The 2012 NFL draft is fast approaching.Its hard not to peek at all the mock drafts, but I about lost it when I recently saw one mock projecting mammoth DT Dontari Poe from Memphis to the Bears. Poeweighs350 pounds.You only have to go back two training camps to know, the Bears held out former DT Marcus Harrison because heweighed over 310 pounds. When you factor in Lovies Tampa 2 defense -- it's all about quick, penetrating, undersized defensive tackles --you can quickly weed out Poe.Poe is a two gapping nose tackle for a 3-4 defense which is about as far from a penetrating 4-3 DT as you can get. Just look up Poes stats. Registering only one sack last year in a subpar conference isnt a glowing endorsement for Ooh, ooh, ooh, pick me!" Im not going to mock the mocker, but they suggested the Bears needed a run stuffer. The fact is the Bears were aTop 5defense last year versus the run yielding just over 96 yards per game. The Bears could utilize depth at DT, but it will be in the form of a lean, mean, fighting machine that fits what they do schematically. Lets try to hone in on a handful of guys who fit the Bears in Round 1.SecondaryMark Barron:SS Alabama, 6-foot-1 213 lbs.This is a wishprayer. Teams preceding the Bears starting with Dallas at 14 all need safety help. If Barron falls, the Bears should grab him and never look back. Barron would finally close the revolving door at safety.Stephon Gilmore: CB South Carolina, 6-foot-1 190 lbs.I wrote about Gilmore in a previous column for pick No. 19. Recent reports continue to have him moving up as high asNo. 7to the Jaguars. That is a little too high, but Gilmore, like Barron, may not be there. The Bears may have to think about Alabamas CB Dre Kirkpatrick --6-foot-2, 186 lbs --whos marijuana charge was recently dropped.Defensive LineQuinton Coples: DE North Carolina, 6-foot-6, 284 lbsEverybody says his attitude has him dropping. Ill believe it when I see it, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the perfect guy for any attitude adjustment.Whitney Mercilus: DE Illinois 6-foot-4, 261 lbsIs Mercilus a one year wonder? The fact is, Mercilus moved up and down the Illinois defensive front for matchup reasons. Lovie and Marinelli have dabbled in this the last three years with Izzy and the last two with Peppers. Mercilus is versatile.Wide receiverStephen Hill: Wr Georgia Tech, 6-foot-4, 215 lbsOther than Justin Blackmon in Round 1, I think Hill will be a very special NFL wide receiver. It is rare for a guy Hills size to run 4.36. Dont believe the hype about Georgia Techs offense not preparing wide receivers. Detroits Calvin Johnson and Denvers Demaryius Thomas are difference makers who block coming out of Tech.Watch what Thomas does this year with Peyton Manning. Jay Cutler would love to work wonders breaking in Hill.Offensive lineJonathan Martin: T Stanford, 6-foot-5, 312 lbsand Mike Adams: T Ohio State, 6-foot-7, 323 lbsOnly the Bears know where GabeCarimis health is at this point.Only offensive coordinator Mike Tice can truly tell you if he is comfortable with J'Marcus Webb at left tackle. Webb gave up sacks, but a handful was strictly on Mike Martzs play-calling. I personally like Adams over Martin, but a recent positive drug test by Adams has him dropping to late first round. Why? It's interesting that this news comes out prior to the draft.Some team leaked it, hoping Adams will fall. I dont think he will.Adams is too good.All are impactful players other than Whitney Mercilus who is young and may take some time, but the Bears would utilize Mercilus much like Mark Anderson his rookie season which resulted in double digit sacks.
In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.
So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games.
Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).
On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.
While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.
There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.
Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.
He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.
Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.
Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.
That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.
These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.