"The Bears are gonna be back!", Jon Gruden, NFL Network
The early returns are in on the Bears' draft, and the consensus seems to be that GM Jerry Angelo did a fine job. Determining the success or failure of a draft a week after the picks are made is a fruitless exercise (we won't really know until a few years from now), so I won't bother putting a letter grade on the Bears' picks. Rather, I am going to evaluate how Jerry Angelo played "the game of the draft", as one of the personalities on WSCR put it.
In other words, two questions can be answered today, one week after the draft:
First, did the Bears adequately address their needs?
Second, did the Bears get good value at the point in the draft where they selected?
The Picks:Round Pick Player Position School 3 4 (68) Jarron Gilbert DE San Jose State 3 35 (99)* Juaquin Iglesias WR Oklahoma 4 5 (105) Henry Melton DE Texas 4 19 (119) D.J. Moore CB Vanderbilt 5 4 (140) Johnny Knox WR Abilene Christian 5 18 (154) Marcus Freeman OLB Ohio State 6 17 (190) Al Afalava S Oregon State 7 37 (246)* Lance Louis G San Diego State 7 42 (251)* Derek Kinder WR
Did the Bears adequately address their needs?
Prior to the draft, the Bears' needs included, in order of priority, wide receiver, free safety, defensive line, cornerback, linebacker, offensive line, and running back. Chicago clearly missed on one of these needs, failing to find a prospect who can realistically compete for the starting free safety spot. Jerry Angelo also added little youth/depth to the offensive line. However, in the context of the picks that they had to work with, and the players that were available when they picked, I believe that the Bears properly addressed their needs. As I said in an earlier post, particularly when drafting on Day 2, a general manager cannot draft exclusively based upon need, but rather must look for the best player available who can help the team.
The Bears did add much needed depth to a defensive line that has suffered from age, injury, and ineffectiveness. Plus, that same defensive line has a few players headed towards free agency after this season. They also found three receivers to bring to camp, all of whom could make the final roster. Juaquin Iglesias has the potential to compete for a starting position. They added a corner and an outside linebacker, neither of whom would shock me if they came into camp an earned a place in the opening day lineup (though I would put that prediction in the category of "not shocking, but still unlikely"). They did get some more competition for the safety depth chart, which was needed, and they got a player with potential at guard to place on their practice squad. All in all, not a bad haul.
Did the Bears get good value at the point in the draft where they selected?
One of the things that I like most about this Bears' draft is that Jerry Angelo did not have a "reach pick" until the sixth round. In other words, he got great value out of his selections.
Pro Football Weekly's Pre-Draft Projections vs. Where the New Bears were Picked
Jarron Gilbert- graded an early third round pick, taken with the 4th pick of the third round
Juaquin Iglesias- graded an early third round pick and rising, taken with the 35th pick of the third round
Henry Melton- graded a mid-fourth round pick, taken with the 5th pick in the fourth round
D.J. Moore- graded a late third round pick, taken with the 19th pick in the fourth round
Johnny Knox- graded an early fifth round pick, taken with the 4th pick in the fifth round
Marcus Freeman- graded a mid-third round pick, taken with the 18th pick of the fifth round.
Al Afalava- not graded, taken with the 17th pick of the sixth round
Lance Louis- not graded, taken with the 37th pick of the seventh round
Derek Kinder- not graded, taken with the 42nd pick of the seventh round
As I said, Al Afalava was the first real "reach" of the draft, as Pro Football Weekly did not have him on their board. The same can be said for Lance Louis and Derek Kinder, the Bears' seventh round picks. However, it is hard to find good value in the sixth and seventh rounds, and it is even harder to project what prospects should go in these rounds, even if you are a first class publication like Pro Football Weekly. I believe that Afalava, Louis, and Kinder are just the type of players that a GM should roll the dice on in the late rounds.
