The Bears were widely expected to address safety with their pick at No. 14 of the first round. But they also had even bigger needs at cornerback and defensive tackle. In the post-draft assessment of ESPN analyst Todd McShay, the Bears accomplished both objectives and did it the best way possible in their situation.
What general manager Phil Emery and the Bears did was weigh their level of need, the value of the positions and the depth of talent in the draft pool. All were crucial factors in opting for Kyle Fuller over a safety in that round or a cornerback later. Despite the depth of the draft at cornerback in particular, if the Bears wanted an elite-level defensive back, they were not going to get him by waiting. At defensive tackle, securing Ego Ferguson in particular was a timely pull of the trigger.
The situations were loosely similar to the 2013 draft, where Emery selected Kyle Long with the 20th pick – the last non-center taken before the Lions found Larry Warford in the third round. The Bears had a high need at guard, Long was the last of the top talents still on boards, and the Bears, who also needed a linebacker, didn’t have a third-round pick even if they waited.
“I liked the Fuller pick a lot,” McShay said. “I know that everybody wanted them to take a safety and they wound up getting a safety in the fourth round with Brock Vereen."
A record nine defensive backs were taken in the first round. A 10th was gone early in round two. So if the Bears waited until the second round to look for Charles Tillman’s successor, and Tillman himself was a “2,” they would have been settling for perhaps the 11th- or 12th-rated defensive back to plan for life after Tillman.
Calvin Pryor may prove to be a top safety – the Bears will see him when they visit the New York Jets on Sept. 22 in game three – or even Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – the Bears see him the following Sunday when Green Bay comes to Soldier Field – but safety is simply not as crucial a position in the Bears’ defense as lineman or cornerback.
“They got a good value [at safety with Vereen in round four] and most importantly, they got if not the top player on the board, one of the two or three best players on the entire board when they were up at 14." McShay said. "There’s really no hole in Fuller’s game.”
Add in the fact that no defensive tackle was deemed worth a No. 1 pick after Aaron Donald, and a second one was not selected until Ra’Shede Hageman went early in round two. Loose interpretation: Defensive tackle was indeed a “high” Bears need but one was not worth a reach at No. 14.
Ferguson (2nd) and Will Sutton (3rd) were in line with both need, position value and talent pool.
“As we had painted this [draft] plan over the last couple of weeks, they were the two players we had slotted for those two spots,” Emery said. “I was extremely happy to get them. As you saw in those 31 picks between our pick of Ego and our pick of Will there was only one other defensive tackle that went. It’s a short-supply, high-demand position.”