GM Phil Emery said beforehand that he would be “ecstatic” if three of the Bears’ six targeted players were available. There were three, which was a pleasant surprise for a team that went right after their highest-rated available player in Kyle Fuller.
But Emery wasn’t really looking at surprises. He was playing his own “numbers game.”
“All I did was count players,” said Emery, who crossed off three names before his and the Bears’ turn came. What was he watching? “Who’s still on the board and what shape are we in.”
But every draft has its surprises, and 2014 had its share.
The biggest freefall was hands-down by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was not selected until pick No. 22 by the Cleveland Browns, who already had passed over Manziel to pick Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Manziel was once projected as high as No. 1 overall to Houston, then No. 4 to Cleveland and even No. 7 to Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. None of those scenarios came to pass. Manziel endured what Aaron Rodgers in 2005, when Rodgers and Alex Smith were the presumed picks at 1-2, one way or the other, with Smith going No. 1 and Rodgers not until 24 to Green Bay.
Along with the Manziel tumble was the surprise of the Jacksonville Jaguars grabbing Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles No. 3. Bortles was rated by many as the top quarterback in the draft but nowhere was he projected as high as third in a draft marked by a deep pool of elite wide receivers.
Emery expected Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, one of the Bears’ top six prospects, to be long gone by No. 14. Donald was indeed gone, but not until No. 13 to the St. Louis Rams.