeffery.
Round 3: S Brandon Hardin.
Round 4: FB/TE Evan Rodriguez.
Round 5: pick traded to St. Louis.
Round 6: CB Isaiah Frey.
Round 7: CB Greg McCoy.
It was a surprising draft to be sure. But how good was it?
I'll not only grade each pick, but also—just as importantly—I'll grade the draft as a whole. As a bonus, I'll also compare our draft to that of our main rivals—the Packers.
First Round: DE/LB Shea McClellin
I've already written about the McClellin pick, so I won't rehash it here.
At the time, I graded the pick as a B-plus on the basis that McClellin's versatility in playing either DE or LB gave the Bears flexibility in picking up a pure DE or LB later in the draft.
However, now that the draft is complete and the Bears did not add DE or LB, I'm lowering the grade for the McClellin pick to a B.
The Bears will likely play McClellin as DE. Strangely, though, the Bears did not draft a linebacker, despite a solid linebacker class in this year's draft and a need at the position.
And if the Bears are going to play McClellin as a DE, there were several other more accomplished pass-rushers on the board in Nick Perry, Whitney Mercilus, Chandler Jones and Courtney Upshaw.
What's more, since we now know in hindsight that the Bears did not draft any offensive linemen, they should have considered adding David DeCastro, arguably the best plug-and-play guard to come along in several years.
Despite all that, McClellin's upside keeps him as a B pick. It was a solid move but not a pick I love.
Second Round: WR Alshon Jeffery
This round is actually a tale of two stories.
The first story is that the Bears traded up to get wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Let me start by saying how thrilled I am that the Bears spent a high pick on a wide receiver.
But that's where the thrill ends.
Jeffery played at over 230 pounds at South Carolina, drawing concern that his weight caused a lack of deep speed.
He dropped down to 216 pounds at the combine, but his speed remained unchanged, clocking in at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Jeffery raised eyebrows when he refused to do any other testing or on-field drills.
At his pro day, Jeffery's 40 time was officially 4.49 seconds, despite weighing in at 213. He did do tests, registering an impressive three-cone time, but he also notched unspectuacular broad jump and vertical jump numbers for a receiver his size. Jeffery caught balls well, but his route running is still suspect, as he struggled to quickly get in then out of breaks.
At Halas Hall, Emery disputed similarities to draft bust Mike Williams, saying, "I saw Mike Williams. He's not as athletic as Alshon. I see them on different levels. Mike was more of an inside receiver."
What's more, draft gurus Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper both say that upon review of Jeffrey's game tape, Jeffery does not get separation from defenders, which was Mike Williams' perceived problem entering the draft as well.
So Jeffery is not a slam dunk pick.
The second—and mostly unnoticed—story is that the Bears traded their fifth-round pick to move up five spots to nab him at No. 45.
The Bears needed every pick they could get. In fact, it's debatable whether the team should have tried to get more picks, not fewer picks. (Emery did get calls offering the team more picks to trade down from No. 19 overall.)
And when you consider that Rueben Randle—considered by Mayock, Kiper and Tony Pauline as a better receiver than Jeffery—was still available (and would have been at the Bears' original spot of No. 50 overall), trading away your fifth-round pick to move up was a dubious move.
Jeffery may turn out to be better than Mike Williams. I'm willing to be open-minded about Jeffrey's potential and trust Emery that Jeffery is not the next Mike Williams. But the bigger question is: Will Jeffrey be significantly better than Randle?
That is an important question to answer because there is that fifth-round loss to also factor in. And if Randle turns out to be similar to Jeffery—which I do expect—this move was a bad one.
Grade: C- (edit: was previously a D)
Third Round: S Brandon Hardin
I thought we got rid of Jerry Angelo.
Yet, here's Emery taking a prospect who comes pre-injured.
In fact, Emery may have out-Angelo'd Angelo because third-round pick Brandon Hardin's injury (broken shoulder) caused him to miss the entire 2011 season.
Emery said Hardin is “medically sound, ready for minicamp," which is what Angelo said of his pre-injured draft picks, too.
What's also curious is that Hardin—a cornerback—projects to free safety, not strong safety. Yet, I thought strong safety was the bigger need for the Bears, and apparently the team isn't very confident in Chris Conte.
Worse than that, the offensive line and defensive tackle areas were both much bigger needs than free safety. Defensive tackles like Brandon Thompson, Alameda Ta'amu and Mike Martin were still available, as were O-linemen Ben Jones, Bobbie Massie and Brandon Mosley. OT Nate Potter is also still out there.
Safety George Iloka lasted until the end of the fifth round. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but if the team stuck to its needs and didn't trade away its fifth-round pick, it could have picked up Iloka—a second- or third-round talent—in the fifth round.
All in all, this was a disappointing pick. Even if Hardin pans out to be a solid player, Emery apparently let Lovie talk him into picking a minor need over a major need.
Fourth Round: FB/TE Evan Rodriguez
Self-proclaimed as a poor man's Aaron Hernandez, the Bears took fullback Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round with plans to play him exclusively as a "move" tight end.
However, Rodriguez did not have near the collegiate production Hernandez did, despite playing against far inferior competition.
Emery envisions that as a pass-catching tight end with blocking experience as a fullback, Rodriguez will force defenses "to stay in more of their base [defense] instead of bringing in a nickel or sub-package personnel and match up with a straight-seam tight ends."
However, tight end is not a major need for the Bears offense.
Once again, the Bears passed up on OT Bobbie Massie, whom Tony Pauline ranked ahead of even Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams. Massie may not be Kalil, or even Donald Stephenson (who was snapped up by Emery's former boss in Kansas City), but again, he is arguably the better player, almost certainly better than J'Marcus Webb, and fills a major need.
