The Bears are not in this weekend's Super Bowl, if you haven't heard. They were at last weekend's Senior Bowl.
In Phil Emery's two drafts, he selected a pair of surprise picks in the first round. One's worked out (Kyle Long), while the other (Shea McClellin) is switching positions in hopes of finding better value than what he's shown his first two years.
So, while taking a little time off from on-air duties at CSN during this relative "quiet time" in Chicago sports and taking care of ignored things that pile up for all of us over the holidays, I finally got a chance to watch Saturday's game in Mobile early this week. Now, I don't pretend to have as well-trained an eye for a defensive back's hip-swivel or a defensive tackle's hand speed and footwork in the trenches that others do. But these are just a couple of defensive guys who jumped out at me with plays they made and appeared to have raised their stock into the second or third rounds, if not the first, in some cases.
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Dee? Well, duh! He was the MVP of the game! And he might have moved his way to the back of the first round and might be gone by the Bears' second-round choice. The 14th-overall pick would be too high, unless Emery has a trade-down plan. Ford followed up his two-sack performance in the BCS Championship Game with a pair of sacks and a pass deflection in the first half alone. No defender had a quicker, explosive first step, and the opposing linemen appeared caught in a turnstile. He's 6-foot-2, 243 pounds, but many of the experts think he'll be better-suited as a rush linebacker after some struggles on the edge against the run.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
His conditioning has come into question, but his weight might be in flux until a team decides whether to utilize him in a 3-4 or a 4-3. He more than held his own in the trenches and came in with a reputation as an all-out effort guy. Sure enough, there was one play where a running back bounced outside and headed upfield, and as the back hesitated slightly to determine a cut, it was Sutton who tracked him down from behind.
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Outside of Ford, Borland is the defender that jumped out most to me. The guy was in the middle of every play when he was on the field, it seemed. He's just under six feet tall and played the inside for the Badgers in their 3-4. While the D-Line and secondary are Emery's main areas in need of depth and an upgrade, would he consider Borland a long-term option in the middle (as opposed to free agent D.J. Williams) if and when Mel Tucker uses a 4-3? Lance Briggs, McClellin, Khaseem Greene and, it seems, Jonathan Bostic are all best on the outsude.
Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
Speaking of undersized linebackers, this guy's all of ... 218 pounds. But like Borland, he's constantly in the middle of the action and was the leading tackler for the national champions. And there were plenty of players on that Seminoles defense. Would love to see how that would translate (with his size) at safety, but that's probably a long shot.
Chris Davis, CB, Auburn
The guy who scored the most highlight-worthy touchdown of the season has size issues in a league looking for 6-foot-and-above at his position but found a way to defend 15 passes during the season, and he finally got an interception Saturday. More a depth guy in the NFL, but we know he can return kicks and I'm not banking on Devin Hester being around.
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
By the end of the week, the Huskie had established himself as the best cover man at his position in Mobile, and he provided an example when he upended Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore (who was having a great game) for an incompletion on a high but catchable pass. Those who watched him this season — and in practice last week — were impressed by his play as well against the run and in zone coverage.
Again, Emery, his scouts and staff see a lot more than I do. Former Browns GM Phil Savage, who ran the event this year, said there were no top-10 picks on hand. The bulk of the first round will consist of more highly regarded seniors who chose not to risk injury and non-seniors held in higher regard. A couple of defensive tackles in Mobile who perhaps solidified spots in the middle of the first round during the week were Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman. Six-foot-two corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska and 6-foot-3 Keith McGill (game-sealing interception) of Utah also earned praise and widened eyes over the week, with some projecting the former possibly moving into the first round right now.
The stock for all of these names will fluctuate before the first weekend of May. There's the scouting combine next month and pro days that follow. Emery and company (not to mention you readers) might not agree. But it's just one opinion through this first postseason showcase — just a few players in the game itself who seem to have value aligned with the Bears' needs on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.