Playing GM Isn’t As Easy As It Looks on TV

English prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.” The man wasn’t joking.

I’ve been participating in a 4 round mock draft with a group of fans associated with ESPN’s Football Today podcast. The results have provided a great deal of insight which I thought would be interesting to share.

First a little about the draft and the fans participating. There are 32 representatives, one from every team. Most of them (including me) were required to write an essay on the state of their team and then you had to be chosen based upon what you wrote to get the job. I was initially the runner up but it was essentially a tie and the original Bears representative bailed out so I was happy to step in. Given that history, you can see that most of these fans know what they’re doing. In line with that, for the most part the picks have been solid and well reasoned.

Here were the picks in the first round when the Bears’ turn came up:

Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE, South Carolina
St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Jacksonville Jaguars Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Cleveland Browns Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Oakland Raiders Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Atlanta Falcons Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Minnesota Vikings Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Buffalo Bills Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
Detroit Lions Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
***TRADE*** St. Louis Rams (from Tennessee Titans) Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
New York Giants Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
***TRADE*** Tennessee Titans (from St. Louis Rams) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

This left me with a serious dilemma. The Bears primary needs were at safety and defensive tackle and as the Bears general manager if I didn’t take one of those, there were going to be howls for my head going up all over Chicago. And, indeed, had Ha Ha Clinton-Dix been there, I might well have taken him. But Clinton-Dix wasn’t there.

Just a quick side note. Most mock drafters have the Bears taking Aaron Donald here. As you can see, Bears general manager Phil Emery was right when he said last week that we “shouldn’t count” on Donald being there. He wasn’t.

To be bluntly honest, I’m not too sure Donald is the right pick for the Bears anyway. It’s true he’s going to be a very good 3 technique tackle. But he’s undersized, making him a one trick pony. Most people assume the Bears are still going to be running the same defense they ran last year when they recommend Donald. But I’m not too sure Emery wouldn’t prefer a tackle with more size, making him more versatile along the front.

Anyway, my board at this point stacked up this way:

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Darqueze Dennard, CB,Michigan State
Calvin Pryor,S, Louisville
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Most people at this point would have taken Pryor just as Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune did this morning. In fact, Biggs and I mildly disagree because he took Pryor over Clinton-Dix. I had two problems with taking Pryor:

1. I really thought he should go somewhere closer to 20, not 14, and I thought he was a little bit of a reach at this spot
2. C.J Mosely was rated far higher than anyone else I had left to me. Mosely is easily a top 10 talent. No one else was close to that.

Had Mosely been a wide receiver, I would have passed without a second thought. But the Bears have a sneaky need at linebacker. Their current starters are Lance Briggs (33), whose contract expires at the end of next year, D.J. Williams, who is 31 but coming off of an injury and on a 1-year contract, and Shea McClellin, who is converting from defensive end. Jon Bostic, last year’s second rounder, is likely to compete with McClellin and it looks like his future might be at weak side linebacker as Briggs’ eventual replacement.

C.J. Mosley was at the top of my board and in my opinion he was a decidedly better player than my other options. He’s an ideal middle linebacker of the future and I saw no reason why he couldn’t eventually find his way into the starting line up over Williams. So I grabbed him.

Looking back on it, I made more than one mistake here. The Bears really needed a defensive tackle and I have a fondness for Hageman. Trading back was what I really needed to do but I assumed (and it was true) that everyone would be wanting to trade back. Therefore I knew it was unlikely that I would have a trading partner.

But the Packer’s rep contacted me after the pick and said he was hoping that Mosely would continue to fall to him, something I should have known. If I had it to to over again, I would have told him I was taking Mosely if he didn’t trade up with me. Then I might have had the 21st pick, a good spot to take Pryor if he fell (unlikely) or Hageman, who is the player I really wanted.  Worst case scenario you take one of the cornerbacks.  There’s no way a good player of some type who filled a need wouldn’t have fallen to me at that spot.

Hindsight is 20-20 and fortunately I have the benefit of it. Phil Emery won’t. I’ve been pretty critical of Emery’s draft picks in the past, especially McClellin two years ago. You can bet I’ll be a lot more sympathetic this year.

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