Who Are the Experts Predicting to the Bears in the First Round of the NFL Draft
The Chicago Bears have made a bunch of moves to beef up their defense so far this offseason, but that hasn't changed many mock-draft projections.
Since the process began, most mock-drafters had the Bears taking either a defensive tackle or a safety, and that holds true to this day, with the same names being thrown around.
Most of those doing the mock drafts, however, haven't studied what Bears general manger Phil Emery has done in past years or what he has said leading up to the process. Emery wants explosive athletes, as that has been made evident by his first two draft classes as well as the comments he made at this year's combine, per ChicagoBears.com.
Still, some draft experts have players who lack athleticism pegged for the Bears.
In the following slides, you'll see some of those picks along with my analysis.
All height/weight and combine information courtesy of NFL.com/draft/2014.
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Analyst(s): Rob Rang, CBS Sports
I tried to limit this list to players listed on more than one "expert" mock draft, but I also felt the safety position should be addressed.
Louisville's Calvin Pryor is seen as more of a strong safety and hard-hitter than Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but I don't see the Bears taking either with the 14th pick.
The Bears did reportedly visit with Pryor, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago, and likely will with Clinton-Dix at some point as well. They have to do their homework on every player, but the past two years lead me to believe they'll go in another direction.
As I noted in previous slides, Bears general manager Phil Emery looks for high-level, top-end athletes, and neither of these safeties are that. Many scouts feel that Clinton-Dix is overrated because he played at Alabama, and they also feel that Pryor doesn't have elite cover skills.
They both graded in the "Mr. Average" category on the Ourlads Combine Rankings. Neither are nearly as athletic as Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward, Florida State's Terrence Brooks or Washington State's Deone Bucannon. Given their previous draft history, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears had all three of those players rated higher than the consensus top-two safeties.
Unlike with FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, neither Clinton-Dix nor Pryor would be a complete surprise to me, but I don't see either of them as a highly likely selection either.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Since the Bears beefed up their defensive line via free agency and both of their projected starting cornerbacks are on the wrong side of 30, the selection of a corner has become a popular pick for the team.
Whether Dennard is the player they'd choose is the biggest question, as there is no consensus on who the top cornerback in the draft is.
May scouts love the athleticism and playmaking ability that Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert provides, while others like Dennard's physicality. Of course, there are also some who prefer Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, who the Bears hosted for a visit on Tuesday, per Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.
It wouldn't shock me if Dennard ended up being the pick here. While he may not be as athletic as Gilbert, he isn't a bad athlete. He graded out 11th at the position on Ourlads Combine Rankings, but that was still "above average."
As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller notes in the above video, Dennard is physical, which is a trait Bears general manager Phil Emery said they will be looking for in cornerbacks.
There are those who question Dennard's upside, however. The fact that he isn't a superb athlete—especially for his size (5'11", 199 lbs)—make some wonder if he'll translate well to the NFL, while others wonder about his ball skills.
With so many differing views on the top cornerbacks, it's hard to say what Emery sees. If he determines that Dennard is athletic enough, this could very well be the pick.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman just seems like a Phil Emery draft pick. If you go through the criteria that Emery said he's looking for, Hageman fits just about every part.
At 6'6" and 310 pounds, the Minnesota prospect showed incredible athleticism at the combine. Out of defensive linemen who weighed over 300 pounds, Hageman tested out with the highest vertical, best 40-yard dash time and the second-best broad jump.
He also did 32 bench-press reps, which is very impressive when you consider his arms are more than 34-inches long.
With those physical traits, he'll have the ability to play either defensive tackle spot and could even play defensive end in some sub packages.
The knock on him is that he's raw and he didn't always dominate at the collegiate level like his physical skills indicate he should.
It's important to note that he didn't start playing on the defensive line until he got to Minnesota. He has a lot to learn, and the ability to teach is a large part of the reason why the Bears hired Paul Pasqualoni as their new defensive line coach.
Hageman's production wasn't great, but he did finish with more career sacks than Florida State's Timmy Jernigan and had just one fewer tackle for a loss—all while learning the position on the fly.
The upside of Hageman is incredible. His physical traits are comparable to Ndamukong Suh's. He needs some work, but if the Bears are looking for a player who can contribute right away with high upside, Hageman may be the pick.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
I never say never, but I really don't see the Bears taking Timmy Jernigan.
In a meeting with reporters before the combine, Bears general manager Phil Emery said "when we swing, we're going to swing on the high side of athleticism." He also noted prioritizing versatility. Those are two things that Jernigan doesn't offer.
For starters, Jernigan doesn't match up physically. While he isn't small (6'2", 299 lbs), his arms measured under 32 inches long at the combine. That's actually shorter than Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald's measurables, a guy who is two inches shorter than Jernigan.
Players with short arms have had success in the NFL, but they typically find success because of exceptional athleticism; Jernigan doesn't have that either.
The FSU tackle didn't test out well anywhere at the combine and was rated as the 13th-most athletic defensive tackle by Ourlads Scouting Service. In Emery's previous two drafts, only two players he selected failed to rate as "above average": 2013 draft picks Khaseem Greene (fourth round) and Jordan Mills (fifth round). The odds of Emery using a first-round pick on such a player aren't good.
Of course, part of Jernigan's game that nobody seems to talk about is that he wasn't particularly productive at FSU. He had just 4.5 sacks last season, 2.5 of which came against Idaho State.
Of course, there's more to getting pressure than just sacks, but Jernigan doesn't appear to have the skill set to be a top pass-rusher in the NFL either. Jernigan doesn't have the athleticism or build to play the 3-technique, and he might be too small to be a nose tackle.
I don't see Jernigan as being worthy of a first-round pick, especially not to a GM who values athleticism more than most.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
In my opinion, there are just a few prospects this year who are locks to be very good and possibly cornerstone players in the NFL, and Donald is one of them. That's the reason why I don't think he'll be available for the Bears with the 14th pick.
It's hard to think of the last time a player like Donald entered the league. He's often compared to the Bengals' Geno Atkins because of their similar physical statures. Donald is a hair smaller, but he has longer arms and is a bit faster, stronger and quicker.
When it comes to prospects who may be available for the Bears at 14, Donald tops my board.
Outside of height (6'1"), there aren't many bad things to say about Donald, and it's debatable if his height is even a negative. Many feel that his low base gives him an advantage in terms of leverage.
He isn't a dominant run defender, but that won't be a problem if he's used properly. He may not hold up at the point of attack as well as some others, but his quickness allows him to shoot into the backfield.
With as much attention as they've already given to their defensive line this offseason, the Bears could see bigger needs elsewhere. Or they may go with a player they feel has more versatility and possibly a higher upside (e.g., Ra'Shede Hageman).
Of course, I'm not sure they'll even be able to make a decision on Donald. Players with his physical ability and collegiate production don't come around very often, and they usually go high when they do.