Let's take a closer look at each player. Al Afalava, like a couple of the Bears' draft picks, was likely drafted more on the strength of his pro day workout than his production on the football field. In every test, Afalava tested at our near the optimum numbers for a player at this position. He is a hard hitter who was described by the Bears' Scouting Director as a strong safety with free safety skills. There is little doubt that athletically he can man either safety spot in the Bears' defense and will contribute on special teams. With a sixth round pick, that is a great place to start.
Lance Louis is a really interesting selection, and another great roll of the dice in the seventh round. Louis started his college career as a tight end, gained 40 pounds and moved to the offensive line. At 6'3" and 300 pounds, he still ran in the 4.7s at his pro day, an unbelievable 40 yard dash time for a man his size. Jerry Angelo says he is the fastest big man that he has seen since Randall McDaniel, who was one heck of a football player. The Bears intend to play him at guard, a position where depth is certainly needed. Selecting a project to develop at a position of need is a great way to use a pick this late in the draft. Given his tight end skills, Louis may also be an asset in short yard packages.
Derek Kinder fits into another category of high risk/high reward that is perfect for a seventh round selection- the quality player who had an injury that limited him in his final years of college. Kinder, a fairly big wide receiver, was an All-Big East selection in 2006, catching 57 passes for 847 yards and 6 touchdowns. He tore up his knee and missed most of 2007, and was less productive in 2008. If that knee is back to full strength, he has a shot to make the Bears' roster. With the 251st pick in the draft, that is just about the most that one can ask.
The Draft Day Trade
The Bears' draft began with a trade out of Day 1. I know that this trade caused a lot of frustration amongst fans who waited through 48 selections for Chicago's first and only pick of Day 1, and from my couch, I was disappointed as well. However, looking back on it now, the trade made a lot of sense. The Arizona Cardinals were not taking the bait on a trade for Anquan Boldin. After Brian Robiskie, who was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 36th pick, there was a significant dropoff in talent at the wide receiver position. The top safeties on the Bears' board were also gone. So the Bears traded back, accepting early third and fourth round picks in return.
From my perspective, this trade could not have worked out any better. Essentially, the Bears moved back 19 picks to acquire an extra fourth rounder. On my board, Juaquin Iglesias was the next best fit for the Bears' need at receiver. I would have been happy if Jerry Angelo had selected him with the 49th pick, and as you may recall, that was the precise player I had the Bears taking in my mock draft. Thankfully, Iglesias was still available at the 99th pick, and the Bears were able to use the 68th and 105th selections to bolster a defensive line that has struggled to pressure the passer, has been riddled with injuries, and is beginning to show some age. As I said, a very good trade.
That "Other" Trade
There is one quick point that should always be made in reference to this Bears' draft. I am sure that you have heard it before, but any evaluation of these picks must include the Jay Cutler acquisition. The first and third round picks that the Bears surrendered in this draft were the driving force behind that trade. Jerry Angelo sacrificed the lion's share of his ability to add impact talent to this team in order to secure a potential franchise quarterback for the next ten years. No one should overlook this fact.
No, this does not give Angelo a pass beyond this year, even though the Bears also surrendered a first round pick next season. But for this season, Jay Cutler is rightly included in my draft evaluation. The acquisition of a potential franchise quarterback is what really pushes this draft over the top.
NFC North Thoughts
It is a good thing that the Bears' have had such a good offseason, because I believe that there is a lot to like about each of their division rivals' drafts. The Packers got two potential starters for their new, 3-4 defense and addressed some of their needs on the offensive line. The Vikings got one of the true playmakers in this draft, a bulldozer at right tackle, and some solid depth to add to their defense. The Lions added talent from the top of their draft to the very bottom; though, let's face it, they still have a long way to go.
The Bears needed a solid Day 2 to maintain their position as the most improved team in the NFC North. Based on first impressions, Jerry Angelo accomplished that task. This season should feature an exciting division title race, with the top three teams once again in the mix.
At some point, I'd like to go over the undrafted free agents added to the team. Look for this sometime after rookie minicamp or perhaps closer to training camp. Until then, Bear down!