Many Chicago Bears fans are having a hard time seeing through the Matt Forte contract saga and taking a deep look at what their team has been up to this offseason, but for those who are able to do so, I think they’ll be impressed with what has transpired.
New GM Phil Emery wasted little time making a splash, acquiring talented-albeit-mercurial wide receiver Brandon Marshall for a pair of third round picks from Miami, as well as signing running back Michael Bush, quarterback Jason Campbell, cornerbacks Jonathan Wilhite and Kelvin Hayden, and extending the contract of Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs.
The team is poised to return to the playoffs after a slumping 8-8 record during the 2011 season, and the return of Jay Cutler and (hopefully) Forte will go a long way in ensuring that possibility.
But the work isn’t done for Emery, with Chicago facing the prospect of picking 19th in the upcoming NFL draft, with a handful of needs that it may choose to address.
Here’s a look:
Who they will draft: Dre Kirkpatrick, cornerback, Alabama. The additions of Wilhite and Hayden help, but neither is a star and few teams allowed more passing yards last season than Chicago. Enter, Kirkpatrick, a potential starter from day one with experience in a Nick Saban-coached defense, which usually produces NFL-ready talent. He’s huge for the position (over 6’1”), tough, and would be a good fit for Chicago, who likes to play a cover 2 scheme.
Who they should draft: Kirkpatrick. I’d buy the idea of Chicago adding a pass rusher, but their group of sack masters is already good enough to get by for another year. The secondary, as currently composed, cant quite say the same. I’m not sold on Kirkpatrick as an instant superstar, or even a down the line superstar, but I certainly see him as a qualified NFL starter for years to come.
Who they could draft: Courtney Upshaw, defensive end/outside linebacker, Alabama. Sticking with our Alabama theme, Upshaw makes sense to me for Chicago because of the previously stated need to boost the pass rush and the versatility he would afford this defense. He’d likely play primarily as a pass-rushing defensive end opposite of Julius Peppers, and that automatically translates to an opportunity to take advantage of single man blocking. While Upshaw doesn’t have elite quickness, he’s a crafty rusher who bundled up 9.5 sacks in 2011.
Who they shouldn’t draft: Alshon Jeffrey, wide receiver, South Carolina. The Bears obviously filled a major void at the receiver spot by adding Marshall, but he has a combustible personality and a history of getting himself into trouble. He did so this offseason, and that kind of behavior could lead to potential suspensions. Moreover, the Bears are more than one wide receiver from entirely revamping the position. All that being said, Jeffrey isn’t a guy I’d take this high in the draft, with major concerns about his ability to separate at the next level. It’s an overblown issue at this time, but his weight may ultimately define the beginning part of his NFL career.