The Bears did not select a player in either of the first two rounds, the first time they’ve failed to do that since 1978 and only the third time in team history. But that didn’t stop them from having a terrific draft, at least by the standard of filling needs.
Nobody can truly grade a draft until at least three years down the road. That’s the benchmark set by league executives, anyway. For instance, the 2005 draft was a complete failure for the Bears. It was only four years ago and not a single player from that class remains with the Bears, not after they just traded away their final piece, Kyle Orton, a few weeks ago.
That’s a good segway into my next point. For those Bears fans skeptical about this year’s crop of rookies joining the team and perturbed that they did not have a Day 1 pick, Jay Cutler was a better addition than any player they could have drafted in the first round; at least at this point in their careers.
Before the draft, I identified the following needs for the Bears, and they addressed every one of them: wide receiver, safety, outside linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, and cornerback. And not only did they draft one of the receivers I initially wanted them to select in Round 2, they managed to get him 50 picks later and got two picks from Seattle in the process.
In all, it looked like a successful draft for the Bears. Three months from now, we’ll find out what kind of players these rookies are in training camp and we’ll see which of them can step in and help the Bears reclaim the division crown in 2009.
Round 3, Pick 4 (68) – Jarron Gilbert, DT/DE, San Jose State
First of all, watch this YouTube video on Gilbert’s strength and explosion. You want all linemen on both sides of the ball to play with tremendous explosion and power, and it looks like he’s got it. Gilbert is an intriguing player and I love this pick. He’s got freakish athletic ability and a great combination of size and quickness. Gilbert moved inside to defensive tackle midway through his junior season, but he might factor into the defensive end rotation with the Bears. Either way, Marcus Harrison and Mark Anderson, specifically, will be pushed by this guy in training camp.
Round 3, Pick 35 (99) – Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Oklahoma
With the Bears on the clock at pick No. 49 overall in the second round, Iglesias was one of two receivers I wanted the Bears to take. The other was Mohamed Massaquoi, who was taken one pick later at No. 50 by the Browns. That’s the odd thing about the NFL draft is that sometimes players slide and the Bears were fortunate to land him 50 picks later. I know many Bears fans will feel like the Bears waited too long to take a receiver, but this guy has the goods. He was the top receiver for Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford. He’s got great hands and can catch the ball in traffic, which will make him a terrific slot receiver right off the bat. For those of you worried about the Bears taking another receiver from Oklahoma after the failed Mark Bradley experiment, don’t be. Bradley was a project whereas Iglesias actually produced in college.
Round 4, Pick 5 (105) – Henry Melton, DE, Texas
The Bears sure do like their speed guys. Melton ran a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash. Yes, as a lineman. Melton, much like Gilbert, is a terrific athlete who is a little raw with his technique, but that’s what the Bears hired the best defensive line coach in the NFL for, and Rod Marinelli ought to get the best out of these two guys. It’s much easier to teach technique to a thoroughbred then it is to teach speed to a technician. If nothing else, this guy is said to have great special teams ability, and thats something you always need.
Round 4, Pick 19 (119) – D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
The one thing that worries me about Moore is that he lacks ideal size. He’s not an overly physical corner, either. But he does have good ball skills. As Pro Football Weekly’s draft guide put it, “Competes for the ball in the air and attacks it like a receiver. … Enough speed to carry receivers down the field. Good closing speed. Versatile — lined up at receiver and a returner and is a natural catcher.” If that doesn’t sound like Nathan Vasher’s replacement, I don’t know what does. Those are words that could have been — and probably were — said about Vasher coming out of college, right down to the letter. Vasher ought to really be feeling his seat getting hot now.
Round 5, Pick 4 (140) – Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian
I’m cautiously optimistic about this pick and I have a few visions flashing through my head of Cutler throwing bombs to this guy. The reason why I’m cautious is because Knox comes from the same small school that Danieal Manning played at and it’s not exactly a football juggernaut known for its tough competition. But there have been success stories about small college players and Knox has a chance to forge his own. Knox is a speedster, who ran a 4.34 40-yard time at the combine. By comparison, the fastest 40-time was 4.30 by Darrius Heyward-Bey. NFL.com said this about Knox: “Perhaps no player has improved their draft stock [more] since the end of the 2008 season than Johnny Knox. With his stellar performances in college All-Star game action, coupled with an outstanding performance at the Indianapolis Combine, the Wildcats receiver has had NFL scouts scrambling back to the film room to see the deep threat in action.” There could be good things in store for the Bears.
Round 5, Pick 18 (154) – Marcus Freeman, OLB, Ohio State
Freeman is an extremely good value pick. Rated as the fifth-best outside linebacker in Pro Football Weekly, sixth-best in Sporting News, and eighth-best in Fanball.com, Freeman fits the mold of what the Bears had been drafting all day. He’s an excellent athlete with good speed and quickness to get to the ball carrier. He’s also a smart player who knows where he needs to be. His downsize is that he’s more of a finesse guy than a power one, although that fits the Bears’ defensive scheme. He could have durability issues, but the Bears have said they’re being extra cautious this year about checking the health of players before drafting them.
Round 6, Pick 17 (190) – Al Afalava, FS, Oregon State
I can’t say I know much about this guy, but he is a free safety and that is the position at which the Bears needed to supply depth. Here’s what NFL.com says about the pick: “Afalava had a great workout and was a three-year starter in college. He is a terror on special teams and will help Chicago’s special teams become even better than it already is. He gives the Bears needed depth in the secondary.” Like I said earlier, you can never have good enough special teams and it’d be nice if the Bears were able to reclaim the top spot in the special teams rankings that they had held in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007 before falling off last year.
Round 7, Pick 37 (246) – Lance Louis, OG, San Diego State
Louis is a developmental project. When the Bears selected him, he was listed as a tight end, which didn’t make sense because the Bears already have three solid ones in Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark, and Kellen Davis. But on NFL.com, they have him listed as a guard and he’ll compete for a roster spot in training camp. He’s got good measurables, running a 4.76 in the 40-yard dash and put up 30 reps in the bench press.
Round 7, Pick 42 (251) – Derek Kinder, WR, Pittsburgh
The Bears continued to address the wide receiver position with their last pick of the day. Kinder, like Marcus Monk last year, probably won’t make the team, but he at least creates good competition for training camp, and you never know when you’ll find a diamond in the rough, as the New Orleans Saints did a few seasons ago with Marques Colston, whom they drafted in the 7th round of the 2006 draft. Kinder is a relatively unknown prospect who impressed scouts at Pittsburgh’s pro day.