How Each Draft Pick Fits into Chicago Bears' Plan in 2012
At this point the dust has settled from the NFL draft. Time has set in, and knowledge about each player has circulated. Phil Emery has proved thus far he is willing to go against the grain and pick the kind of player he deems fit, no matter who is there to critique him.
From the looks of his first draft, it seems as if Emery likes versatile players with big-play ability. The new draft picks will get acclimated to their new teammates and coaches in rookie camps, OTA's and eventually training camp. The question is how do each of these players fit into the Bears' plans going forward next year?
Here's a look on how the Bears will use each one of their draft picks going forward.
First-Round Pick Shea McClellin
For months many figured a pass-rusher was on the Bears' radar with their first-round pick. Not many thought they would go with Shea McClellin out of Boise State.
McClellin has good size to play the defensive end position opposite Julius Peppers. He is 6'3'' 260 lbs with great speed. His 4.63 second time in the 40 at the NFL Combine was the second fastest among defensive ends.
The Bears plan to primarily use McClellin at the defensive end position, but do not be surprised if he plays some outside linebacker and drop back in coverage from time to time. He is hard-working with a great football IQ. He always seems to have a knack for finding the football and has tremendous technical skills.
Picture McClellin as the kind of player who will be in the right place at the right time. When you are playing opposite a tremendous player like Peppers, that kind of skill is a huge benefit to a team. When given the chance and a lineman makes a mistake, McClellin will show off his explosiveness and beat Peppers to the quarterback from time to time.
Second-Round Pick Alshon Jeffery
The Bears went out at the beginning of the free-agency period and acquired big-play receiver Brandon Marshall. However, the most potent offenses in football have multiple big-play options. This is why the team felt the need to trade up for South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
If you are a seasoned Bears fan, you are used to smaller receivers. Those days are fading fast. Jeffery is listed at 6'3'' 216 lbs. The knock on him coming out of the season was he was overweight and couldn't run well enough for the next level. Well, he showed up to his pro day in shape and ran a 4.47. Phil Emery said Jeffery graded out top three among receivers in the draft for them.
The health of Johnny Knox is still a question. Earl Bennett is a good slot receiver, and Devin Hester has tremendous speed, but who helps Marshall in the red zone? Jeffery's size gives Jay Cutler a secondary target in that area to throw the ball to, thus taking pressure off of Marshall.
In addition to his red-zone ability, expect Jeffery to make big plays over the middle of the field and use his size to overpower smaller defenders. He also gives Knox and Hester the opportunity to focus more on stretching the field and returning the football—two areas in which both players excel.
Third-Round Pick Brandon Hardin
How could the Bears take a player who missed the entire season last year? That was probably the biggest question of the draft, but there is an easy answer. Brandon Hardin is not only healthy, but his size and versatility could make him a starter in the very near future.
Hardin did miss the entire 2011 season with a fractured shoulder, but he returned in time to play in the East-West Shrine Game. Had he have been healthy all year, he would probably have been drafted in one of the first two rounds.
His size stands out immediately. Hardin checks in at 6'3'', 220 lbs. Although he started 12 games as a junior in 2010, the Bears plan to use him as a strong safety. His tough physical style and great tackling ability are the reasons behind the position change. His cover skills also allow him to match up well with slot receivers and big tight ends.
The Bears have other options at safety, but none of them are considered irreplaceable. Hardin could push Major Wright and Chris Conte for a starting position in training camp. He could also be one of the real steals of the draft going forward.
Fourth-Round Pick Evan Rodgriguez
Former GM Jerry Angelo traded away pass-catching tight end Greg Olson before the start of last season. Kellen Davis has shown some potential to be the primary pass-catching target from the tight end position, but Evan Rodriguez gives the team a more fluid option.
Rodriguez is undersized compared to other players at his position, but he is very athletic and can catch the football very well. He is 6'2'' ,244 lbs and played some fullback as well in college. He is referred to as "a poor man's Aaron Hernandez" by nfldraftcout.com. That shouldn't come as much surprise given his college coach, Steve Addazio, at Temple was the offensive coordinator at Florida during Hernandez's tenure.
There is some baggage with Rodriguez, but his last incident was in 2009. The Bears will use him and his 4.56 speed as a pass-catching tight end on the line of scrimmage. It is very possible he will catch passes out of the backfield and in the slot.
Sixth-Round Pick Isaiah Frey
Starting corner Charles Tillman is a nine-year veteran who is north of 30 years old. Tim Jennings, Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite are all 28 years old. D.J. Moore is the other corner at 25 years old. The team knew it needed to add some youth and depth to the position.
Isaiah Frey showed some impressive cover skills last year. The 5'11", 188 lbs corner led the nation in pass breakups last year. His 4.46 time shows he has solid speed, and in the Cover 2 defense, he fits in well as a blanket corner.
Initially, Frey will be looked upon for depth and special teams. He needs to be coached up in terms of footwork, but going forward he could be an important piece to a Cover 2 defense because of his great cover and ball skills. There is a possibility he could turn into a starter after a year or two in the NFL but could fin immediately if an injury arises.
Seventh-Round Pick Greg McCoy
The Chicago Bears have been known for their exceptional special teams for years now. Special teams coach Dave Toub always has the third phase primed and ready to go despite who the team loses each year. Last year it was Daniel Manning, and this year it will be Corey Graham, but the mentality has always been next man up.
Greg McCoy is the next man. The 5'10'', 181 lbs corner has good speed at 4.44. At Texas Christian he was a 13-game starter the last two seasons at corner and was also the team's primary kick returner. He will not be a starter at the corner position for the Bears, but you could see some of his return game come into play.
Going forward, McCoy should be the team's ace on special teams. His speed and agility should come as a plus as he gets down the field to cover punts and kicks. His ball skills from playing corner will be a plus on possible turnovers in special teams, and his return game provides great security going forward.
Special teams should never be ignored, especially when they are as important as they are to the Bears.