CHICAGO IL - JANUARY 16: A Chicago Bears fan cheers before the Bears take on the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16 2011 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
By the way, take note of the cool little minute-long draft profiles from SBN NFL that are embedded with these picks. It's been Michael Bean's personal project to make these videos happen, and let us know what you think of them! -barnerburner-
If any NFL team could have benefited from a lock-out shortened schedule the most this season, it would've been the Chicago Bears.
Disregarding Jay Cutler's first year debacle as Chicago's starting quarterback, he and Matt Forte built up quite a decent resume in the last two years, and it's a shame the two weren't able to finish it. In that period of time, the Bears earned a first-round bye, reached the NFC conference game, and went 7-3 the year after before the first of two devastating injuries. Before Jay Cutler went down, Chicagoans felt pretty good about themselves. People can slander our inconsistency and archaic offensive styles, critics can relegate us to being only third-best in our division, but we were perfectly content with proving them wrong by putting up-and-comers in their place while gunning for a wild-card seat.
We believed that we would weather any storm anyone could throw at us. We believed we would do something special once we reached the playoffs. We believed that Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber were more than capable backups. We believed that our defense could withstand facing such QBs as Matthew Stafford and Phillip Rivers single-handedly if it came to it.
That line of thought soon came crashing down in a bewildering manner as our two most crucial players went down and our team was then humiliated by the likes of Sebastian Janikowski, Tyler Palko, and Tim Tebow in a span of three weeks culminating in a damning five game skid. Take a moment to picture these players once more. None of you could probably even place a face next to Tyler Palko's name, because I sure as heck could not. Our fanbase was demoralized in a fashion few would wish upon them.
There are a number of parallels between what the Bears are experiencing now as compared to the Steelers. No NFC team perhaps resembles early successful franchises and the AFC North more so than Chicago. San Francisco, the only other team with a stake in that claim, was an anomaly of its own with its prolific kicking.
The Bears' team build right now revolves around an aging defense that peaked against Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLI, but has since lost its luster in the face of more prominent competitors, namely Pittsburgh, Baltimore and San Francisco; a quarterback that they are committed to making as best a franchise quarterback as they've ever had, dating back to Sid Luckman from the '40s; and a running back corps that they've always kept two deep by bringing in free agents Chester Taylor, Marion Barber, and Michael Bush. Devin Hester should also be accounted for, because he has been the X-factor that put this team over the hump as of late. He alone makes special teams a non-issue, so the core of free agency and the draft will be focused on the three aforementioned facts.
We've already seen a handful of spectacular moves by the Bears in free agency, among them signing Jason Campbell and Michael Bush in light of last year's events and trading for the number-one receiver Jay Cutler long desired for the last three years in Brandon Marshall. This now leaves addressing any defensive holes and the offensive line.
The offensive line has performed at sporadic levels from time to time and is in desperate need of attention. Fortunately Mike Martz, the former offensive coordinator, is gone and Mike Tice, a former offensive line coach, will create schemes that will not ask as much from them as Martz's schemes did. We will still be looking for players to contend for the left tackle and right guard positions.
Like Pittsburgh, the Bears' management will have to devise ways to prepare the team for losing pivotal defensive leaders Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs in the near future, whereas the rebuilding process may have already begun. We have a young pair of third-round starting safeties in Chris Conte and Major Wright. We have Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at cornerback, who will assuredly grow long in the tooth before Calvin Johnson and Aaron Rodgers digress even an inch. We sorely need a defensive end that can ratchet up more production playing alongside Julius Peppers. If any elite defensive prospect falls, a la Nick Fairley or Prince Amukamara from last year's draft, the Bears will be more than happy to pick that player up.
With this in mind, there are a number of players I was hoping to have available at this point. It's disappointing that Dre Kirkpatrick was avidly drafted by the Cowboys, because he was who I was targeting foremost. No other cornerback in the draft has the combination of size (6'2), coverage skills, and upside to thrive against NFC North teams long-term like Kirkpatrick. Also, Quentin Coples was a longshot, but it is still discouraging to see him picked up so early by the Jaguars. And Cordy Glenn was the last viable choice for the Bears at that draft position and would have signaled us to consider trading the pick had no other prospect fallen. Fortunately, I could not be any more ecstatic to see David DeCastro, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus, Jonathan Martin, Kendall Wright, and Fletcher Cox all available.
