How to assess the Bears’ draft? How about waiting at least until Bourbonnais?
That’s when pads come, linemen actually hit each other, and that will be when the first true read on Kyle Long can happen. Jordan Mills and Cornelius Washington, too, for that matter, Mills being a tackle and Washington a defensive end. In fact, include Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene in that, because linebackers are better critiqued in live action. Indeed, all but seventh-rounder and wide receiver Marquess Wilson will be judged primarily on how well they run into people, which the collective bargaining agreement really doesn't encourage.
The point is that grading the Bears’ draft before then borders on the meaningless. Because how they play at the NFL level is all that really matters, not the grade they had based on college play.
[MORE: Competition building, and Bourbonnais still three months off]
If there is a measure, The Bears went into the 2013 draft with only one clear “need” in the starting lineups on both sides of the ball: guard. They used their first-round pick on one.
And the reality is that had the Bears not grabbed Long at that point, they would not have gotten him. The next offensive lineman drafted was a center -– Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick, who pre-draft-visited Halas Hall –- taken by Dallas after a trade down from 18 to 31.
The next offensive linemen selected was Long’s teammate from Saddleback C.C., Florida State tackle Menelik Watson. He lasted 11 picks into the second round. Not another offensive lineman was taken until the third pick of the third round, Kentucky guard Larry Warford, to Detroit.
[RELATED: Bears 5th rounder Mills envisions OL with him in it]
Point is, if you can’t trade down, and the Bears couldn’t in a draft giving little in return for deal-downs, you do not pass up a player you rate worth the pick, regardless of how anyone else grades him. And based on the way the draft played out, if the Bears wanted a shot at a starting guard, Long was the third-best, based on the rest of the NFL not finding another draft-worthy guard until more than a full round later.
And if Long becomes a starting tackle, which is not unlikely, finding him at No. 20 will be a steal. Again, let’s wait until Bourbonnais.
This won’t be the first time a small-town young man starts work in an exponentially bigger city, but there’s something head-shaking to think that Jordan Mills will practice in front of 10 times the entire population of his hometown of Napoleonville, La. (pop. 653), and play on Sundays in front of 100 times the folks of Napoleonville.