Bears

Urgency at defensive tackle? Not so fast

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Urgency at defensive tackle? Not so fast

Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted: 9:49 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The debate started when the Bears parted company with Tommie Harris: that the need for a dominant defensive tackle was officially acute and well could supersede the quest for help on the offensive line, whether in free agency or the draft.

A dominant player right there, especially for our defense, it makes our defense tick, coach Lovie Smith says. It's the reason why we paid our defensive tackle more money than we have any other players on our team. So it's very important to have a disruptive guy there that can cause havoc that will make teams double team him and things like that.

Right now there is no free agency, although there will be at some point. But the urgency at defensive tackle, Im not so sure, for a couple of related reasons.

One is history. The shock of the Alex Brown release last offseason was exorcised for good when Israel Idonije seized the moment and a starting job at defensive end on the way to eight sacks, one more than Brown posted in his best season (2006).

The second is Henry Melton. The coaching staff was right about Idonije last year (maybe not so right about Mark Anderson, but ok) and there is a growing internal buzz building around Melton.

Without the benefit of a formal Bears offseason strength and conditioning program, Melton has quietly built himself up to a ripped 294 pounds and is still the athlete who runs a 4.6 40, was fast enough to be on special teams last season, and was a running back through his freshman year at Texas.

Melton was slotted in the end rotation last year and had 2.5 sacks in spot duty, but the added muscle is the best indication of where he and the Bears see his future.

Considering that only Julius Peppers (23) had more QB pressures last season than Meltons nine, if coaches see Melton as the 2011 version of Idonije, you can understand the thinking.

The Bears have selected at least one defensive lineman within the first four rounds in eight of the nine drafts directed by Jerry Angelo. They took two in 2009 (Melton and Jarron Gilbert) and two in 2004 (Harris and Tank Johnson). So not addressing the position group somewhere in the first four rounds at least once would be the only real surprise.

But unlike safety last year and tackle in 2008 (Chris Williams), and given that there will be free agents like Cullen Jenkins and Brandon Mebane available at some point for the defensive line, the absolute must-pick isnt necessarily for the next Tommie Harris.

That hurts

Not sure how your brackets played out but I got three of four through into the third round in three of the four regionals. The only one that Im mad about missing on is Butler, because I am a huge Bulldogs believer after covering them and the Horizon League for a few years and know what Matt Howard can do. Now Pitt does too.

But the Southwest bracket is officially dead to me. Purdue was going to the Final Four after getting past Vanderbilt. Oooops. Ohio State will take UNC and then Duke to get past BYU for the National Championship; thats my story and Im stickin to it.

But that Southwest mess? Dont ask.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should Bears do at No. 8?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should Bears do at No. 8?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score) and Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) join Kap on the panel.

The guys discuss Ryan Pace’s options with the NFL Draft just a day away. Plus, Porter Moser gets an extension at Loyola, Kyle Schwarber continues to rake and Michael Kopech continues to dominate at Triple-A.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Moon and JJ's final mock draft: Do the Bears go with offense or defense at No. 8?

Moon and JJ's final mock draft: Do the Bears go with offense or defense at No. 8?

Previous mock drafts: Jan. 22 | Feb. 6 | Feb. 26March 7March 19

1. Cleveland Browns

Moon: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

No team has butchered QB selections more than Cleveland, going back to Tim Couch instead of Donovan McNabb No. 1 overall in 1999, continuing to passings on Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Pat Mahomes, Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson in the span of just the last two years. Browns have scouted Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen each in three different targeted evaluations, including predraft visits. The deliberations will be intense and the Browns hope they’re getting Carson Palmer and not Matt Leinart. Allen or Mayfield here would not surprise at all, and Mayfield buzz picked up in the closing week.

JJ: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The Browns seem to be sending out plenty of smoke signals as to who they’ll take with the first overall pick, but it’ll be a quarterback. I’ve had Sam Darnold here since January, but will finish with this: Allen’s sky-high ceiling is too much for the Browns to pass up. Of course, his low floor means he could be the next in a long line of quarterbacks to bust with the Browns, and would look even worse if any of Darnold/Mayfield/Rosen wind up being good.

2. New York Giants

Moon: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The far-and-away top rusher in this draft lit up the Scouting Combine. With Jets apparently trading up for QB adding to pressure on that group, Giants go for running mate to assist Eli Manning and get a windfall with Barkley.