With the 19th pick overall, the Chicago Bears select David DeCastro, OG, Stanford.
Fletcher Cox would be a luxury pick for the Bears if drafted. Kendall Wright would stretch the Bears' offense, replace the oft-injured Johnny Knox, and potentially enhance their passing attack to be lethal enough to carve up abysmal secondaries in their division. Jonathan Martin is a possible left tackle candidate if the Bears wish to draft and develop him. Both Courtney Upshaw and Whitney Mercilus would enjoy playing in the starting lineup with a mentor in Julius Peppers.
David DeCastro, in the end, is the best available player, and there is no reason why the Bears would think twice about drafting this superior guard prospect. He protected the best college quarterback with authority, and much like Andrew Luck, is considered the best prospect coming out of college at his position in a long time. His athleticism is unquestionably exceptional. His performance at the NFL combine made many scouts happy, and his dominant play on the field relegated Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu to second-round status. The Bears would love to pit him against fellow first-round brethren Kevin Williams, B.J. Raji, Nick Fairley, and Ndamukong Suh his entire career. From a basis of need, David DeCastro feel to 19th overall, but from a basis of talent, polish, and intelligence, DeCastro is easily more valuable. Should the Bears be fortunate enough to attain him by trade or if he indeed falls into their lap, they will not be drafting a player with game-changing merits and bust potential - they will be drafting an almost sure-fire success of a guard who can pave the way for Cutler, Forte, and company to succeed.
(This following portion is the excerpt I had previously written up two weeks ago today.)
As much as insiders point out that head coach Lovie Smith is enamored with picking a receiver in the first round, I do not believe adding a top-tier deep threat in hopes of building an equally threatening division passing attack is the wisest selection, at least not this early and certainly not when a top-ten talent in Dre Kirkpatrick is waiting to be called up.
He and Mark Barron led a suffocating backfield in Alabama last season, allowing only 116.3 passing yards per game. Kirkpatrick is physically imposing at 6'2 and 186 pounds, a size which led scouts to believe he lacks elite speed. His combine performance would reinforce that, and with the recent marijuana charges, one might assume his preparations were less than top-notch. Few teams will hold that against him though, citing the brilliant work he's done as starting cornerback the past two years. His game tape has shown him to be serviceable in man-coverage and spectacular in zone, with a strong nose for the ball. Throughout his tenure at Alabama, he was more than focused and won the team's Most Improved Player award last spring, which is impressive considering the ample number of stars on Alabama's roster. Barring a severe breakdown in character or decision-making, it can be optimistically presumed that Kirkpatrick's individual success will translate quite well if he is drafted by the Bears. Not to mention, he would be entering a veteran locker room who should keep him in gear (excepting maybe Brandon Marshall).
Drafting Jonathan Martin for the left tackle position would be incredible, even if he's more suited in Gabe Carimi's role on the right side (last year's first-round draft pick). If the Bears fail to draft an offensive lineman in the first round, expect them to be a major obstacle throughout the entire draft if Pittsburgh wants to draft the best possible lineman. It should be assumed that nothing ever goes right when Jay Cutler hits the bench, so the front office will try to bolster the O-line as much as possible. And if every top-20 defender not named Mark Barron is drafted before Chicago is slotted, I will not grieve over the idea of picking up Kendall Wright, a valuable speedster target.
But the Bears organization always wants to make the best business decision, as evident in their fiscal handling of the Lance Briggs and Matt Forte situations, and somewhere in these plans, it should include not having their identity and tradition trampled by repeated 350-yard passing games from its division rivals. Shore up the secondary, lord knows you're going to need it.
Back to DeCastro...
BTSC 2012 Community Mock Draft Picks:
- Indianapolis Colts -- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
- Washington Redsinks -- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
- Minnesota Vikings -- Matt Kalil, OT, USC
- Cleveland Browns -- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
- St. Louis Rams -- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
- Jacksonville Jaguars -- Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
- Miami Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
- Carolina Panthers -- Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
- Buffalo Bills -- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
- Kansas City Chiefs -- Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State
- Seattle Seahawks -- Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
- Arizona Cardinals -- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
- Dallas Cowboys -- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
- Philadelphia Eagles -- Mark Barron, S, Alabama
- New York Jets -- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
- Cincinnati Bengals -- Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia
- San Diego Chargers -- Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC