Bears' First-Round Pick Could Be a Surprise Again
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery surprised nearly every fan when he chose Shea McClellin with the 19th pick last year, and he may do it again.
Flashing back to last year, McClellin was viewed as a good player and great athlete, but not necessarily a fit for a 4-3 defense. One thing Emery has said numerous times throughout this offseason is that he doesn't draft for scheme, but rather the best players who can "transcend schemes."
McClellin was a good example of that, and we could see it happen again this season.
While the Boise State product wasn't viewed as a good fit for the Bears, he wasn't viewed as a reach. Scouts Inc. (subscription required) had him as the best outside linebacker and 19th best overall prospect.
Most mock drafts have been based on what people think are needs for the Bears, with many of the same names being thrown around.
If he Emery has a surprise up his sleeve again this year, it's going to be hard to predict the pick, but here are a few of the candidates.
Sylvester WIlliams, DT, North Carolina
Williams is a tank who would be a perfect player to pair with Henry Melton.
Although his combine workout didn't necessarily show the kind of athleticism Emery likes, Williams showed elite explosiveness in an ESPN Sports Science study. There, they focused on his explosiveness and power generated from his lower body.
That burst was also noted in his Scouts Inc. profile (subscription required). They said he "fires off the ball and has the initial burst to consistently win the battle for initial positioning."
The light-footed Williams was reportedly asked to participate in linebacker drills during his pro day.
His weakness is supposedly his pass-rush skills. Scouts Inc. (subscription required) rated him as an "average" pass-rusher, but that might not be a big deal for the Bears. With a defensive line of Melton, McClellin and Julius Peppers, Williams could focus on holding ground and collapsing the pocket.
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
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Jones' 40-yard dash of 4.8 seconds at the NFL combine wasn't particularly impressive for a 4-3 defensive end, but if he's viewed as a defensive tackle, it's another story.
Most scouts look at Jones as a defensive end in a 3-4 or a run-stuffer in the 4-3, but the Bears could use him like they used Israel Idonije last season.
At the combine, Jones was measured at 6'4" and 283 pounds. That is perhaps a little lengthy for a defensive tackle, but he showed good strength, doing 29 bench-press reps.
The Bears played Idonije at defensive end and moved him inside in passing situations. The result was 48 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Idonije is a free agent, and at this point it seems unlikely he'll return, so the Bears will have to find a way to replace that production.
Jones would give the Bears an immediate replacement for Idonije and could move to the starting 3-technique job if they're unable to retain Melton after this season.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
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This one may not be a surprise on the surface. It's already been reported that the Bears are interested in Ertz, but it would be a surprise if they took Ertz over Tyler Eifert, the consensus top tight end.
Ertz and Eifert were viewed as close prospects up until the combine, where Eifert had a much better showing. At the combine, Eifert came in bigger and more athletic. He ran a 4.68 40-yard dash and showed a 35.5-inch vertical at 6'6", 251 pounds. Ertz was an inch shorter, two pounds lighter, ran the 40 in 4.76 seconds and only showed a 30.5-inch vertical.
His pro day, however, was another story.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Ertz ran 40 times ranging from 4.57 to 4.63 seconds and had a vertical of 35.5 inches.
Ertz has also been working out with Brent Jones, the former 49ers tight end. Jones had 60 catches—the second highest total in his career—in 1995 when new Bears head coach Marc Trestman was his offensive coordinator.
That shared connection could be viewed as a tiebreaker for the Bears and could make Ertz the 20th pick.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
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Early in the process, the Bears were viewed as a likely landing spot for Fluker. That changed when they signed Jermon Bushrod and moved J'Marcus Webb to right tackle.
However, Fluker could still be the Bears' pick if he's available.
How Webb will fare at right tackle remains to be seen. Switching sides isn't as easy as most seem to think and it would be nice if the Bears had a backup plan.
Should Webb have success at right tackle, the Bears could plug Fluker in at guard, giving themselves a dominant run-blocker at that position.
According to the team's website, former first-round pick Gabe Carimi only worked with reserves at guard in the team's recent minicamp. That—and the fact that they signed former Jaguars second-round pick Eben Britton—could be signs that he is no longer in the team's plans.
Fluker could give them an anchor at either right tackle or right guard, what they hoped Carimi would be.
E.J. Manuel, QB. Florida St.
This is a pick that could have nothing to do with Jay Cutler, or it could have everything to do with Jay Cutler.
I think the Bears believe Cutler is a franchise quarterback and that they have to put the right pieces around him, something the previous regime failed to do.
However, they have to be prepared.
Cutler has taken a lot of hits and suffered a few concussions. The Bears have to be prepared if he breaks down physically for both the short-term and long-term.
There is also the possibility that Cutler and Trestman don't get along or that he isn't the right fit for the offense.
Manuel is considered by many to be the most physically talented quarterback in the draft class.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski compared him to Colin Kaepernick (subscription required) when he broke down the top quarterbacks in the class.
Studies done by ESPN's Sports Science showed him to be the most accurate passer in this draft. He's also thought to have the best arm and great mobility.
Taking Manuel with the 20th pick would likely be a reach, but should the Bears trade back in the first round, he could be their choice.
In an ideal world, Cutler would be the franchise quarterback the Bears believe him to be and Manuel would develop into a Kaepernick-type of player. That would give the Bears a good problem to have.