JJ: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Even with Darnold still on the board, the Dave Gettleman sticks to his guns and takes Barkley. We’ve seen a running back taken in the first four picks in each of the last two drafts (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette), so taking one this high isn’t totally unprecedented — especially if there’s a consensus in the Giants’ draft room that Barkley is the best player in this draft. 

3. New York Jets

Moon: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

The truly intriguing team in the top 10. Trading up from No. 6 says Jets, even with Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown signed, are targeting a QB and want to get ahead of at least one Browns pick. A surprise could be coming but teams don’t mortgage their draft typically for less than a QB. The guess is which one but Jets making a move to ensure more than just a leftover. Drills and interviews will strike teams differently. Measurables may not be ideal (6-1) but they weren’t for Russell Wilson either. Mayfield made all the throws and has the benefit of coming from a big-time program.

JJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The Browns and Giants make things easy for the Jets, who don’t need much discussion to take Darnold. I’m with Moon that Mayfield would be the pick here if Darnold isn’t on the board, though. 

4. Cleveland Browns

Moon: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

The first big jolt of the ’18 draft. Expect the Browns to trade out of here with Buffalo lurking and in quest of a franchise QB. But Bears aren’t the only team wanting to better protect a franchise QB and the Browns struck gold with tackle Joe Thomas at No. 3 in 2007. Hall of Fame guard John Hannah went No. 4 and Nelson is rated as one of two overall best in ’18 draft. While in Kansas City, GM John Dorsey went offensive line No. 1 overall in 2013 (T Eric Fisher) and second round in 2015 (G Mitch Morse).

JJ: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State

With Barkley off the board, the Browns take the second-best player in this year’s draft in Chubb. Pairing him with Myles Garrett presents a tantalizing long-term future for Cleveland’s pass rush. 

5. Denver Broncos

Moon: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

QB run continues. Denver and John Elway have fouled up the QB spot ever since Peyton Manning retired and badly need a QB hit. Evaluations (theirs and those of teams right above them) will determine which one falls to Broncos after they lost out to Minnesota for Kirk Cousins.

JJ: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

If Denver stays at No. 5, the debate comes down to Mayfield or Josh Rosen. The Broncos coached Mayfield in the Senior Bowl back in January, and that tips him over Rosen. Either way, in this scenario, there will still be one of the top four quarterbacks on the board when picks No. 6-8 are on the clock, leading to the potential for the Colts, Bucs or Bears to trade down with, most likely, the Buffalo Bills. 

6. Indianapolis Colts

Moon: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State

Trading down and still getting their guy is the early leader for ’18 draft move for Indy, where defense is such a priority for the Colts and its new coaching staff. Frank Reich likely can work Andrew Luck into something and a franchise pass rusher raises everything on that side of the football. The wild card here is Quenton Nelson; if he drops and Indy goes for there, Chubb could the surprise drop within reach of the Bears.

JJ: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Quenton Nelson and Roquan Smith could very well be in play for the Colts here, but they go with Ward in the hopes he could make an impact similar to that of Marshon Lattimore a year ago. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Moon: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

The top DB in the draft, left there by QB-mania. If the scramble 1-6 leaves Nelson or Chubb, Bucs should expect their phones to start ring with trade overtures.

JJ: Derwin James, S, Florida State

James profiles as a plug-and-play safety who can make an immediate impact, so Tampa Bay goes with him over Minkah Fitzpatrick, who while talented doesn’t have a set position yet. 

8. Chicago Bears

Moon: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Who’s still on The Board already will factor in huge here. Nelson? Chubb? Fitzpatrick? All are among the Bears’ Elite Eight graded worth No. 8, and GM Ryan Pace has amply demonstrated his flexibility and comfort with high-end deals, trading up in each of his past two first rounds and down in his past two second rounds.
 
Suspiciously perhaps, Pace offered public praise for Edmunds, which might well have been just a touch of misdirection; Bears didn’t have known Edmunds special evaluations like a visit or private workout, which they did for Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Nelson, Georgia’s Roquan Smith, whom many evaluators grade above Edmunds. But Edmunds gets a late nod here over Smith based on upside/ceiling in what is suddenly an extremely interesting spot amid the Great ’18 QB Craze.
 
A handful of the Bears’ targeted players will still be on the board, making a trade down very attractive. Their evaluation ratings are key; Pace won’t and shouldn’t go all-in based solely on need. Retaining Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller for big $$ takes CB need way down, and someone may be hungry to trade up for Ohio State CB Denzel Ward. If there’s a trade scenario to land G Quenton Nelson, Bears would seriously consider help in the form of Nelson if available for a questionable interior O-line to protect QB Mitch Trubisky. But Pace scored big in ’16 round two with Cody Whitehair, saw while in New Orleans what lower-round OL picks, top coaching and a quarterback could do.
 
