Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Chicago Bears 2012 Draft: My Evaluation

After a decade of dismal drafts I was like most Bear's fans and was glad to see General Manager Jerry Angelo go earlier this year. After other teams seemed to snap up most of the top tier General Manager candidates I have to admit I thought they settled when they chose Phil Emery as the new General Manager. I was also suspicious of the fact that as a condition of his hiring Emery was prevented from firing head coach Lovie Smith. Not that I feel Lovie should be fired, but management structure in American business, including the NFL, has a defined hierarchy, which the Bear's organization set aside in this case, causing some to feel they made themselves look foolish and disorganized.

 But Emery was bold right out of the, trading two third round picks (one each in 2012 and 2103) for Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall. In my opinion it was a great trade, especially since the Bears already had an extra 3rd rounder from the Panthers for Tight End Greg Olsen. Emery went on in free agency to add several unspectacular but essential pieces to fill in needs at several positions, leading one to believe the draft would be used to fill out the roster with immediate impact players. When the draft started I was like almost everyone else in believing the Bears would draft a pass rusher that could put Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers on their backsides. Then this happened...

                     1) Shea McClellin DE/LB Boise State
Like probably every other Bears' fan in the Universe, I was too dumbfounded to even groan when I heard this pick announced. After I collected myself I went through all the stages of loss, and before the second round even began had reached acceptance. The Bears were going to take a player to line up on the end across from Julius Peppers and go after quarterbacks, but was this the guy? Six defensive linemen went immediately preceding the Bears' pick, including Melvin Ingram at #18 by the Chargers, probably the player the Bears were looking at, but I don't know anyone who saw this pick coming. He's small, not very strong, and doesn't have a true position in the NFL. Worst of all, there were still several pass rushers still on the board and many teams were showing interest in moving up to get the Bears' pick. They could have moved down, got a pass rusher every bit as good as McClellin, and added a pick later. McClellin could very well turn out to be a great NFL player, but when the General Manager makes a point to mention special teams when referring to the first round draft pick, I get nervous. I didn't like this pick. What I did like was...

2) Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina
When the Bears traded up in round two I was excited because I thought this was it, they were finally going to draft a Tackle. Jay Cutler has spent more time on his ass the past three years than a government employee, and since the Bears did nothing in free agency to address the problem here it was, the pick we were all waiting for, a road grating tackle. Right? Wrong. The Bears selected Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver from South Carolina. And I wasn't disappointed one bit, because another thing Jerry Angelo was notorious for was not drafting wide receivers. Bears fans have suffered through decades of having nothing to get excited about at the wide receiver position. Roy Williams? Are you kidding me? Now the Bears have two beasts at wide receiver. I like this because now that Jay Cutler won't have to drop back seven steps and watch his wide receivers robotically fleeing down the field to get to the positions insane former "genius" of offense Mike Martz blindly insisted upon no matter what the reality of the defense (or the decade) was, Cutler can take a normal drop, look up, and see two huge targets to choose from. True, he might drop back and the first thing he sees is three defensive linemen in his face, but on the plays when the tackles do actually block someone he'll have targets, and I think Cutler can find them. I like this pick. Third round...

3) Brandon Hardin Free Safety Oregon State
Okay. Deja vu here. Last year I was watching the draft and excitedly awaiting the Bears' third round pick and when Chris Conte's name was announced I had that familar WTF Jerry Angelo reaction for multiple reasons, most of them being he was a player no one had rated that highly. A player he could easily gotten later. A player not even at the top of the list of available players at the position. Ditto 2012. Who is this player? He didn't even play last year. This was the spot for Bobbie Massie, the highest rated Tackle still on the board, not another damaged goods, white defensive back who probably would have fallen two or three rounds. Meet the new boss... Having traded the fifth rounder away to get Jeffery, the fourth round pick became even more crucial in filling immediate needs (offensive line, offensive line). So I woke up today assured the Bears would finally acknowledge that if you have Pro Bowl talent at QB, WR, and running back, it might be a good idea to put offensive linemen in front of them who aren't doing an imitation of the turnstiles at Grand Central Station. Here it comes, here it comes...

4) Evan Rodriguez TE Temple
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! Round four was Tight End round, with five teams opting to go for this new upgraded position. But here's my problem with this pick: even among the new paradigm for the "move" Tight End in the NFL, Rodriguez doesn't seem to fit. He's 6'1. Runt of the litter. Martz crippled the Tight End position in Chicago, so we don't even know what a real Tight End looks like, but I think they're taller than this. The Bears don't pick in round five, and I feel assured they'll draft a token offensive lineman in either rounds six or seven, but the odds of getting anyone who can play is slim, so I'll summarize my reaction to the Bears 2012 draft now.

I can't believe this new General Manager, who was hired expressly because he was considered a keen evaluator of collegeb talent and a shrewd draft expert, drafted players who have no defined position, lack the size, strength, or natural skill sets required for those positions, or in the case of Hardin haven't even played in over a year. The first four rounds are NOT the time to take chances on players you think might blossom into great NFL players, but have questions. Those are players you wait for while drafting mean-ass looking, day one ass-kicking players like 

Courtney Upshaw, who the Ravens drafted with their first pick at the top of the second round. No issues here. He's not injured. He's not undersized. He knows what position he plays. This guy looks like he's about to rip the head off a bull and drink its blood. The Bears' first round pick looks like he's about to feed the chickens. Even the pick that made me happiest, Alshon Jeffery, is a player who has weight and off field issues. There's no reason to take on this much baggage and have this many questions about the first four players you take in any draft. Especially since you didn't acquire impact players in free agency. My grade of the Bears' 2012 draft up to this point...


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