Bears

Mullin: With the 29th pick the Bears select...

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Mullin: With the 29th pick the Bears select...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:02 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Every draft takes on its own unique character and 2011 should do exactly that, given the precarious state of NFL personnel management right now with free agency on hold. Rarely do drafts play out entirely as envisioned because one pick, one trade, can blow up the best-laid plans of teams, and mock-drafters.

But from a variety of personnel sources and evaluations, View from the Moon has established exactly how the first round of the 2011 draft will unfold.

More or less

1. Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, QB, Auburn.

Comment: The Panthers want to trade down and could throw the draft into early chaos with a big move. But the first pick of the Ron Rivera Era needs to be a franchise-turner. Jimmy Clausen was a No. 2 last year but the chance to get THE guy is rare and Newton is that, even with the questions and lack of extensive track record. The variable is Marcell Dareus as a franchise interior force
2. Denver Broncos Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Comment: New coach John Fox is a defense guy, knows what a dominant D-lineman means to a franchise, and he has a chance to get one now to anchor a 4-3 scheme.

3. Buffalo Bills Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Comment: Considered by some to be the best single player in the 011 draft, and is there a better 3-4 pass rusher than this?

4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Comment: The Carson Palmer situation is an organizational crisis and the Bengals could surprise and grab Gabbert ahead of Arizona. But the fourth-best player in this draft is Green and that may turn Palmers head back in the right direction.

5. Arizona Cardinals Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Comment: The temptation will be to snag LSU CB Patrick Peterson but a franchise refitting starts at one position: QB. Matt Leinart didnt work out. Neither did Derek Anderson. Kurt Warner is gone. This franchise still has the taste of a Super Bowl in its mouth and thats not going to happen without settling the quarterback issue.

6. Cleveland Browns Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Comment: Colt McCoy settled some questions at QB and Mike Holmgren knows what a physical receiver can mean to any offense, West Coast or other.
7. San Francisco 49ers Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Comment: New coach Jim Harbaugh wouldve preferred another position but hes a former QB and knows this is an elite-value position and Peterson is a gem by all accounts.

8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Comment: Probably one of the bigger boom-or-bust figures in the draft and could be something special. But hes a one-year wonder and Tennessee will be pleasantly surprised if this kind of talent falls to them, even with the question marks.

9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith, T. USC.

Comment: Dallas knows the value of being strong up front and also knows Tony Romos limits if they dont protect him. Smith has major upside and could supplant Marc Columbo whos winding down at RT, but he projects as a franchise LT.

10 Washington Redskins Aldon Smith, LBDE, Missouri
Comment: This is a draft pivot point. Smith is a hybrid at 6-4, 263 pounds and gives the Redskins a disruptor who can be moved around to create mismatches and still play with power at the point. But Mike Shanahan is used to having a quarterback situation better than what hes got now and either Jake Locker or Andy Dalton would not be a complete surprise here.

11. Houston Texans Robert Quinn, LBDE North Carolina

Comment: Wade Phillips lives with his 3-4 scheme and 3-4s live or die with pass-rushing outside backers. If Aldon Smith isnt snapped up by now, the Texans will take him and be grateful. But Quinn, one of the Tarheels suspended for 010, is an elite pass rusher and can fit in two places.

12. Minnesota Vikings Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Comment: A year ago Locker might have gone No. 1 overall. But this is a franchise-grade need and brings another potential elite young QB into a division that already has Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Do not rule out Donovan McNabb in Minnesota either.

13. Detroit Lions Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Comment: Detroit has its QB (Stafford), RB (Jahvid Best), and WR (Calvin Johnson) in place. OT Anthony Castonzo fits a need on the OL but does not carry this high a grade. Detroit needs to keep pace with a division that is staffing up at QB and Amukamara is a 6-foot corner with 4.4 speed. Jimmy Smith may be a surprise instead but a DB behind Ndamukong Suh is a natural.

14 St. Louis Rams Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Comment: The Bears would have loved a shot at this Tommie Harris replacement but the Rams will get there ahead of them with an inside force that will make their entire defense better.

