Chicago Bears Draft Picks Could All Become Key Starters
When a team drafts players in the first few rounds, it expects those players to start in either their first or second season. The team hopes players taken in the fourth or fifth round will blossom to become solid reserves at least. For players in the sixth or seventh round, the hope is that they'll make an impact, but not much is expected.
The Bears, however, managed to come away with six players who could become starters within the next three seasons.
The thought and expectation are that first-round pick Kyle Long will be starting at guard when the team opens training camp.
Although he didn't have a lot of starting experience in college, his rapid improvement is worth noting. He went from a defensive lineman in junior college to a starting offensive guard for one of the best offenses in the country in just two seasons.
The perception that the Bears could have traded back or gotten Long in the second round is not true, according to his father, who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In the second round, the Bears selected a superbly athletic run-stuffing linebacker.
Jon Bostic didn't have the monster stats of other linebackers, but as I noted in a story I did about the linebackers in early April, it was in large part because of his unselfish play.
I don't know if Bostic is going to be able to beat out D.J. Williams this season. He could use some fine-tuning, but he was an impact player for one of the best defenses in college football and should be for the Bears.
I expect fourth-round pick Khaseem Greene to start at strong-side linebacker this season and eventually move to the weak side when the Bears and Lance Briggs part ways in a few years.
Greene is a former safety who had no trouble playing physically when he moved up to the front seven. As Bears area scout Sam Summerville said in an interview with the team website, "When he hits guys, they go to the ground."
Both Bostic and Greene are raw, but their incredible athleticism will enable them to outperform where they were drafted.
Mills is a tackle who will start out on the right side for the Bears, but—as general manager Phil Emery acknowledged in his press conference after drafting him—they will move him around.
With J'Marcus Webb and Matt Slauson both on one-year deals, the Bears can keep the player who plays the best and plug Mills in to replace the other one.
With the sixth and seventh-round picks, the Bears chose players with a lot more upside than you'd expect to find late in the draft.
Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington looks the part of a dominant defensive end.
At 6'4" and 265 pounds, Washington has a rare combination of size, strength and speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at the combine, where he also put up 36 bench-press reps. He was the fastest and second strongest defensive end there. Because of that physical talent, Bears national scout Mark Sadowski referred to him as "avatar" in an interview with the team website.
In many ways, Washington reminds me of Henry Melton coming out of the draft. He's a freak athlete, but that didn't translate onto the field at Georgia.
Sadowski noted that he may have played out of position at George, where he was lined him up in three different spots. None of them was as a 4-3 end, which is where the Bears will play him.
"If they would have put him at one spot, he would have had more sacks. Or just more production," said Sadowski.
If he is able to reach his physical potential, the Bears will have added a dominant player in the sixth round. It's not often that can be said.
Their seventh-round pick is a player who could have and would have gone in the top half of the draft had it not been for an immature mistake.
By now, most fans know Marquess Wilson's story. Essentially, he accused Washington State head coach Mike Leach of abuse and quit the team. If you can look past that, the team picked up a great prospect.
Wilson had more than 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman in 2010. In 2011, he caught 82 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was on that pace again in 2012 before leaving the team.
At first glance, Wilson's combine numbers don't wow anyone. He has good height at 6'3" but is slender at 194 pounds. He had the second best time in the three-cone drill and was the only player above 6'2" to finish in the top 10.
At just 20 years old, Wilson will not only mature mentally but physically. He won't reach his physical peak for a few years.
Although he might struggle against press coverage right away, his time in the three-cone drill suggests he could work in the slot right away and help the team.
It would be unrealistic to expect every drafted player to reach his full potential. However, the fact that the Bears managed to draft six players who are talented enough not only to start but be very good starters is a rarity.
Expectations should be tempered at least until these athletes play their first games, but the Bears are a more physically talented team now than they were a week ago. If the coaches can give them some fine-tuning and the players put the work in, this draft could go down as a great one for the Bears.
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