RedEye

Memo to Emery: Draft starters. Plural.

My issue isn’t that Bears General Manager Phil Emery has fewer draft picks than he has positional needs. Every GM has fewer picks than he has needs. Just ask them.

But for those of you keeping score at home, Tribune football guru Dan Pompei did the math for us. He doped out at least six needs on the Bears roster -- linebacker, guard/center, cornerback, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive tackle -- against only five draft picks heading into the first round that begins Thursday night and ends, I believe, on Memorial Day.

But again, my issue isn’t draft picks vs. needs. No, my issue is that Emery needs to draft starters. Plural.

It’s early in Emery’s administration, I know. Plus, he worked last year’s draft with the system and people employed by the last GM. And if you can’t judge a draft for three years, then you can’t judge a scout-turned-GM for three years.

But sorry, you can’t wait with Emery. I can’t, anyway, because this sounds and feels like a season that has Super Bowl expectations and that requires talent right now.

Some people might scoff at that expectation. After all, the Bears start with a rookie head coach who had to be imported --- how does that work with NAFTA, by the way? --- but Marc Trestman brings offensive expertise to a team that needs it. He also comes to a team that has at least one more season with what still figures to be a quality defense.

This, then, is a week that seems to demand coming away with starters. Plural.

In a transitional phase last year, Emery used a second-round pick on receiver Alshon Jeffery, who became a starter until he got hurt last year. But before and after a smart pick came some Emery moments that made you say what-the-football?

Shea McClellin was a shaky fit at defensive end. He had speed, but not the impact of players Emery passed on. That’s not what you do with first-round picks.

In the third round, Emery channeled his inner Jerry Angelo. Not only did he draft a safety, but Brandon Hardin came pre-injured to the point that he didn’t play the season before. And look at that Hardin didn’t play last season because -- ta-da! -- he got injured.

Who’d have thought that known character risk and recent arrestee Evan Rodriguez would get some of the highest grades in Emery’s first draft?

The problem with reaching or praying with first- and second-day draft picks is you’ve blown a big chance. You had an opportunity to take someone who could start for you, but you didn’t, and you still need a starter that position.

This thinking sides with the idea of drafting for need more than drafting the best player available, but hey, it beats doing neither the way most of last year’s Bears class played out.

Even if he trades out of the first round to acquire more picks, Emery has to find someone who can block for Jay Cutler now.

Even if it’s the fifth round and it’s a speed receiver who immediately gives the offense a big-play element it lacks the way Johnny Knox did when he was plucked in the fifth round, Emery needs to add to the top half of the roster, not the bottom.

Starters. Plural.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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