As the host of Sports Talk Live on Comcast SportsNet, I have the opportunity to give my opinions on a variety of topics in the sports world each and every day. I get the chance to play armchair general manager for all of our Chicago teams without the consequences of making those decisions unlike the men who occupy those chairs in real life.
So, with the NFL Draft starting Thursday, I wanted to go on the record with what I would do in the first round if I was sitting in Phil Emery’s seat. The Bears currently hold the No. 20 selection in Round 1 and have a variety of needs that must be addressed both in the short-term and for the long-term health of the organization.
[MOCK DRAFT: Is this the most unpredictable NFL Draft ever?]
However, there is no doubt that the Chicago Bears as currently constructed are built to try to win big right now. They have a veteran quarterback in Jay Cutler entering the final year of his contract, but his status after the 2013 season is murky. Cutler has not displayed the consistency that the Bears expected when they traded for him four seasons ago, despite being the best signal caller the Bears have had in many seasons. The cost of a long-term extension totals somewhere between $12-20 million a season for a franchise quarterback in 2013. That is a huge decision for both Cutler and the Bears, and before one can be a made, a long-term commitment between both sides must be established. Add in veteran skill position players at running back and wide receiver, plus a retooled veteran offensive line and an aging, but still effective defense and it all adds up to the Bears being in the win-now mode.
So factoring all of that in, I looked at all of the available options that could realistically be there at 20 or fall close to that pick that would help the Bears immediately: Tyler Eifert. Notre Dame’s standout tight end is a no-brainer selection.
He would give the Bears a tremendous target with excellent athleticism down the field, plus he would help the Bears catch up to the elite teams in the NFL that long ago discovered the value of a receiving tight end such as Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronowski and Antonio Gates just to name a few.
Eifert has received rave reviews for his play during his college career, his postseason combine workouts plus his team-by-team interviews. At 6-6 and 251 lbs, he has the size and athleticism to be a factor both as a receiver and as a blocker, although most scouts believe that he still has work to do as a blocker at the NFL level.
He probably won’t be available at pick No. 20, so what I am advocating is the Bears doing what it takes to move up if he is still on the board at No. 15. If that means using picks from the 2014 draft, so be it. If they truly believe they are in win-now mode, then they must be aggressive to land the best available talent that can have the quickest impact on their team. Two NFL sources told me this morning that the Pittsburgh Steelers covet Eifert at No. 17 because they have questions about the health of their tight end Heath Miller, so Eifert makes a lot of sense for them. It is on Emery to make the best selection possible and for me that means finding a way to have Eifert as a Bear.