A pattern has started to emerge in the drafting of Bears GM Phil Emery, beginning with a distinct tendency to be decidedly aggressive rather than conservative in bringing in talent with an emphasis on upside.
In a job where a standard operating objective is to trade down to acquire more picks and increase the chances for success, Emery has traded up in one second round (2012) and passed on the safe route to select cornerback Kyle Fuller this year rather than exercise an option to deal down.
He was hired in large part for his background in the draft and college scouting. Yet barely six weeks after he was hired he traded away two third-round picks for Brandon Marshall.
Where former GM Jerry Angelo operated from a “floor” philosophy with high picks – start the risk assessment with what the minimum a player can be – Emery has operated for three drafts now from a “ceiling” perspective: how good can this guy be?
Emery did that in 2012 when he traded up in the second round to select South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery. Emery viewed him as the best – not “one of the best,” the best – receiver in the draft despite some instances of underachievement in college.
He did it again last year when he risked the No. 20 pick on a relatively inexperienced offensive lineman in Kyle Long. As he did with Jeffery, Emery saw size and raw physical strength and ability and took a lineman few analyses had rated as high as 20th in the first round.
Thursday night, with clear options to trade down, Emery instead opted for cornerback Kyle Fuller despite the preference for adding picks and with a need for a safety and both of the top two (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor) still available to him.
The reason was in large part because of the upside seen in Fuller, a four-year starter at Virginia Tech.
“We see him as a guy who has a lot of versatility in terms of coverage, covering different types of athletes,” Emery said. “That’s where his length really helps him ... That versatility of coverage is a big attraction for Kyle.”
Emery has on more than one occasion that one overall for him is to make the Bears a bigger team physically. And if not specifically taller or heavier, more physical.
Jeffery is in that mold. Long at 6-6, 318, is a mauler. Even Shea McClellin, first tried at defensive end and too small for the job, now projects to be a big linebacker at 6-3, 245 pounds.
Fuller is nearly 6 feet and 195 pounds but also a notably physically imposing cornerback. Emery became enamoured of Fuller after attending Fuller’s game against Georgia Tech lined up as an “inverted” safety and blitzed continuously through the center-guard gaps.
“This is one tough football player,” Emery said. “This is a corner that had 173 tackles in his career, 123 solos, 23-1/2 tackles for loss. You don’t see that every day. Four-and-a-half sacks, six picks, 28 [pass breakups].”
Check the pedigree
Emery also appears to look at the genes. Long is the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie and brother of St. Louis defensive end Chris. Fuller is the younger brother of Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey and former Tennessee safety Vincent.
“Definitely looking forward to [playing against Corey],” Fuller said. “That’s one of things I feel like… . Even before I got the call he was saying how we play [the Bears] twice. So he’s definitely excited about it and I’ll definitely be looking forward to it.”