15. Miami Dolphins Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Comment: Chad Pennington is not the solution and there are other options here, like Ryan Mallett. But Mallett has some maturity questions and Dalton is a career winner, a leader, and showed character with offseason work to master skills of an under-center QB after being a shotgunner til now.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Comment: Jack DelRio is in jeopardy and needs an impact pass rusher to make his defense work, which it hasnt always.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) Muhammed Wilkerson, DE, Temple

Comment: The run on D-linemen in Round One continues. Wilkerson on one side of Vince Wolfork is an athletic 310-pounder in the Richard Seymour mold physically and is a perfect edge presence in Bill Belichicks 3-4.

18 San Diego Chargers J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Comment: Watt may go to New England the pick before this, in which case Wilkerson becomes a fit in San Diego. Watt projects to bookend with Luis Castillo on a Charger front three that needs to take a next step in dominance.

19. New York Giants Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Comment: Thisll be a pick from the group of Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Pouncey, but the bloodlines here and the Giants need in the middle is critical.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Comment: Finally, after so many defensive linemen, the dam starts to burst for the run on offensive linemen. The Bucs have something in QB Josh Freeman and a move on Alabama RB Mark Ingram, a surprise drop in the draft, is there for them but a potential franchise LT is harder to find.

21. Kansas City Chiefs Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Comment: The debate in the draft room will be between Carimi and UCLA rush-linebacker Akeem Ayers. But Carimi is starter-grade at either right or left tackle and the Chiefs were pedestrian in pass protection for Matt Cassel.

22. Indianapolis Colts Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Comment: Bill Polian doesnt panic on draft day but his offense was No. 1 in sack percentage only because of Peyton Mannings savvy. The Colts were 27th in rushing average and Polian went defense last year. He finds quality character players and has chosen defensive players with two straight first picks just once since 1992. He wont this year either.

23. Philadelphia Eagles Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Comment: Another turning-point pick. Michael Vick was hoping for help up front but the run on tackles drained a lot of depth from the talent pool. This pick will come down to help on the OL with either Danny Watkins or Derek Sherrod, or on defense with an edge player, likely one of the Camerons (Heyward or Jordan). Adrian Clayborn fits the Hugh DouglassTrent Cole mold but Jordan is bigger and as fast.
24. New Orleans Saints Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Comment: The Saints have some force up front but ranked 32nd in interception percentage and posted an NFL-low 9 INTs. Help in the secondary is a major priority.

25. Seattle Seahawks Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina

Comment: Another surprise pick but a reasonable one for a team that needs a disruptor up front, particularly with under-tackle Brandon Mebane a possible loss through free agency. QB looms as a need but the Seahawks need to stop people and Austin was a first-round talent before his 010 suspension.

26. Baltimore Ravens Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Comment: Ozzie Newsome has built a premier franchise drafting linemen in his first rounds and Sherrod is a quality individual who will be a rookie starter at one OT spot. QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice behind an elite line makes for a Super Bowl threat.

27. Atlanta Falcons Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Comment: DaQuan Bowers is still on the board and may be too good to pass up even with his knee questions. But Heyward is a power player who fits either inside or outside and rates a physical edge over Adrian Clayborn.
28. New England Patriots Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Comment: The Pats took care of their defensive front at No. 17 and Ingram is a solid pick for an offense that knows how to use running backs to augment No. 12.

SEE SIDEBAR FOR BEARS 29TH PICK

30. New York Jets Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

Comment: Ayers was high on a number of draft boards but did not help himself at the Combine. The proliferation of 3-4s, however, have boosted the stock of hybrid LBDE types like Ayers, who has played showed flashes of stardom but not consistently enough. Rex Ryan is looking for someone to be what Vernon Gholston was supposed to be.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Comment: The Steelers havent taken a DB in the first round since Troy Polamalu and Mike Tomlin wants to keep a Pittsburgh defensive tradition at the highest level.

32 Green Bay Packers Justin Houston, LB, Georgia

Comment: With Green Bays record of landing quality LBs well beyond drafts early picks (Nick Barnett, Desmond Bishop, Clay Matthews), this is always a pick of note. Dom Capers gets another bit of ammunition for his attack 3-4. Houston may be gone a couple picks ago (Jets) but if hes there, he fits a number of roles in the Green Bay version of the 3-4.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.
 

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

With the Bears releasing Josh Sitton and having the option to franchise Kyle Fuller, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at two of the first big decisions for Ryan Pace’s offseason plan.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.