By Laurence Holmes-
(CBS) Phil Emery’s short history of being the Bears general manager has brought us an interesting coaching search that resulted in the peculiar-but-effective Marc Trestman. Emery has also brought us two intriguing first-round picks.
In 2012, the Bears dug deep to come up with Shea McClellin, when both Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus from Illinois were available. Both of those players have proved to be better pros than McClellin. The jury is still out on McClellin, but Jack McCoy just called and it doesn’t look good.
Last year, Emery made a leap to draft Kyle Long, who paid immediate dividends. The pick was a surprise, but that surprise has been pleasant for Bears fan. Long had a fine rookie year and found himself in the Pro Bowl.
Now another draft is upon us, and I’ve been scouring draft guides, mocks and talking to folks trying to figure out what twist “Phil Night Shaymalan” will have for us this year.
It’s fair to think the bulk of the draft will be spent on defense. I’d be shocked if the first two picks don’t go that way.
The Bears defense was historically bad last year. There was a stretch of eight games in which their gave up an average of 200 yards per game on the ground. That’s almost impossible to do. Since the end of the season, Emery improved on what he has up front. Lamarr Houston was terrific against the run last year. Willie Young is an intriguing prospect, and Jared Allen is still a dangerous pass rusher. They even added depth with Israel Idonije and bolstered the middle, bringing back Jeremiah Ratliff.
The linebacking corps is in flux. I think the Bears will be more of a 4-3 team than most people believe. Lance Briggs is still recovering from his shoulder injury. D.J. Williams is back, but can he stay healthy? McClellin will fight it out with last year’s second-round pick, Jon Bostic, for the Sam linebacker spot. If you’re telling me Briggs and Williams are OK, then I’ll say the linebackers will be fine, but the Bears should still look for a another one for their future.
Let’s go to the defensive backfield. The Bears made a big investment in Tim Jennings. It was deserved. Jennings has been to the Pro Bowl twice as a Bear. It looked for some time like Charles Tillman was a goner, but he’s back, too. Even Kelvin Hayden is in the fold. So they’re set there but could certainly use an infusion of youth. I wouldn’t be perplexed if the Bears went with a cornerback at No. 14 overall.
That leaves safety. So far in free agency the Bears haven’t signed a starter. Chris Conte might not be ready for training camp and if he was, would that make you feel better?
The safety position has changed dramatically the last few years. Looking at the money spent around the league in free agency this year, it’s becoming a premium position in a pass-happy NFL.
This leads me to believe the Bears will draft a safety because there are two really good ones that could be available at No. 14: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama (I’ll give you dollar if you can tell me his first name without looking it up) and Calvin Pryor from Louisville. The drop-off is steep to Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois (who I would like better in the second round).
Either of the first two could help the Bears immediately. Either of the two would make perfect sense. I was asked by CBS Sports Radio to make the pick for the Bears on their morning show. I went with Pryor. I’ve seen a lot of people I trust say Pryor as well. It makes all the sense in the world, which scares me.
Emery isn’t a conventional guy. He’s the guy who used to be bouncer at a club, as Adam Jahns pointed out in his one-on-one interview. He’s the cowboy boot-wearing, lanyard-sporting, word-inventing GM of the Bears.
Maybe the “twist” this year will be that he makes the pick that everyone agrees on, but don’t bet on it.
Holmes host the Laurence Holmes Show for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.