6 Players the Chicago Bears Should Target on Day 2
For the second year in a row, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery made what some are calling a questionable reach pick with his first selection. Last year many objected to the selection of Boise State linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin and some feel the same about Thursday night's selection of Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long.
Long was projected by many as a second-rounder, but he was viewed as the third-best guard behind Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack. He has limited experience having played only 11 games at Oregon, starting just four. No one will truly know how good or bad the selection is until he sees him on the field, but it has left some scratching their heads.
Heading into the second round there are plenty of guys who were expected to go earlier in the draft that look to still be available when the Bears select again in the second round. Long expects to push for time at either guard position or possibly at right tackle, but it still leaves an opening for a variety of positions that could get a look with the 50th overall pick on Friday night.
Here are six players the Bears should target on Day 2 of the NFL draft.
Arthur Brown, Linebacker, Kansas State
For the first time in 13 years, Brian Urlacher is not a member of the Chicago Bears after the team officially announced they would not be re-signing him for the upcoming season.
With both Urlacher and Nick Roach departing, the Bears were swift to signing veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson as their replacements, but they still lack depth and a long-term solution at the position.
Enter Arthur Brown.
Viewed as a touch small for the position (6', 241 lbs), Brown has been an extremely productive linebacker at Kansas State and has seen his stock continually rise throughout this offseason.
His good vision and instincts are two of his best qualities. He has been consistent at shedding blocks and getting to the ball-carrier. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at the combine and has good enough speed to remain as a middle linebacker at the next level.
He will need to improve on his coverage skills, as he sometimes relied on his speed to make up for his own mistakes.
Brown has the flexibility to play both outside and inside linebacker, but he could be gone before the Bears select in the second round. Some teams may be scared off by his size, but he has all of the tools to become a solid linebacker in the league.
David Amerson, Cornerback, North Carolina State
Despite the fact that in 2012 the Chicago Bears sent their two starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings to the Pro Bowl, the team still lacks youth at the position.
The team recently re-signed veteran Kelvin Hayden to play nickelback next season, but with Tillman and Jennings' contracts set to expire after next season, the team needs to find potential replacements if one or both move on.
In 2011, North Carolina State's David Amerson was one of the most highly-touted cornerbacks in college football following a season in which he intercepted 13 passes and was awarded the Jack Tatum Award for being the nation's top defensive back.
He was expected to improve upon his solid sophomore season in 2012 but struggled at times with getting beat deep. Nevertheless, he did finish with five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
At 6'1" and 205 pounds, Amerson has ideal size for the position. He plays aggressively in pass coverage and epitomizes the ball-hawking cornerback stereotype. He was burned at times last season because of getting caught trying to make a jump on a play and was subsequently burnt deep on double moves.
He would benefit from playing in a Cover 2 system like the Bears plan on doing under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, as his lack of elite speed does not allow him to match up well with receivers in man coverage.
Amerson has all of the tools to be an elite cornerback. Prior to this past season, he was regarded as the best cornerback prospect heading into this draft. If he can learn to harness his over aggressiveness and improve his defense on the double move, he could become one of the steals of the draft in the second round.
Brian Schwenke, Center, California
Only two offensive linemen started all 16 games last season for the Bears—J'Marcus Webb and Roberto Garza. While Webb got his fair share of criticism, Garza went much of the year without much criticism placed on him despite having a down year.
Garza played well in 2011 when moved from guard to center but struggled in many areas in 2012. With him having turned 34 earlier this year, the team will need to look to the draft to get younger at the position.
Cal's Brian Schwenke showed off his versatility throughout his time with the Golden Bears, seeing extended time at both guard positions before becoming the team's starter at center this past season.
He possesses a quick first step off the football and uses his quick hands effectively. His low center of gravity lends well to the position, and because of his versatility, he could compete for some playing time at guard. He has a terrific low pad level that allows him to be effective against stronger defensive tackles.
