Phil Emery likes numbers. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bears filled a big need on Thursday night in the first round of the NFL Draft, selecting cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech to play both cornerback and nickel back in their defensive scheme. The pick expressed the kind of versatility that GM Phil Emery is looking for out of his players on that side of the ball as Mel Tucker reworks the defense, but there’s still plenty of work to be done as the draft enters its second day.
Without further adieu, here are a couple of positions that the Bears could address with the 19th pick in the second round and the 18th pick in the third round.
The Bears still have a need at defensive tackle, but while a guy like Aaron Donald won’t be coming to Chicago, there are still a few guys who could interest the Bears in this spot.
At the top of that list has to be two guys with big upside, as Will Sutton and Stephon Tuitt could potentially be available at the number 19 slot. Sutton has had some off-field issues, missing the 2011 season because of academic concerns, but his on-field strengths are still exciting. He is short and compact like Donald is, but has strong hands and can play both tackle and end in a 4-3 defense. He is quick off the line and can pursue guys down the field, which isn’t an ideal circumstance for a defensive tackle but is still a nice asset to have.
As for Tuitt, he may not have the girth of teammate Louis Nix III, but he has a lot of other things working in his favor. He is hugely athletic and just a huge guy in general, towering at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds. He is quick and has great versatility, and is fantastic at shedding blocks and getting into the backfield. He does have a few weaknesses, but in general his strengths far outweigh those, and he could be an excellent pick for the Bears if he’s available.
There is another strong possibility that Emery could consider. Timmy Jerningan, the Florida State product whose draft stock has plummeted because of consistency questions and a positive drug test at the combine, was one of the first guys to be linked up to the Bears when mock drafts started being published in January, and the team could very well pull the trigger on him in the second round if he's still available.
The Bears do have a glut of linebackers with Shea McClellin jumping up to the position from defensive end, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to bolster the spot even further on their depth chart. Guys like Jeremiah Attaochu and Telvin Smith should be available when the Bears pick in the second round (Kyle Van Noy will likely go off the board early), but both players have question marks attached to them.
For Smith, his lack of bulk could end up becoming a hindrance for a Bears team that needs guys with strength to help stop the run. He is also blocked fairly easily at the line of scrimmage in blitz packages, and that isn’t something that Tucker is likely going to be enamored with. As for Attaochu, he seems to be a guy that could fit more in a 3-4 defense, but that hasn’t stopped Emery before. He lined up some at defensive end and outside linebacker for Georgia Tech, so his versatility and quickness could end up being something that the GM is intrigued by.
Yes, Matt Forte is the incumbent and arguably one of the best running backs in team history in the backfield, but this pick isn’t about replacing him, but rather about complementing his skill set and giving him some downs off next season.
Michael Bush is no longer in the picture as he was cut for salary cap purposes, and there are a couple of intriguing options for the Bears to consider if they end up drafting a running back on Friday. One of those options is bulky Jeremy Hill, a 6-foot-1 233 pound behemoth out of LSU. He is a powerful runner that relishes hitting guys when he’s carrying the ball, but there are a couple of flaws (as there will be with every player at this stage of the draft). He pleaded guilty to battery charges last year, so there are off-field issues to consider, and on the field he isn’t the best pass-blocker available, and that’s something the Bears need to keep in mind if they end up going in that direction.
Carlos Hyde is another option for the Bears, but he very well could be gone before the Bears even make their second round pick. His running style has evoked comparisons to Marshawn Lynch, and even though there are concerns about his conditioning, there still is likely going to be a team that selects him in the 18 picks before the Bears go on the clock.
The Bears saw all the top safety options fly off the board after they passed on taking one in the first round, and the pickings are slim in this part of the draft. Guys like Terrence Brooks could become options here, but his poor hands could be a turn-off. He is another guy who has some versatility though, as he shows some linebacker traits and was brought up in football as a cornerback. Along with Brock Vereen, he could be on the Bears’ radar when the second round begins.
Another position that the Bears could stand to get a complementary piece in, the tight end slot is likely one that Emery was considering drafting in the first round. He said in his post-pick press conference that Fuller was one of three players left of the six he had been considering, and it’s likely the three players taken off the list before it got to the Bears were LB Anthony Barr, CB Justin Gilbert, and TE Eric Ebron.
Ebron would have given the Bears an incredible amount of flexibility on offense as part of a tandem with Martellus Bennett, and it would have been an absolute matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. As it stands now, the Bears do still have a few options left if they choose to go the tight end route in the middle rounds. Troy Niklas from Notre Dame is a guy that stands out, as he is a massive target over the middle of the field and has all the potential in the world. C.J. Fiedorowicz is also a potential guy for the Bears to go after, as he is a solid pass blocker but needs to work on his route running.