Scouting the Bears
12:48 AM CDT, April 28, 2013
Following a similar trend that we saw during Phil Emery's first draft in 2012, the Bears general manager once again targeted rookie prospects over the weekend that bring size, speed and strength measurables to the NFL.
The Bears are projecting talent at the pro level based off athleticism and positional flexibility to fit their schemes on both sides of the ball.
Take first-round pick Kyle Long out of Oregon. The offensive guard, and son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, only had four career starts at a major college program. That really limits your ability to study and evaluate a player based off the game tape.
However, Long tested extremely well at the NFL scouting combine and showcased his talent at the Senior Bowl in front of the entire league. He has the size (6-foot-6, 313 pounds) plus athletic ability needed to pull, work to the second level of the defense and move laterally in space at the offensive guard position in Marc Trestman's offense.
The pro scouts I talked to focused on his physical nature, talent and raw athleticism that can also transition to the outside at offensive tackle.
Was I surprised to see the Bears take Long 20th overall? Sure I was. And I did question the pick Thursday night because of his limited playing time and some off-the-field concerns early in his collegiate career. With the way the first round board played out, the Bears were in an ideal position to draft some legit defensive talent or grab top-ranked tight end Tyler Eifert out of Notre Dame.
But Emery targeted Long to strengthen a unit that has to improve if the Bears are going to compete consistently in the division.
The key for Long? Reps — and plenty of them. Once the pads go on in training camp, he should ask — or demand — to compete versus Henry Melton and Julius Peppers in one-on-one drills. Long's development will have to be pushed under offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer to get him ready to win a job during preseason camp.
The skill set is there with Long. I can't deny that. Now that talent has to translate to the field.
At linebacker, the Bears just got younger and faster. Plain and simple. This is a positional group that had to be addressed after the departure of Brian Urlacher and given the age of the current depth chart.
The second-round pick, Florida's Jon Bostic, brings SEC tape, 4.6 speed in the 40 and the versatility to play the middle or strong side linebacker positions. A scout described him to me as a "run and hit" guy who needs to play with more consistency and improve his ability to stack and shed (defeat blocks), but the impact plays are there. I expect Bostic to compete with D.J. Williams in the middle but I would also give him some reps on the strong side.
In the fourth round, the Bears once again went to linebacker and scooped up Khaseem Greene out of Rutgers. Greene was a very productive college player and is suited best to play on the weak side. But he also could align at multiple spots. And with any rookie in the back seven on defense, we should expect Greene to be a core special teams player (all four units) as he learns the pro game behind Lance Briggs.
Two linebackers who fit in this defensive scheme. That's how I look at it. Drop to a landmark, read the quarterback and play fast. You need athletes at the second level to make this defense go. And speed wins versus the offensive talent the Bears see in the NFC North.
Emery went back to the offensive line in the fifth round to select Jordan Mills from Louisiana Tech. Mills has size and projects at both right tackle and guard in the NFL.
Why is that important? This creates competition during camp and allows the rookie to push veterans J'Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott at right tackle. It's time for the Bears to have some positional battles with roster spots (and paychecks) on the line. That's how you begin to build a offensive front.
In the sixth round, the Bears went for more size and speed with Cornelius Washington out of Georgia. Washington could play as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 front, but will have his hand on the ground as a rush end in Mel Tucker's 4-3 scheme. He had limited production in college, but with a 4.56 40 time at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, this is the type of prospect you want to look at in the back end of the draft.
And they closed out the draft with wide receiver Marquess Wilson out of Washington State in the seventh round. The 6-foot-4 receiver with 4.51 speed was suspended from the Washington State program last season after posting some productive numbers earlier in his career. He's a prospect who needs to develop his body, but is a minimal risk in the last round of the draft.
The real question here: Did the Bears get better through this draft?
From my perspective, the Bears addressed some major needs on the offensive line and at linebacker. I don't know how these prospects will transition once they matchup against pro ball players, but Emery's goal was clear: Get younger, faster and more athletic while continuing to build with prospects who can play versatile roles on this roster.
And I'm excited to see these young guys play and compete when it counts — in training camp.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety.
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