Phil Emery was hired in large part to upgrade and return to building the Bears through the draft. A defense that for much of the past decade had been constructed through the draft – Lance Briggs, Chris Conte, Shea McClellin, Henry Melton, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher, Corey Wootton – is in need of immediate overhaul at myriad positions.
The Bears addressed linebacker in the 2013 draft with Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. But cornerback and defensive end, where Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers are at or close to the end of distinguished careers, are need areas.
The key for the Bears will be finding players with Day 1 starting ability, and longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper believes there are more than a few of those that will be options for the Bears.
“It’s hard to say because you don’t know which of the juniors will be coming out,” Mel said, “but from the senior defensive-end group I would say Marcus Smith [6-3, 252] from Louisville has helped himself enormously this year. Michael Sam [6-3, 255], Missouri, same thing but he could be a 3-4 outside linebacker.
“Kareem Martin, North Carolina, is a decent pass rusher but more of a run stopper. Jackson Jeffcoat from Texas has come on of late.”
“As far as starting right away, after [Jadeveon] Clowney, [Notre Dame’s Stephon] Tuitt, [Oregon State’s Scott] Crichton, the underclassmen, I think Marcus Smith is going to be an interesting guy.”
The Bears won’t have a shot at South Carolina’s Clowney. Questions about his taking plays or games off have persisted as his production (two sacks) has been sluggish in 2013, but Clowney at 6-6, 274 pounds is still at the apex of the pyramid.
“It’s hard to go through a brick wall and that’s what teams are doing, walling him off,” Kiper said. “They’re saying, ‘OK, if you can beat one, let’s see you beat two. You beat two, let’s see you beat three.’ All the great players are targets.
“He’s still No. 1,” Kiper said. “If you’re going to need a true 4-3 defensive end who’s going to get after the quarterback and wreak havoc, you take Clowney.”
As far as cornerbacks capable of starting right away, “I think Jason Verette, TCU, could start as a rookie. Very good player, very underrated. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State, has come on as well and could be one of those workout-warrior types as well.”