Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery seems to put a lot of stock in workout numbers when it comes to the draft, but he almost certainly has a list of players he would take if the NFL draft were to happen tomorrow.
After the college season and Senior Bowl, general managers get a good feel for players they like. If those players perform well in the combine, it's a bonus. Of course, there are also players who come from nowhere with great performances and make them take another look at the tape.
The main concern for the Bears is their defense, which ranked 29th in scoring and 32nd against the run. The Bears' defensive line was gashed with injuries and, as a result, opposing running backs who had little trouble picking yardage.
The Bears also had major issues on the back end of their defense as both starting safeties—Chris Conte and Major Wright—struggled in coverage and tackling.
The first step to fixing their defense is getting players who can provide at least a little resistance at the line of scrimmage. While an upgrade at safety is also needed, it won't help much if they give up over five yards per carry like they did in the second half of 2013.
At this point, we don't know which of their own free agents the Bears will retain so any speculation on who the team may be targeting is just guessing. I would expect the Bears to be active in free agency, but as of now I'd expect them to target guys who can rush the passer or guys who can put them in better position to get after the quarterback by stopping the run.
This is not a list of the best players in the draft, but rather these are the best players who fit what the Bears are expected to be looking for. At the bottom of the board, you'll see players the Bears would more likely consider after trading back or in the second round, should they fall.
25. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Easley was commonly thought of as one of the top defensive-line prospects in this draft before tearing his ACL this season. He was a dominant player in college prior to the injury, the second such injury he has suffered. The uncertainty of how he'll recover will likely cause him to drop in the draft, but he could end up being the best defensive lineman if he comes back at 100 percent.
24. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Amaro may not necessarily fit a need, but he's a weapon. As good as the Bears were offensively last season, they could always use more weapons, and Amaro would make their Ace package (two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back) next to impossible to defend.
23. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
At over 6'3" and 323 pounds, Jones is big and athletic, exactly what the Bears need along their defensive line. Jones could play a number of positions along the line, depending on what scheme they're looking at.
22. Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor
Like the other safeties in this class, Dixon is thought to be a big hitter, but there are more questions about his coverage skills. If the Bears are going to be asking their safeties to spend more time in the box, he could be the pick.
21. Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State
Perhaps the top pure strong safety in the draft class, Bucannon has good size and range. NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang, via CBS Sports, said he made his mark "by producing big plays and turnovers," something the Bears need more of on the back end of their defense.
20. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
At 6'6" and 272 pounds, Martin picked up 11.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss last season. He could set the edge for the Bears as a 5-technique in the running game and move inside on passing downs where Scouts Inc. (subscription required) refers to him as "disruptive."
19. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
The combine will be a huge interview for Sutton, who either has to show that he lost weight or that he can still be effective at over 300 pounds.
NFL.com's Chase Goodbread said Sutton played at 267 pounds as a junior when he picked up 13.5 sacks. He then ballooned to well over 300 pounds and had nine fewer sacks as a senior. Was it because of the added weight or other factors? That is the question Sutton will have to answer. If he answers it correctly, he'll be an interesting prospect.
18. Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Quarles led South Carolina with 9.5 sacks last season as he moved along their defensive line. Former NFL scout Greg Gabriel said, per National Football Post, he could play 5-technique or nose tackle in a 3-4. He's big (6'4", 298 lbs) and athletic, and he figures to start right away in the NFL.
17. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Maybe not an ideal fit for a hybrid defense, but Shazier has shown the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline in every facet of the game. He figures to check in at just over 6'2" and under 230 pounds, but Shazier registered over 140 tackles at Ohio State last year and has 12 sacks over the last two seasons.
16. Stephon Tuitt, DE. Notre Dame
Tuitt may be the physical prototype, but there are questions about his consistency. It's thought that Tuitt will check in at around 6'6" and over 300 pounds as he played 5-technique for Notre Dame the past two seasons. He had 12 sacks as a junior and 7.5 as a senior. Gabriel, former NFL scout, said he could see Tuitt going anywhere from 20 to 40 in the draft, noting his consistency as the only major problem.
15. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Widely thought to be the second-best cornerback in the draft, Dennard would be an instant starter for the Bears should they choose not to retain Charles Tillman. He may not be a shutdown corner, but Dennard is a solid prospect.
14. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman is considered a physical freak, but his lack of production is a bit puzzling. He totaled just 10 sacks in his collegiate career, but that may not prevent him from being a first-round pick. He's 6'6", 318 pounds, and if he tests out as well athletically as some think, he could skyrocket up the board.
13. Justin Gilbert, CB OKlahoma State
Gilbert is a very good athlete and a playmaker, but he's relatively low on this list based on need. Although widely regarded as a top-10 to top-15 pick, he's not considered a shutdown corner. The Bears already have a lot invested in Tim Jennings so they may not want to invest that much at the position. If they're able to fill other holes in free agency, however, Gilbert could be the pick.
12. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jernigan is a player many are already projecting to the Bears, and he could end up being the No. 14 pick. He's considered a versatile run-stuffer who can play anywhere along the defensive line. His stock soared after the national championship game. At just 20, it seems that he has a lot of upside, but he may not yet have as good of measurables as some of the other prospects.
11. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Not a need at all, but Ebron could be too good to pass up. He's among the most interesting players to watch at the combine, where's he's expected to showcase the athleticism that made him dangerous at North Carolina.
A source told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller that Ebron is the "cleanest tight end prospect since Vernon Davis." If the Bears are able to plug other holes through free agency or believe they can with other draft picks, Ebron could make their Ace package lethal.
10. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Another in a long line of great Alabama defenders, there's some question about where Mosley will play in the NFL, but there's no question about his talent. He may be a little small to play inside, but he could make up for that with speed and instincts.
9. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Pryor would be the top safety in most draft classes and still may end up being that this year. He's physical and has great range. It will be interesting to see how he tests out at the combine.
8. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Clinton-Dix looks to have the slight edge on Pryor right now after a terrific season at Alabama. Clinton-Dix has shown great range and instincts in coverage, something that would be very valuable playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers.
7. Dee Ford, LB/DE, Auburn
NFL teams always covet players who can get around the edge and get after the quarterback, and Ford is that kind of player. While there are some concerns about his size, he's built similarly to 2013 sack leader Robert Mathis. He picked up 10.5 sacks in his senior season at Auburn and was one of the standouts of Senior Bowl week.
6. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Perhaps the biggest standout at the Senior Bowl, Donald is looking to prove that he isn't too small to produce in the NFL. His production at Pittsburgh is next-to-impossible to ignore as he finished with 29.5 career sacks and 66 tackles for loss. The biggest question is his ability to hold up at the point of attack, but if the Bears pair him with a two-gap defensive tackle, it shouldn't be an issue.
5. Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
While he was primarily a nose tackle in Notre Dame's 3-4 defense, it's commonly thought that Nix can play inside in any scheme and might be able to play the 5-technique in a 3-4 in the NFL, much like Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork do for their teams. Nix weighs over 340 pounds, but he doesn't look like it. He has above-average athleticism and could be the kind of player whom the Bears build their defense around.
4. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Ealy is an interesting prospect with a great combination of size and athleticism, and he could be ideal for a hybrid defense. Ealy can play any number of positions, and if the Bears run a hybrid defense and select Ealy, they could move him all over to create mismatches.
3. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr is a bit of an enigma. He was very productive at UCLA and is thought to be an excellent athlete, but he's very raw. He didn't start playing defense until 2012, but he racked up 23.5 sacks in two seasons at UCLA. He's compared to DeMarcus Ware by CBS Sports, and they also say he's athletic enough to play linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He may be a dream pick for a general manager who loves raw talent.
2. Khalil Mack, LB/DE, Buffalo
Although he played at a small college, Mack is widely thought to be a top-10 pick. That said, it wouldn't be shocking if he dropped to the Bears at No. 14 due to some character concerns.
He's considered to be more polished and stronger—therefore a better run defender—than Barr with similar athleticism. He played a linebacker/defensive end role in college and would fit right into that same spot in the NFL. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports compared him to Robert Quinn of St. Louis.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The odds of Clowney dropping to the Bears aren't good, but who would've guessed Sharrif Floyd would drop outside the top 20 last season? While Clowney is thought to be a better prospect than Floyd was, the basic thought remains. There could be a run on offensive players—specifically quarterbacks—and some teams may like Ealy, Barr or Mack better.
That combination of events could leave Clowney to the Bears. Certainly unlikely—considering Clowney is thought to be the best player in this draft class by many—but not out of the question, which is why he has to be on the Bears' board.
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