This Is What Getting Better Might Look Like

The Chicago Sun-Times NFL football writers formulated their first set of mock drafts today. None of the picks is ridiculous but I obviously have my favorite:

Patrick FinleyKevin White
Mark PotashAmari Cooper
Adam L. JahnsDanny Shelton

Finley and Potash have the Bears taking the best receiver on the board. In Potash’s case White is gone and in Finley’s case Cooper is gone. I don’t have a huge problem with either pick because you could argue that each of these players is the best left on the board when the Bears are up. Michael C. Wright at ESPN agrees as he answers your questions:

“@mikecwright: When the Bears pick at No. 7, if a receiver is the highest-rated player remaining on their board, then why not? The Bears traded away No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall, elevating Alshon Jeffery into that role. And the truth is I’m not sure how Jeffery will handle being a No. 1. How will he handle the extra coverage consistently devoted to him by opponents with Marshall out of the mix? So I think the Bears could and should help out Jeffery by bringing in a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2.”

Though each has the potential to be an impact player I like Cooper a little better than White. He’s got a higher floor with more polish and, though he’s slightly smaller and slightly slower than White in the 40 yard dash, he’s still 6-0, 210 and many scouts think he’s faster than White on tape. Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com agrees with my assessment as he answers your questions:

“From @sporrer17: If Cooper and White are both available at 7, which one do you pick?

“Amari Cooper becomes a Bear so fast your head would spin. They may both turn out great, but nobody had White ahead of Cooper prior to the Combine. Cooper was the much better college football player and there’s absolutely no reason to believe he shouldn’t be the better pro.

“Players can and should fall as prospects with poor workouts at the Combine. It doesn’t change what they did in college, but it can suggest they’re not good enough athletes to handle the step up in class to the NFL. But just because a player runs faster or jumps higher than you thought he could, how does that make him better than what he was in college?

“Cooper and White were both fine college players, but Cooper was clearly the better of the two, and is very likely to be the better pro.”

But the obvious disadvantage to taking either of these players is that they’re both offensive and the Bears biggest needs are on defense. Again, that’s fine if they’re really the best available. But I would beg to differ with that opinion. Of the three picks, the one that made the most sense to me was Jahn’s pick of Shelton.

After the combine and with a little study I came to the conclusion that there were four impact players at the top of this draft: Leonard Williams, Jameis Winston, Dante Fowler, and Shelton. Here’s what I said:

“Of the four, only Shelton is likely to be there for the Bears. He’s got a lot of phone booth quicks for his size and its obvious that he might even provide some pass rush. If you are going to run a base 3-4 of the type that the Patriots run, requiring a big, 2-gapping nose guard, he’s your guy.”

Bear in mind as you watch the scouting tape of Shelton above that he’s not a penetrator. Note how he’s regularly double teamed and yet holds the point. He’s rarely knocked back off of the line of scrimmage and does a good job of shedding blocks. If I had a criticism it would be that he plays a little high. He tends to use his superior strength and bulk rather than using leverage.  Nevertheless, I see a lot of Vince Wilfork here.

Though the best thing about Shelton is that (in my opinion) he’d be the best player available at that spot, it doesn’t hurt that he fills the Bears biggest need. From Jahns:

“Shelton may not be the sexy pick, but he would fill a drastic need for an interior defensive lineman. Some veteran free agents remain, but coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio need more to work with. The only interior defensive linemen on the Bears’ roster are 11-year veteran Jeremiah Ratliff, second-year tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton and undrafted tackle Brandon Dunn.”

Though I have my preferences, it’s going to be a great year to be picking in that seventh slot. The Bears aren’t going to lose with this pick. They’re either going to get a very good player or they’re going to trade back and use multiple picks to fill their many needs. Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel thinks they’ll do both, trading back and still getting a good interior lineman.

The Bears success might be capped with Jay Cutler at quarterback for at least another year. But they’re going to get better and as long as that’s the case, the ultimate goal will always be in sight somewhere down the road.

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