The stated hope of Bears general manager Phil Emery is for the opportunity to trade down in the draft commencing in just a couple of weeks. That will involve a touch of risk because of the draft “footsteps” the Bears can hear.
Three of the six picks immediately following the Bears’ current billet at No. 20 happen to be with in the NFC North: Minnesota at 23 and 25, Green Bay at No. 26. What Emery passes up in a trade down may be lining up against his team early and often.
While teams’ drafts are not truly dictated by what their division mates do, that is in fact a consideration and always has been.
A reason why Charles Tillman was worth a second-round pick in 2003 is because, in life as in the NFC North, you can never be too rich, too thin or have too many 6-foot cornerbacks in a division that was showing you six-footers (or bigger) Randy Moss, Javon Walker, Donald Driver and such a couple of times a season.
And it’s probably not purely coincidental that half of the NFC North drafted pass rushers last year in round one (Shea McClellin, Bears; Nick Perry, Packers) and the other half grabbed tackles to block them (Riley Reiff, Detroit; Matt Kalil, Vikings). The Bears’ premier free-agent signing was someone to block Perry and Clay Matthews long term.
The Lions return their customary top-10 slot this year (No. 5) after a one-year winning aberration under Jim Schwartz. That’s not a team the Bears are chasing right now (which becomes faintly ironic after a reason given for Jerry Angelo losing his job was failing to keep up in the talent race, with the Lions mentioned at the time).
The immediate worries
But the Vikings and Packers are reason for wary. You simply never want to give an enemy a position of advantage, even on draft days. Consider:
Todd McShay, ESPN draft analyst, posits the Bears selecting Notre Dame Tyler Eifert at No. 20. And in fact, anything is possible.
But Todd has the Vikings selecting Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree at 23 and North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams at 25. And then he projects the Packers choosing Syracuse guard Justin Pugh from among three possible offensive linemen.
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Guard is a need area for the Bears even after the signing of former Jet Matt Slauson. Eifert is likely a solid player but would be at a position bordering on “luxury” after the Bears signed Martellus Bennett. The Packers and Vikings, however, would be drafting possible day one starters at core positions under Todd’s scenario.
In a loose analysis, the Bears do not add as much as their chief division rivals in that scenario. And the same holds true if Emery drops down below Green Bay and Minnesota. Again, that’s theoretical at this point, because if the Bears grade guard Kyle Long higher than Pugh, for instance, they keep up with the arms race up front, add a mid-round pick and still get the guy they want at a position of “want” if not true “need.”
Another NFCN tack
Mark Craig, Vikings beat guy for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, takes healthy look at the risk-reward element that comes with a wide receiver taken in round one. The Vikings signed former Packer Greg Jennings but are far from set in their passing offense after trading away Percy Harvin and losing
Cousin Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk.com projected the Vikings selecting West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith at 23. That becomes an immediate concern because the better of Smith vs. Christian Ponder is obviously going to emerge as the starting quarterback and the Vikings were already a 10-6 playoff team.
In a similar vein, Don Banks at SI.com sees the Vikings (he covered them pre-SI for both Twin Cities papers) grabbing Tennessee wide receiver at 23.
Mock drafts are obviously anything but binding or foolproof, particularly after you get deep into the round. But if either Mike or Don is correct and the Vikings make day one draft moves that muscle up their passing offense, the Bears have an issue.
All three of their top cornerbacks – Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman, Kelvin Hayden – are out of contract after 2014. Can Emery and the Bears afford to stand pat in the secondary or plan again on a spate of one-year deals to restock the position group?
More to the point, can Emery and the Bears risk dealing down and settling for less than the best available cover cornerback? To that end, Don’s call is Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant (5-11, 190) for the Bears at No. 20.
The scenarios can become dizzying, but part of what Emery was tasked with doing was closing the perceived talent gap between the Bears and richer division rivals. Trading down offer excellent benefits in the form of added picks but the Bears need to be mindful of what the division is doing long before they meet any of those teams on the field.