Other talented players the Bears passed on include LBs Ronnell Lewis and Keenan Robinson, DTs Jared Crick and Jaye Howard and CBs Alfonzo Dennard and Brandon Boykin.
If you're going to take someone with character issues like Rodriguez, Dennard fills more of a need than Rodriguez.
Fifth Round: No Pick
The Bears traded their fifth-round pick to move up five spots in the second round.
Several great values were available in this round, including safety George Iloka, fifth-rated 4-3 outside linebacker Josh Kaddu and cornerback Shaun Prater.
On the offensive side of the ball, receivers Marvin Jones and Juron Criner were also fantastic values here.
Picking a linebacker, cornerback or defensive tackle in the fourth round instead of Evan Rodriguez would have allowed you to take one of these two productive and talented receivers in the fifth—a much better value than taking Rodriquez in the fourth.
Of course, the Bears didn't have their fifth-round pick, which, as I stated in my analysis of their second-round pick, it was short-sighted. The Bears needed more picks, not less, and still, they could have gotten a top-5 WR.
My grade for this lack of a pick is factored into my grade for the second round: C-minus
Sixth Round: CB Isaiah Frey
My first thought upon hearing about Frey was: Who?
Alfonzo Dennard was still sitting there, a consensus second-round prospect. Yes, Dennard struggled in the Senior Bowl and assaulted a police officer—I wrote previously to avoid him in the second round.
But sixth round? Are you kidding me? The value is enormous.
I know some will argue that "all the the other teams passed him up too, so there must be a reason for that."
Unfortunately, that's a weak argument. There are numerous examples of prospects who were repeatedly ignored by "all the other teams" until a team finally took a chance on them and became All-Pros, like Carl Nicks, Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil and Tom Brady.
Apparently, Emery wanted to continue the theme of reaching instead.
Outside of Dennard, there were other prospects available too. Cornerback Chase Minnifield was a very good value here. Also, if the Bears didn't reach for Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round, they would have also had a shot at receivers like Marvin McNutt and Tommy Streeter here. Linebacker Danny Trevathan was also a better talent than Frey.
Seventh Round: CB Greg McCoy
With the Bears' seventh-round pick, I again said, "Who?"
Amazingly, Emery passed on Alfonzo Dennard again. He also passed on Chase Minnifield again. Even Trevin Wade was a higher-rated cornerback than McCoy (or Isaiah Frey, for that matter).
For a guy who said at his introductory press conference that he wanted playmakers, Emery kept passing them up. It's really remarkable since the risk is so low here in the seventh round, but the ceiling is so high.
Excluding Dennard and Minnifield, Emery also passed up OT Nate Potter and DT Kheeston Randall. Even taking a flyer on DE Cam Johnson here in the seventh round was a value I don't understand passing up.
And if the Bears didn't reach for safety Brandon Hardin in the third round, safety Antonio Allen would have been a steal here in the seventh round.
With Frey and McCoy, perhaps Emery is looking more at their special teams potential. But special teams coordinator Dave Toub can work with whatever you give him. There's no need to pass up possible offensive or defensive contributors to draft special teams guys who could have been signed as free agents.
Overall Draft Grade
This is still the "honeymoon" period for Phil Emery.
I also want to believe in Emery. He came to Chicago with a reputation as a very good scout.
But I also want to look at these picks objectively—analyzing them without any presuppositions about who made the picks—rather than evaluate these picks with my lips on Emery's rear end.
The easiest way to objectively grade them is to ask yourself: If Jerry Angelo made these exact picks and trade instead of Emery, would my opinion of this draft change?
The dubious trade up that resulted in the loss of a valuable draft pick was a terrible move.
The reaching for questionable players who were not major needs was a complete head-scratcher.
But just as important as who was taken is the problem of who was not taken.
By not taking a solid offensive tackle despite numerous opportunities, this draft was absolutely inexcusable.
By not taking a solid defensive tackle despite numerous opportunities, this draft was a failure.
If Angelo made these picks, he would have been skinned alive and dropped in a pot of boiling oil before the draft concluded on Saturday.
This draft was so shocking that the cynic in me almost wants to believe that Emery wants to sabotage Lovie so that he can hire his own coach next year.
I know many Bears fans will disagree with me. The Emery loyalists will say, "Look! He signed a steal in undrafted free-agent left tackle James Brown."
Maybe, but Brown projects to guard in the NFL—and a fourth- or fifth-round guard at that. It seems more likely that Brown will compete at guard, and Chris Williams will switch back to left tackle to compete with J'Marcus Webb.
Nevertheless, I will hope I am wrong about this draft. We'll all know in a few years.
Meanwhile, the Packers had a fantastic draft again. DE Nick Perry, DT Jerel Worthy, CB Casey Hayward, DT Mike Daniels, LB Terrell Manning and OT Andrew Datko are all excellent values for the rounds they were all drafted in. And even worse, the Packers also added the guy I was hoping the Bears would get: Undrafted free-agent receiver Dale Moss, a potential star in the making.
The disparity in the two drafts could not be more stark. This is why I had pushed for the Bears to interview Packers' Director of College Scouting John Dorsey shortly after Angelo was fired. Dorsey is the reason why the Packers can lose former Director of Player Personnel Reggie McKenzie to Oakland and still have an outstanding draft.
I had such high hopes for a great draft from Emery.
This was not it.
Overall draft grade: D (edit: was an F but bumped up due to solid McClellin pick and Jeffery potential)