Edmunds has size over Smith, and his production was solid over the past two seasons. Bears D-coordinator Vic Fangio won’t be making the pick, but Fangio has favored bigger OLB’s (Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Pernell McPhee), while having elite results from smaller ILB’s (Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis).
 
All that said, Bears may not have a shot at Edmunds if San Francisco, which had private workouts with both Edmunds and Smith, makes a move up for Edmunds. But the combination of grade, need, position value and the rest say Edmunds to the Bears.

[More from Moon on why the Bears should draft Edmunds]

JJ: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

So the Bears get to their pick with Smith, Nelson, Fitzpatrick and Tremaine Edmunds still on the board, along with Rosen, presenting the possibility for a trade-down. This would present a number of factors for Ryan Pace to evaluate:

— Edmunds has the kind of off-the-charts physical traits Pace has targeted in previous drafts (Kevin White, Leonard Floyd), and could provide help to the Bears’ outside linebacker corps. But he’s more of a projection at this point, although that’s not necessarily a deterrent for Pace. 

— What about Fitzpatrick? He’s super-talented and his football intelligence and work ethic are well-regarded among draft circles. But is he a safety? Is he a cornerback? Do the Bears actually need either position? Unless the Bears were to view him as an absolute lock as the best player available at No. 8, he won’t be the guy. 

— Smith could start from Day 1 next to Danny Trevathan and give the Bears an excellent inside linebacker tandem. While his ceiling may not be as high as Edmunds, he’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Willis, the former San Francisco 49ers linebacker who thrived in Vic Fangio’s defense. But these are all defensive guys. So that leads us to…

— Nelson, who would fit with the Bears’ 2018 strategy of surrounding Mitch Trubisky with the best possible cast of supporting players. An interior offensive line of Nelson, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long should be an effective blockade of inside pressure; the added benefit of Nelson is he immediately helps the inside zone running game in Matt Nagy’s offense. Pairing him with Harry Hiestand, his offensive line coach at Notre Dame, is a slam dunk for a guy who already looks like a slam dunk prospect. As someone at Notre Dame put it: Don’t overthink this, and take the guy who will be an All-Pro for years to come. 

[More from JJ on why the Bears should draft Nelson]

9. San Francisco 49ers

Moon: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Assuming Bears don’t grab Smith, he is a hedge against Ruben Foster injury and deepening character issues. Calvin Ridley may be too good to pass up as complement to QB Jimmy Garoppolo but Ridley didn’t really sweep through his evaluations.

JJ: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

With Smith still on the board, the 49ers don’t have to put much thought into the guy they’ll draft. It’s unlikely Smith makes it beyond the No. 9 pick. 

10. Oakland Raiders

Moon: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward was a backfield mate of Marshon Lattimore and consistently solid. Jon Gruden will want help on offense for Derek Carr, Ridley will be tempting, but Ward projects as day-one starter.

JJ: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

The Raiders could go for Fitzpatrick here with a “best player available” strategy, but drafting Edmunds and developing him into a star just in time for the move to Las Vegas sounds like a pretty nice path for Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden to take. 

11. Miami Dolphins

Moon: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
JJ: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

12. Buffalo Bills

Moon: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
JJ: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

13. Washington Redskins

Moon: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
JJ: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

14. Green Bay Packers

Moon: Derwin James, S, Florida State
JJ: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

15. Arizona Cardinals

Moon: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UT-San Antonio
JJ: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

16. Baltimore Ravens

Moon: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
JJ: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Moon: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
JJ: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

18. Seattle Seahawks

Moon: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
JJ: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

19. Dallas Cowboys

Moon: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
JJ: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

20. Detroit Lions

Moon: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
JJ: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Moon: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
JJ: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

22. Buffalo Bills

Moon: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
JJ: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

23. New England Patriots

Moon: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
JJ: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

24. Carolina Panthers

Moon: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
JJ: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

25. Tennessee Titans

Moon: Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State
JJ: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College

26. Atlanta Falcons

Moon: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
JJ: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

27. New Orleans Saints

Moon: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
JJ: James Daniels, OG/C, Iowa

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Moon: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
JJ: Justin Reid, S, Stanford

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Moon: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
JJ: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

30. Minnesota Vikings

Moon: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
JJ: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

31. New England Patriots

Moon: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
JJ: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UT-San Antonio

32. Philadelphia Eagles

Moon: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
JJ: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State