In a mere 36 hours, the 2014 NFL will commence and with only 15 players currently on the team that the Bears themselves drafted (Green Bay has 33), 2014 may be the most important draft in recent memory for Chicago. For the first time since 2008, Chicago has a full seven draft picks, the Bears must make each and every one count. Here’s how they do it:
With the 14th pick in the NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select…
Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State University: Round 1, Pick 14 (14)
For a defense that has dominated teams by forcing turnovers, cornerback has been one of the most instrumental positions to the team’s success over the past decade. But, 33-year-old Charles Tillman and 30-year-old Tim Jennings start opposite one another for the fifth straight year, making it past time the team develop some young talent for the position.
Though this draft boasts many talented prospects in the secondary, none is more appealing to me than the speedster from Oklahoma State, Justin Gilbert. After four seasons with the Cowboys, Gilbert established himself as a reliable, durable playmaker for the team, playing in all 39 games since his sophomore season. With seven interceptions in 2013, including two for scores, he fits perfectly into the Bears’ turnover hungry defense, and with veteran Charles Tillman showing him the ropes, I have little doubt Gilbert will become a star for this team.
Stat to remember: 4.37 40 time at NFL Combine, best among cornerbacks
Ha Ha Clinton Dix
With the 51st pick in the NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select…
Deone Bucannon, Safety, Washington State University: Round 2, Pick 19 (51)
Less than a minute to go in the final game of the regular season, the Chicago Bears appeared to be headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. 4th and 8, down by one, the Packers had 48 yards to go, and with 46 seconds left, the game was all but locked up. Eight seconds later, Bears fans everywhere realized just how crippling bad safety play can be as we watched the 5-foot-10 Randall Cobb run past Chris Conte unguarded for the touchdown.
After concentrating on the defensive line in free agency (Lamaar Houston, Willie Young, and Jared Allen), and with cornerback Justin Gilbert drafted in the first round, the Bears should look for a safety in the second round, further rejuvenating a struggling secondary. Though Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor will surely be gone by the Bears’ second round pick, 6-foot-1 Deone Bucannon may still be available. If so, the Bears should give him a shot.
Though he went to a lesser-known university, Washington State, Bucannon proved his worth on the team, starting in every game and intercepting 15 passes during his four-year career. He’s a physical player, who despite taking some bad angles from here to there, could blossom into quite a safety for the team, and with a 4.49 40 time, 3rd fastest among safeties, he remains intriguing nonetheless.
Stat to remember: He never missed a game at Washington State University despite his tone-setting style of play
You will notice that I don’t put any linebackers or defensive tackles in my second round possibilities. I simply don’t like the prospects that grade to the Bears’ draft position. And with linebackers Jonathan Bostic (second round) and Khaseem Greene (fourth round) drafted by the team last season, I don’t see the Bears focusing on the position in this year’s draft.
With the 82nd pick in the 2013 NFL draft the Chicago Bears select…
Caraun Reid, Defensive Tackle, Princeton University: Round 3 Pick 18 (82)
After the departure of Henry Melton, defensive tackle is a definite need for the thin Chicago Bears roster. Many analysts believe Aaron Donald will be the pick for the Bears in the first, but whether he is or isn’t, Chicago should look to Caraun Reid in the third.
Despite his Ivy League status, Reid was able to distinguish himself for Princeton, as he became the second Tiger to ever be invited to the Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-3, 302-pound defensive tackle brought an intensity to the team that was noticeable on every single play, and at 20.5 sacks on his career, the 22-year-old is a very nice option for the Bears on day two of the draft. Most importantly, as a 3-technique defensive tackle, he fits into the Bears’ scheme perfectly.
Stat to remember: 7 career blocked kicks
Dri Archer, Running Back, Kent State: Round 4 Pick 17 (118)
With Michael Bush gone and Matt Forte in his seventh season with the team, the Bears could look to improve their depth at the running back position in the draft. At 5-8, the 173-pound Archer won’t offer much challenge to Forte for the starting spot, but could be the change of pace player that would make this offense truly elite. The speed and burst that this young talent possesses is unlike any currently on the team’s roster, and thus the rewards far outweigh the risks is this luxury pick. The only problem is whether or not he’ll be there.
Stat to remember: 4.26 40 Time at the NFL Combine (record: 4.24 by Chris Johnson)
With the 156th pick the 2014 NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select…
Tyler Larsen, Center, Utah State University: Round 5, Pick 16 (156)
After several years of terrible play from the offensive line, the unit held its own in 2013, surrendering a mere 30 sacks throughout the 16 game season. The team signed Brian De La Puente in the offseason, solidifying all five positions for 2014, but on just a one-year contract the Bears should look to the later rounds to add some young talent at center.
At 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds, Tyler Larsen should be a prospect the Bears look for as he anchored the high scoring Aggies team (32.6 points per game) in a very productive senior season.
Stat to remember: 36 bench presses at the NFL Combine, tied for second most.
With the 183rd pick in the NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select…
Shamar Stephen, Defensive Tackle, UConn: Round 6, Pick 7 (183)
At 6-5, 309 pounds, Stephen is certainly one of the biggest and most athletic players in the draft at defensive tackle. He projects to fit in both a 3-4 or 4-3 defense and with the lack of depth at the tackle position, this could be a solid pickup for the Bears.
With the 191rd pick in the NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select…
Xavier Grimble, Tight End, USC: Round 6, Pick 15 (191)
In his first season with Chicago Martellus Bennett proved to be a tremendous pick up, but as more and more teams move to multiple tight end sets the Bears should look to do the same. Despite a poor showing at the combine Xavier Grimble remains an interesting prospect at 6’5” with 11 touchdowns in 22 career starts for the Trojans.