He will need to improve his shotgun snaps and also work better at maintaining his blocks when he gets to the second level. He struggles at times sitting back in pass protection and will need to improve how he engages as a pass-blocker.
Schwenke could be viewed as a reach in the second round, but considering the team's need for a young center to groom, he would be a perfect fit.
Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Despite the additions of D.J. Williams and James Anderson to the linebacking corps to replace Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, the Bears still are in need of youth at the position.
The expected starting linebacker trio of Anderson, Williams and Lance Briggs has the potential to be one of the most solid starting groups on the 2013 defense, but the Bears lack depth and experience behind those three.
Currently, the team has six other linebackers signed: Blake Costanzo, Dom DeCicco, Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas, Patrick Trahan and Lawrence Wilson, with only Costanzo having having any experience as a starter (one game).
LSU's Kevin Minter's aggressiveness and ability to read offenses effectively have scouts believing he can be a solid contributor right out of the gate.
He is an effective blitzer and shows great timing but also has the ability to drop back into coverage. He shows a willingness to attack blockers and shows off a good swim move and uses his hands well to beat them.
He needs to work on improving his tackling and needs better hip fluidity to cover quicker and faster tight ends and running backs in the NFL.
Minter has the intangibles of playing for an LSU program that has year in and year out been one of the best defenses in the country.
There could be a run at the linebacker position considering how few were chosen on Day 1 but if available, Minter would be a great addition. It would be unlikely that he would vie for much playing time behind Williams in the early going, but he could use the opportunity to better understand the position. With Williams signed to just a one-year deal, he could be in position to be the starter in 2014.
Stedman Bailey, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Despite the great productivity out of wide receiver Brandon Marshall last season, the Bears still lacked any other threat in the passing game. The addition of Martellus Bennett at tight end and a likely new focus on getting the ball into Matt Forte's hand out of the backfield will help, but the Bears still need a wide receiver than can help stretch the field vertically.
Although he is not as highly regarded as his former West Virginia teammate Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey was the more reliable and productive Mountaineers receiver over the last two seasons.
In 2012 he had 114 catches for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns and has started 35 games over the past three seasons.
He is a solid route-runner that uses his quickness off the ball more than his speed to get past defenders and get himself open down the field. He does a great job of tracking the deep ball and does a great job of getting inside position on defenders with his good body control and maneuverability.
His size is his biggest detriment (5'10" 193 lbs) but he shows toughness on the field and has drawn some comparisons to Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith. His 40-yard dash time was not blazing (4.52), but having quick feet and being a smart route-runner more than make up for it.
Bailey would immediately vie for playing time in the slot if he were selected by the Bears and could also line up on the outside and pose a vertical deep threat opposite of Marshall. Bailey has been expected to go anywhere from the mid-to-late second round to the middle half of the third round. If the Bears feel he can make an immediate impact in 2013 they should pull the trigger on selecting him.
Travis Kelce, Tight End, Cincinatti
All around the NFL the tight end has become the en vogue position with every team trying to find the next Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. The Bears signed veteran tight end Martellus Bennett this offseason with the hope of providing quarterback Jay Cutler with a pass option in the middle of the field. Despite the addition of Bennett, the team could still be looking for another impact player at the position.
Cincinnati's Travis Kelce is regarded by some as the most complete tight end in the draft, combing great blocking with soft hands and the ability to get open in the middle of the field.
He does not have top-of-the-line speed, but he does have deceptive quickness, particularly when getting off the line of scrimmage. He is an aggressive blocker who is an above average run-blocker and uses his hands well to engage defenders.
He runs crisp routes and can stretch the field vertically but is still rather new to the position having been recruited as a quarterback and missing all of the 2010 season for violating team rules. His 2012 season saw him burst onto the scene with 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns and he has seen his stock rise this offseason.
While not necessarily a big area of need for the team, Kelce could provide another solid blocking tight end addition but one with the ability to stretch the field vertically and that would provide another big target for Jay Cutler.