Make no mistake—while Jerry Angelo made his share of mistakes as Bears GM, the reason he got fired was his poor draft record. And while it's way too early to call his first draft a failure, Emery's fate will eventually be determined, at least in part, by his own performance in the draft.
Emery's initial draft last year does not look promising at this point, but again, it's too early to fully judge. Still, his first pick, Shea McClellin, was a surprise, and to many, an overreach. At the very least, Emery likely could have scooped him up with a later pick. While he showed some flashes last season, McClellin is still viewed largely as an outside backer in a 3-4 scheme, rather than a DE with his hand on the ground.
Call it stubbornness if you must, but Emery does not appear to have any plans to move McClellin to the middle. He says he is a DE, and I'm sure Emery feels his scouting ability is tied to that judgment. Meanwhile, his second-round pick, Alshon Jeffrey, shows potential as a possession receiver, though he lacks big play capability. Still, this could be Emery's best selection long-term.
The rest of the draft is equally uncertain. Emery's third-round pick, Brandon Hardin, didn't make it on the field. And his next selection, undersized TE Evan Rodriguez, showed that Emery dances to the beat of his own drum when it comes to drafting players. Like McClellin, Emery is unafraid to take a risk.
Perhaps Emery's biggest miscue last year was his failure to draft even one offensive lineman. However, with the signings of Bushrod and Bennett, Emery is free to use his first pick to take the best player available, which is always the best strategy, even though it can be a difficult thing to adhere to.
Besides the draft, the other potential legacy for Emery will be what he ends up doing with Jay Cutler. Will he sign the QB to a long-term deal or let him walk after the season? And if his “QB whisperer,” Marc Trestman, can't turn Cutler around, who will he sign or draft to take his place?
Yes, the draft will be an important piece in which to judge the success of Emery, and with only five picks this year, he will be under more intense pressure to pick wisely. I still feel he looks to trade down and possibly even out of the first round, in an effort to get additional picks.
But no matter what happens, the draft will either be the panacea or the undoing of Mr. Emery. Choose carefully, Phil.
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