Chicago Bears: Ranking the Top 5 Players on the Bears' 2013 Draft Board
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Phil Emery sent an obvious message to coaches, players and fans of the Chicago Bears this offseason: We will win right now.
Emery has been far more aggressive than his predecessor, Jerry Angelo, in almost every way. While Angelo’s Jay Cutler trade left the Bears without two first-round draft picks and an additional third-round draft pick, Emery’s Brandon Marshall trade was an absolute steal (acquired for last year's and this year’s third-round draft picks).
Emery also traded up to make sure he got Alshon Jeffery in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Bears are 20th in the 2013 draft order and will select in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds (seventh-round pick was traded for Brian Price, now waived). The following slides explore a possibility of who Emery might select in each round to win now.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (Round 1)
A new left tackle is needed to protect Jay Cutler.
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Phil Emery has defended J’Marcus Webb several times during his career, but Webb’s ineptitude as a pass-blocking left tackle will likely lead to a change. There are actually a lot of tackles available in free agency, but Emery seems to really value youth at this position.
Eric Fisher has the prototypical build of a franchise left tackle (6’7”, 305), and he has incredibly quick feet to go with it. His agility would serve him well guarding Jay Cutler’s blind side.
Fisher spent most of his time at Central Michigan as a left tackle, and he distinguished himself as an All-MAC player his junior and senior years.
Some may be skeptical of Fisher’s ability since he played in the MAC. Joe Staley, a two-time Pro Bowler, also played at Central Michigan. Fisher said himself in a Yahoo! Sports article with Kevin Fishbain that “I had a chip on my shoulder coming out of a MAC school.”
The only problem is that Fisher’s stock skyrocketed since the Senior Bowl, and he might be drafted closer to where Luke Joeckel is projected than the second round. A large, quick and athletic left tackle would be a steal for the Bears at 20th overall if he is available.
Other First-Round Picks to Consider
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Jones is an extremely versatile and talented offensive lineman who could play any position. Considering the shaky state of the Bears offensive line, his flexibility could be vital. Jones might also be the next Olin Kreutz.
If Emery pursues a left tackle in free agency, adding Jones in the first round would give spectacular line coach Aaron Kromer plenty to work with.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
The Heisman candidate was a sure tackler the entire season—until the National Championship Game. Te’o misread some plays and missed some easy tackles on the nation’s biggest stage, which hurt his stock.
With Brian Urlacher creeping toward retirement, it’s important to get an heir for the Monsters of the Midway.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Ertz and Tyler Eifert are very similar prospects: athletic, big-bodied tight ends with great hands. Either would be an upgrade over Kellen Davis in the passing game.
Ertz gets the advantage because he’s slightly speedier (the Vernon Davis effect).
Kevin Minter, LB, Louisiana State University (Round 2)
Kevin Minter was a finalist for the 2012 Butkus Award.
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If the Bears take an offensive lineman in the first round, it is imperative that they draft a quality linebacker before the later rounds. LSU inside linebacker Kevin Minter would be one of the remaining talents that could fill Brian Urlacher’s shoes.
Minter stood out on LSU’s star-studded defense in 2012.
He has a great nose for the ball, and he proved himself as a reliable tackler and great run-stopper. He has average cover skills, and would need improvement to excel in a Cover 2.
Minter has one important thing in common with Brian Urlacher: He steps up in big games. Similar to the way Urlacher could take over a game (see: October 16, 2006), Minter’s best three games last season were against Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson.
He had 17 solo tackles and two sacks in the Florida game, a sack and a pick against Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and 19 total tackles and a sack in LSU’s bowl game against Clemson.
It has yet to be seen if Minter will be drafted in the first or second round. If he’s available after the first round, the Bears should make him the next Monster of the Midway.
Another Second-Round Pick to Consider
Kyle Long, OT, Oregon
This pick makes sense if the Bears go with a linebacker or tight end in the first round. Long’s NFL bloodline (father Howie and brother Chris, both professional defensive ends) makes him an attractive option.
He has a huge frame and great potential to build on already solid run- and pass-blocking skills.
Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois (Round 4)
Terry Hawthorne could provide depth to a position ravaged by free agency.
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The Fighting Illini had a terrible football team in 2012. Terry Hawthorne still managed to stand out enough on an atrocious team to merit serious NFL consideration.
Over the past two years, Hawthorne registered 104 tackles, 12 passes defensed and four interceptions. He needs improvement in his coverage skills, but he is a solid tackler. Hawthorne would be a nickelback at best anyway, after Pro Bowlers Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
D.J. Moore has been a good nickelback, but he is a free agent. Zack Bowman and Kelvin Hayden are also free agents, so it makes sense for Emery to fill this position in the draft.
Hawthorne is a large, smart corner who could contribute valuable situational snaps. It doesn’t hurt that he went to Illinois.
Another Fourth-Round Pick to Consider
Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Terron Armstead can play any position on the offensive line. The Bears could use him regardless of whether they get a lineman in free agency or the first two rounds.
Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (Round 5)
Conner Vernon owns several ACC career receiving records.
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With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett, some might argue the Bears don’t need another wide receiver.
On the other hand, Marshall was responsible for a disproportionate amount of the offense, and the Bears need another threat in the event of an injury. Additionally, the later rounds are a good time to go with the best available.
Enter Conner Vernon, owner of 3,749 career yards and 20 career touchdowns at Duke University. Vernon is only 6’0” and possesses average speed for an NFL wideout. He has very sure hands and could be a great slot receiver, though.
Vernon’s experience in a major conference will help him in the NFL. He seems like a bigger and more talented version of Dane Sanzenbacher.
If the Bears draft him, expect him to see the field on occasion and make an impact.
Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas (Round 6)
Chris Gragg is an athletic tight end with some injury concerns.
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Chris Gragg’s leg injury derailed a promising senior season. He posted 518 yards his junior year and was well on his way to eclipse that number. Gragg could be a late-round steal.
Gragg is a bit undersized at 6’3”, but he is very fast. If the Bears still haven’t taken a tight end by this point, Gragg would be a nice gamble. Gragg came to Arkansas as a wide receiver, and he could provide a boost to Chicago’s passing game.
Gragg is not a finished product, and this is one pick that would not help the Bears win next season. Gragg could develop into a quality player over a span of several years, however, and still boost a struggling group of tight ends.