Bears Hope For Value From Early Picks
It wasn't much of a surprise that the Chicago Bears selected guard Kyle Long and linebacker Jon Bostic in the NFL Draft. I had both on the Bears' short list of candidates that appeared in Chicago last week.
The shocker was that general manager Phil Emery violated the golden rule of the first round: Select a proven difference-maker, not a untested project. What makes the selection of Long in round one even more curious is that the organization is in a win-now mode supposedly.
If Emery and his staff were as sold on Long at the 20th pick as they would like us to believe, then I'd be concerned about their abilities to evaluate talent. None of the draft experts considered him to be first-round material, and I mean nobody.
Why not slide down to the late first or early second round? A trade would have allowed the Bears to recoup at least one of the draft picks that had been dealt earlier.
Emery also would have been in position to select either defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, linebacker Alec Ogletree or wide receiver-kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in round one and still take Long in round two. Floyd, Ogletree and Patterson have considerable upsides, and they may be able to contribute immediately.
Come away with Floyd or Ogletree or Patterson and Long in the first two rounds, and I doubt Bears fans would complain. Instead, their team will face Floyd and Patterson on the Minnesota Vikings this year.
If the Bears were in transition, Long would have made more sense. Their roster screams otherwise. It's loaded with veterans, several of whom are about to enter the final years of their contracts, quarterback Jay Cutler among them.
At 6-foot-6, 313 pounds, Long is quite the physical specimen. The son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long made a huge impression on Emery, who probably would not have selected him otherwise.
The front office has visions of the next Bruce Matthews, another Hall of Fame lineman from a football family.
At the same time, Long is the definition of raw potential. The 24-year-old got a late start, mostly because of off-the-field problems. At Oregon, he started all of four games, and then only because an injury opened a spot for him.
Will he be a guard at the next level? A tackle? Have we seen enough of him to know either way? In time, maybe he'll develop into a valuable movable piece, but that won't help Cutler and Matt Forte next season.
Emery didn't receive full value at the 50th pick in round two as well. While Bostic improved his stock at the draft combine, the consensus was he would be available as late as the fourth round. He's strong, aggressive and plays the run well. But his limited lateral quickness and balls skills may be better suited for the strong side than as a replacement for Brian Urlacher in the middle.
Then again, maybe none of this should have come as a surprise at all. Last season Emery raised eyebrows with his selection of Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin in round one. As a rookie, McClellin displayed some potential in limited opportunities, but it remains to be seen whether he'll be more productive as a down lineman or an speed rusher off the edge.
A draft cannot be judged fairly until a couple or three seasons after the fact. But no matter how good Long and Bostic turn out to be, consider this one to be a wasted opportunity.