For the first time in a long time I am looking forward to the Bears Draft. There are a litany of positions that could be addressed in the coming rounds by Chicago. The question remains however, which one will be addressed first and who will be picked.
Let's take a look at the Bears draft and the picks that could be the difference.
1st Rd: Jonathan Martin -OT Stanford
New Bears GM Phil Emery expressed that teams have called Halas Hall with interest in both moving up and down the draft board for favorable returns. He also alluded to the fact that they would also entertain those calls as he told ESPN,
“Getting calls, [from teams] wanting to know if [we want] to move up the board or teams [that want] to know if we want to move back,” Emery said. “We’ll do whatever it takes for us to get the best players that we feel can get us closest to the championship in the fastest way possible. There is a sense of urgency. We want to be as good as we can be this year, and moving forward. We also want to move and get to the players we feel can help us the most. If that means trading up -- that's a good option versus the risk involved -- then yes. If that means moving back and we feel good about that player list moving back, then yes, we would do that. We wouldn’t hesitate.”
Which "As I See It", would mean the possibility to move down the boards and pick up an extra pick in the later rounds. In that case, the pick that seems most obvious is Stanford's OT Jonathan Martin. At 6'6'', 304lbs the senior tackle is synonymous with the success of his quarterback Andrew Luck and allowed only 11 sacks in 13 games last season. Above all else, his NFL readiness is sky high, playing in an "pro-style" offense and more than likely not having to adjust much to an NFL scheme.
The acquisitions of WR Brandon Marshall, backup QB Jason Campbell, and backup RB Michael Bush make the Bears better immediately. However, the Bears need to address the protection issues that plagued them last season and were all in recipe with the injuries to both Jay Cutler and Forte - which consequently saw Chicago slip out of the playoff race.
Martin adds an immediate upgrade to the offensive line. The Bears will look to pick an O-lineman sometime in the draft and many writers and bloggers expect the Bears to select DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus from Illinois, however Chicago should use this early selection to address its most pivotal need going into this season.
The addition of San Francisco 49'ers guard Chilo Rachal is a smoke screen, the guard/tackle position needs to be addressed early, as Emery stated as well as the inquiries to draft positioning - that the strength of draft plays out with college guards being moved to tackle. It does appear however that the Bears are looking to draft college tackles that can be converted to guard.
2nd Rd: Jenoris Jenkins -CB Florida
At first, I agreed with the likes of Chicago Bears Huddle Dominique Blanton - and many other very good Bears writers in the need to address the question that is Johnny Knox heading into next season. However, with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall to the Bears No.1 receiver position and the consequential shift that follows, I believe this position isn't an immediate need to address in the early rounds of this year’s draft.
This takes me to the 28th ranked player in the Scout’s Inc. Top 32, Florida cornerback Jenoris Jenkins. Jenkins, registers at 5'10'', 193lbs and may be one the hardest hitting corners in the draft. Despite his height, Jenkins managed to collect a career total of 8 interceptions and 121 total tackles. Last season Jenkins registered his only interception for touchdown and 11 passes defended.
As this video shows, much like the Bears Base Cover 2, CB's are required to make breaks on the ball and use good football judgment at the blink of an eye. Against a good Alabama passing game, Jenkins looked poised and had his nose in most plays that came to his side. I have
3rd Rd: Ladarius Green -TE Louisiana-Lafayette
At 6'6'', 238lbs, the senior tight end from Louisiana-Lafayette has the track record that could translate well to the NFL. In his 4 years for U of L-Lafayette, Green caught a total of 148 passes, good for over 2,200 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns receiving.
In last season alone Green had 50 catches for 607yds and 8TD's (the highest of his college career). Ladarius would add another offensive weapon to the Bears that could serve as an ample replacement to the production that Chicago saw from Greg Olsen two seasons ago. Green also boasts a 4.53 40yd time, one of the highest among tight ends.
In 2010, Ladarius lead all tight ends in receiving yards (794), and touchdowns (7).
4th Rd: Jaye Howard -DT Florida
The Bears defensive line has been a staple of its defense for well over a decade. After the acquisition of Julius Peppers last season many expected the production numbers of the unit to increase. However, they dropped from 4th to 14th in the NFL in points allowed and recorded one less sack in 2011 (34) than in 2010 (33). And with the departure of Anthony Adams and Amobi Okoye, are looking to add to the defensive line.
Jaye Howard, a 6'3'', 301lb DT from Florida could be that addition. The senior DT recorded 11 sacks for his career, 2INT's, and a fumble recovery for touchdown. Howard should add to the depth of Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, and Matt Toeina in the interior part of Chicago's defensive line.
In 2011 for the Gator's, Howard posted 65 tackles and recorded 5.5 sacks and 2 passes deflected.
5th Rd: Rishard Matthews -WR Nevada
Rishard Matthews is coming off a stellar season at the University of Nevada. Matthews ranked among college football's best in 2 major receiving categories: 1,364 rec yds(8th), 91 receptions (13th). At 6'0'', 217lbs, the standout sophomore would be a sound replacement to Johnny Knox - who at this point is a definite uncertain for next season.
Matthews is also very strong for his size, posting 20 reps of 225lbs at the combine. In 2010 Rishard caught a pass in every single regular season game with the Wolf Pack. He was also second in the NCAA in all-purpose yards with 1,290 total yards.
I really like Matthews in the 5th round of the draft. As long as he stays there.
Here is the Pro Football Weekly Draft Profile on Rishard,
6th Rd: Vontaze Burfict -LB Arizona State
Brian Urlacher can't play forever. And it is unclear on whether or not Dom DeCicco (12 total tackles in 2011) will be that replacement. So ASU LB Vontaze Burfict seems to be the apt selection at 184th overall. Burfict, 6'1'', 248lbs, carries good size for the position and shows good pre-snap instincts. The overall analysis on Vontaze is that he is best suited for the Tampa-2 zone coverage, all necessary to replace Urlacher in the 4-3 Base D.
Ironically, some of Burfict's negatives may translate to positives on the NFL level. His biggest knock is on his wrap-up tackling - Vontaze tends to rely on lowering his shoulder and delivering big blows as opposed to the more technically fundamental style of bringing one's defender down. However, that mean streak style of play can easily bring immediate respect - and intimidation - to offensive players in the traditional "Black & Blue" division that boasts itself on hard-nosed defense.
As long as Burfict can keep it in the boundaries of the game, his physical style of play could prove beneficial for the Bears in the future. And if necessary, step in immediately.
7th Rd: Jaymes Brooks -OG Virginia Tech
Jaymes Brooks is huge. At 6'2'', 310lbs, Brooks filled a big hole in Va Tech's offensive line. Helping the Va. Tech earn the 24th best rushing attack in all of college football, Jaymes Brooks big frame and quick feet in pass protection will enable him to get through linebackers in run blocking.
As a 3-year starter in the ACC, he earned 2nd Team All-ACC accolades in his last two seasons. Brooks also is looked at to develop into a true guard, with a little work on the NFL level. Albeit on the shorter side of guards, his size in weight and power add another dimension to his game, and with the mix of speed and quickness, he would be a great addition to any team with a workable run game.
And the Chicago Bears happen to one of those teams.