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McClellin ranks near middle of class

Of 7 notable pass rushers in 2012 draft, Bears' pick impressive 3rd

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

4:15 PM CST, December 1, 2012

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With the 15th pick of the NFL draft in April, the Seahawks chose defensive end Bruce Irvin. Four picks later, the Bears chose defensive end Shea McClellin.

If the Bears had picked 15th and the Seahawks 19th, it's possible Irvin would be a Bear and McClellin would be a Seahawk.

They were two of seven outside pass rushers taken in the first round. If NFL teams were re-drafting those seven pass rushers today, this is how they might come off the board based on how they have performed as rookies.

1. Chandler Jones. He went to the Patriots with the 21st pick and got off to a great start with five sacks in his first six games. Jones has been a starter from day one and a very good two-way defender. At 6 feet 5, 260 pounds, Jones is the biggest of the seven, and he has used his length and power to his benefit.

Scouts say he has been surprisingly consistent and disciplined in his play.

2. Bruce Irvin. A designated pass rusher with the Seahawks, he leads this group with seven sacks, and he has had opportunities for more but has not been able to finish some plays. He is all about speed at this point and isn't close to being a complete player.

"He still is very raw," one front office man said. "He still is learning how to use his hands, get blockers off balance and convert speed to power."

Another front office man said almost all of Irvin's sacks have come when he has been unblocked, and said he struggles when he engages in contact.

But, he added this, "He has incredible speed and instinct to get the passer."

3. Shea McClellin. He has three sacks as a rotational player and has given the Bears a dimension they lacked in edge rush and pursuit. It is worth noting the Bears' worst pass rush performance of the season came on the road against the 49ers, when McClellin sat out with a concussion.

Coaches are pleased with how he has progressed.

Said a front office man: "He is good rusher. He's instinctive and plays hard. He's not real strong in the run game. I think he'll be a good player, maybe not a great one. He has been better overall than Irvin, but Irvin has been more disruptive."

4. Whitney Mercilus. The 26th pick from Illinois hasn't had a lot of playing time but will be starting for the Texans on Sunday because of an injury to starter Brooks Reed.

Playing outside linebacker in a 3-4, Mercilus has three sacks, two of them in one game. As with Irvin, much of Mercilus' production has come off stunts.

5. Melvin Ingram. He showed some potential in the preseason but has not had many opportunities or made many plays in the regular season for the Chargers. Chosen one pick ahead of McClellin, Ingram still is figuring out how to play outside linebacker.

Two execs from other teams said they believe Ingram still will emerge as a fine player.

6. Quinton Coples. Chosen 16th by the Jets, Coples has two sacks and has pressured the quarterback a number of times. But he has not been consistent.

"I was afraid of drafting him because he was up and down at North Carolina, and he has been the same way with the Jets," one talent evaluator said.

7. Nick Perry. He started five games and had two sacks for the Packers before going on injured reserve in early November.

The 28th pick was feeling his way while learning to play outside linebacker in Green Bay's 3-4 scheme. Two front office men agreed Perry has played with good power but hasn't shown much of anything as a pass rusher.

"He looked heavy legged," one said. "He has no pass rush arsenal. He does not separate well. He pushes the pocket and collapses."

Numbers games: Forgotten receiver

When Mike Martz was running the Bears' offense, he frequently compared Matt Forte to Marshall Faulk.

Since Martz left, Forte has become a much less important figure in the passing game.

Forte is averaging 2.7 catches per game for 18.4 yards. Last year, he averaged 4.3 catches for 40.8 yards.

On average, the Bears are throwing to Forte 3.9 times every game, compared to 6.3 times last year.

And Forte is not being used on the same kind of routes. His average catch this year is for 6.8 yards. Last year, it was 11.3 yards.

When he has caught the ball, he hasn't been as dangerous. Forte is averaging 6.85 yards per reception after the catch, down from last year's 11.3.

Front office chess: Backup power

With guard Lance Louis on injured reserve, the Bears needed a lineman who could integrate into a system quickly and have the confidence to play in a pinch.

Enter Andre Gurode.

An 11-year veteran and five time Pro Bowler, Gurode last was a starter for the Cowboys in 2010. He was a backup for the Ravens last year and has been out of football since January.

Gurode worked out for the Lions and Chiefs, but he was waiting for the right place. He wanted to play for a contender, and he jumped at the chance to play for the Bears.

"Good organization, great history, great group of guys," Gurode said. "It was a great opportunity to play with some young guys."

He was not brought to the Bears to replace Louis in the starting lineup. Rather, he was brought in to be an emergency replacement in the event of more injuries.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei