It has become widely suggested that the Chicago Bears use their 14th pick on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the hard-hitting free safety out of Alabama. Dix fills the most glaring need for Chicago, the back side of the defense, since the only legitimate starting safety under contract is Chris Conte. The Bears cannot go through another year of bad angles, even worse tackles, and blown coverages from a starting NFL safety. On draft day nothing goes as planned, if Clinton-Dix is off the board, who does Chicago target? Here are a few names to keep your eye on.
I am a huge believer in taking an interior defensive lineman early this year. The Bears finished 32nd in the league in rush defense last season, largely due to the holes in the defensive line.
The unit decimated by injury had 12 different players get action throughout the season. If the need isn’t filled in free agency, Chicago has to strongly consider taking a gap plug like Nix high in the draft.
Considered the number one player at his position in the draft, he could immediately be a difference maker on the defensive line. There is concern about the knee surgery that made Nix miss some time at the end of the 2013 season. Will his knee heal properly? Is that question alone enough to make his stock fall? Perhaps. When healthy, this kid is a beast.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy was the most dominant pass rusher in the SEC last year, amassing 14.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks against some of the best offensive lineman in the country. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Ealy plays explosive and can get up the field quickly.
I like the fact that his statistical output has improved every year, and he has a track record of forcing fumbles when he gets to the quarterback. With the uncertainty of where Julius Peppers will end up next year, Kony would be a good fit opposite another promising edge rusher, Corey Wootton. Ealy has been compared to San Fransico 49er Aldon Smith, for his size, length and athletic ability. I love this kid and I think he could be special.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Jernigan fits the one gap scheme that the Bears could be looking for. He is a strong interior defender that uses his strength to go through blockers, instead of relying on quickness. The national champion recorded 63 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and was a second-team AP All-American. He will not blow anyone away at the combine, but his light feet, upper body strength, and improved ball awareness may have Timmy creeping up the draft boards.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Weighing in at 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, Hageman has an unbelievable combination of size and athleticism. He started his college career as a tight end before making the switch to an interior defensive lineman.
Size and athleticism have made the difference for him the past two seasons, as he is still learning the nuances of the position. This would be a high risk pick, but wasn’t Kyle Long? How did that turn out?
Hageman has long arms, benches 465 pounds, and plays with good pad level. Depending on the combine, his stock will rise or fall. If the Bears could wait and snag him on day two, that would be great.
In a perfect Windy City world, the Bears sign Michael Bennett (brother of tight end Martellus) or Lamarr Houston in free agency, and select Clinton-Dix 14th overall. All-Pro safties are hard to come by, and he could be special. If he is off the board already and the need is there, I would still go with Louis Nix III. Chicago can plug him in day one and see results. And that is something defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is desperate for.