After a defensive blitz the first two days of the 2014 draft — a cornerback and two tackles — general manager Phil Emery tilted the selections toward other phases of the game, with three of the next four picks on either offense or special teams.
That included punter Patrick O’Donnell in the sixth round, a big (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), fast (4.64 in the 40) and strong (23 bench-presses of 225 pounds) athlete who averaged 43.5 yards on 181 career punts. One of only two punters to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine, he played his first three seasons at Cincinnati, graduated and used his remaining year of eligibility with a transfer to Miami.
“I think it definitely helps being the strongest you can be at your position,” said O’Donnell, who transferred to Miami because his father was dealing with cancer. “He’s good now. He’s in remission.”
O’Donnell, the first punter taken in this year’s draft, will compete with Drew Butler and Tress Way for what was Adam Podlesh’s vacant job. But the Bears expending a draft choice on O’Donnell suggests that the other two will be punting for jobs elsewhere during preseason.
O’Donnell is the first punter drafted by the Bears since they used a No. 2 for Todd Sauerbrun in 1995 after losing Chris Gardocki, a No. 3 pick in 1991, through free agency.