“With the 20th pick, the Chicago Bears select… Kyle Long.” That Roger Goodell announcement was quickly followed by a barrage of upset commentary across Chicagoland bars and living rooms. Exclamations like “Eifert was still on the board!” and “What about Teo or Ogletree?!” were common place in the wake of Emery’s round one draft choice. The name Kyle Long was absent from every major round one mock draft board, from ESPN’s draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King. The key word in the prior statement was mock as in imitation. Phil Emery, unlike some general managers, feels no need to make safe choices and follow the recommendations of so-called experts. He may in fact read mock drafts but he and his team of scouts aren’t married to what analysts believe should be done in the draft. Fans grumble because their favorite website had no mention of Kyle Long going to Chicago, especially on day one. But Phil Emery is paid well to scout talent and bring it to Soldier Field. As Jerry Angelo eventually discovered, the general manager alone will stand or fall with these decisions. Criticize all you want but also appreciate that the Bears finally have a personnel leader that searches for athletes with high ceilings not high floors and seeks Super Bowl rings not playoff births. It’s a new feeling for fans in Chicago but you’ll get used to it, eventually.
The 2013 Chicago Bears draft class is filled with unproven athletes and exceptionally talented, underachievers. From baseball player turned lineman, Kyle Long to talented but troubled wideout, Marquess Wilson, there is no telling what these rookies will bring.
- Kyle Long, OL, Oregon (20th pick)
- Jonathan Bostic, LB, Florida (50th pick)
- Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers (117th pick)
- Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech (163rd pick)
- Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia (188th pick)
- Marquess Wilson, WR, Wash. St. (236th pick)
Having not watched a 2012 Ducks, Gators or Bulldogs (Georgia or Louisiana Tech) game, I will leave letter grading to the NFL analysts. Draft grades aside, it’s clear the new Bears regime has little trust in the likes of J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi. Emery expects Long to start at guard but likely, with his size and athleticism, expects him to shift to tackle eventually. Jordan Mills, though just a fifth round pick, has the raw talent to be a swing tackle for years to come. The only other offensive selection, Marquess Wilson, is a wide receiver with the size and speed to help the team. What lies between the ears is the big question; Wilson was suspended indefinitely last year for walking out on his team and falsely accusing his coach, the controversial Mike Leach, of player abuse. Emery’s three defensive selections, two linebackers and a defensive end, speak volumes about how he sees the current state of the defense. The fact that two linebackers, Bostic and Greene, were selected while viable cornerback options remained on the board proves that Emery and Marc Trestman see Charles Tillman, age 32, and Tim Jennings, age 29, as cornerstones for the next couple of years. The late round choice of defensive end, Cornelius Washington, likely spells the end for Israel Idonije in a Bears uniform. And, with Urlacher and Roach out of Halas Hall for good, Bears brass felt the need – in multiple rounds – to bring talented youth to the linebacker position.
While linebacker, defensive line and offensive line have been restocked, the cupboards are somewhat bare at cornerback and quarterback. Emery has made a calculated decision that Tillman and Jennings will remain Pro Bowlers for at least another year. With Cutler’s health, Emery is taking the same gamble that Jerry Angelo did a couple of years ago – right before his firing. The Bears quarterback depth is lacking going into the 2013 season but – unlike two years ago – the offensive line now has the talent to actually protect the starter and the West Coast system employed by Trestman will make for fewer seven step drops.
While the low round rookies may not immediately impact the team, Kyle Long and Jonathan Bostic must be more than backups come this fall. I’m betting they will and you should too. Emery is a scout. Period. Though his selections may not sit well with fans in April, it’s more important that fans are happy when the rookies perform in-season. Phil Emery doesn’t care about mock drafts the way you, me and draft analysts do. He does care about finding impact players and that’s what should matter most.