Judging a draft one day later is like examining a garden the day after planting. Calling it a success or failure is either conjecture or, well, a load of fertilizer.
The Bears’ 2014 draft class likely won’t be judged fairly for another five years, when Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and the others have navigated their way to the top of — or out of — the NFL.
Still, it’s possible to look at the team’s picks in the context of who else was available, what the Bears needed and whether the two points intersected.
Quite simply, how’d they do?
Finley: Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. That the Bears landed the Pac-12’s defensive and offensive players of the year (Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey) in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, might be telling about the conference. But the fact is, both players have flaws. Sutton’s is his weight. He lost 30 pounds to get to 290. At that size, he could be the prototypical three-technique tackle the Bears are dying for.
Jahns: The more I think about it, the more I like the selection of Virginia Tech cornerback Fuller at No. 14. Although safety was a need, the Bears’ defense is undergoing a schematic overhaul. Multiple looks are expected, and Fuller can do a ton for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, whether it’s covering larger tight ends in the slot or blitzing as a safety.
Potash: There’s usually a reason players fall in the draft, but Carey is an exciting talent. Though he doesn’t have blazing speed, he has everything else — including some wow-factor skills — to excel in a high-octane offense that will give him every chance to show what he can do. He won’t beat out Matt Forte, but he’ll provide an indication that he could be an upgrade as Forte’s successor.
Finley: LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson has the most incomplete college resume of the Bears’ picks. Fans better hope that the 6-3, 315-pounder — who had a career-high 58 tackles last season — performs dirty-work tasks that are hard to measure with statistics. A one-year starter who missed his bowl game for violating team rules doesn’t look good on paper.
Jahns: Carey, not because of his talent, but because of his off-the-field issues, which include a dropped misdemeanor assault charge for an altercation with his then-pregnant girlfriend. A backup running back was needed behind Forte, but taking Carey before a safety seemed risky, even if it was the fourth round. If Carey’s move-the-pile running style pans out and if he’s truly the “love-ful cat” he says he is, the questions will disappear.
Potash: The first line of Ferguson’s bio distributed by the Bears is a little bit of a red flag: “Do not be fooled by Ferguson’s statistics — he was a vital cog to the success of the Tigers’ success.” He was a starter for one season. What are the odds the Bears know something other NFL teams don’t? He transcends scheme, but he has a lot to prove.
THEY’LL RUE NOT TAKING
Finley: Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and Calvin Pryor (Louisville). Fuller could turn out to be a fantastic cornerback, and he’ll be on the field a ton as a nickel back. But the Bears didn’t land one of the four top-tier safeties when they were all available at No. 14, and it was too late to take one in Round 2. Fourth-rounder Brock Vereen of Minnesota won’t patch the team’s hole himself.
Jahns: A wide receiver in the late rounds. The receiver class was said to be overflowing with talent. The Packers took three, including two late: Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) and Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis (seventh round). Coach Marc Trestman never can have enough weapons, and it would have been beneficial to draft a receiver to push Marquess Wilson for the No. 3 job.
Potash: You never can have enough defensive ends. South Florida’s Aaron Lynch is a superior talent with red flags galore, but he was well worth a shot late in the fourth round. As a freshman in 2011, Lynch had the greatest impact on a Notre Dame defense that included Manti Te’o. He has a lot of growing up to do, but the Bears would have been a good fit. As it is, he’s in a great spot with the 49ers.
Finley: Cornerback. When the Bears finished their final game of the season, they faced the possibility of losing Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman to free agency. After re-signing the two and adding Fuller, the Bears are set to weather four-wideout sets, injuries and, should he decide to walk after his one-year contract, Tillman’s departure at the end of the year.
Jahns: There are only so many picks to address holes, but drafting defensive tackles in the second and third rounds was an excellent move. Ferguson (nose tackle) and Sutton (three-technique) bolster a position that looks good on paper — Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins — but comes with durability concerns. An influx of youth was needed, and depth up front is invaluable.
Potash: Though the bar is set awfully low, the Bears could have the most improved run defense in the NFL next season. In free agency and the draft, they’ve added disciplined players who are above-average tacklers. Sutton has the potential to be a big part of the rotation as a rookie, and Fuller is a high-floor guy who also will find his way onto the field.
WE’RE STILL WORRIED ABOUT …
Finley: Certainly not punter. The Bears have tons of those after taking Pat O’Donnell (sixth round), the only punter selected in the draft. All jokes aside, the worry was safety before the draft — and after it, too. The Bears could have found an immediate starter in the first round. Instead, they’ll have to search for free agents to compete with their veterans for two wide-open jobs.
Jahns: What happens at safety. Chris Conte still is the best and most experienced safety on the roster, and he’s coming off shoulder surgery and a confidence-killing season. There’s a considerable amount of pressure on Vereen to prove his worth, especially considering the attention coming to the wide-open competition at safety after the team’s woes last season.
Potash: Special teams. O’Donnell figures to be an upgrade over the inconsistent Adam Podlesh. But what about the return game and coverage units? It remains to be seen if the Bears have a replacement for Devin Hester and whether they’ve upgraded their 53-man roster to the point they can excel in kick return and kick coverage again.