Bears Draft Preview: DE stocked, but DT still a top need

Bears Draft Preview: DE stocked, but DT still a top need
May 1, 2014, 9:45 am
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CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin will be going position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2014 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft day could have in store. Next, he takes a look at defensive line.

Bears pre-draft situation

The lack of edge pass rush that plagued the defense through 2013 (31 sacks, tied for fewest; 26th in sack percentage) was addressed early and often this offseason, with the signings of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, plus the return of flex figure Israel Idonije. The Bears have some youth they like at end, with David Bass and Cornelius Washington from last year’s draft, plus Austen Lane signed this offseason.

The Allen, Houston and Young deals involved $31 million in guaranteed money and suggest that a strategy was to address one of the DL areas in strength and then rely on the draft for the other.

That “other,” tackle, had solid pieces put in place with re-signings of Nate Collins and Jeremiah Ratliff, joining Stephen Paea in a rotation with some pass-rush push. Houston and Idonije project to have roles in nickel packages and what is planned to be a diverse attacking scheme.

[MORE: Bears Draft Preview: Last year's top priority in solid shape]

Bears draft priority — tackle: high; end: low

No defense can have too many pass rushers in an NFL that has tilted increasingly toward passing and protecting the ones doing the throwing. A pass-rushing end is always a possibility if an elite prospect drops in the draft, but this is not a deep class for edge terrors.

The interior is the more pressing need if only because Ratliff is 32, Collins is coming off season-ending knee surgery and Paea has not proved dominant (or durable) as a nose tackle or three-technique. The problem is that elite interior talents don’t last on the board, and this draft doesn’t have a lot of can’t-miss inside players of the Geno Atkins, Ndamukong Suh or Warren Sapp class.

The Bears have clear needs at defensive tackle and safety. The issue on draft day will come down to which position has an elite talent still on the board at No. 14. If both are there, conventional wisdom says go for the big guy first.

[RELATED: Bears Draft Preview: Open competition behind elite receivers]

Keep an eye on ...

— Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. The presumptive best three-technique, most polished if not the biggest.

— Dominique Easley, DT, Florida. A troubling injury history but could be a find later in the draft.

— Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. Riskier pick because of inconsistency but is both big (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and athletic.

— Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. Productive fit at three-technique with good size/speed combo.

— Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State. Like Donald, shorter but productive with a history as a disruptor.