The process of evaluating draft picks is, admittedly, a very empty ordeal. Teams, fans, reporters and all other types of evaluators masquerade around acting as if there are a defined set of rules for drafting players, a list of thou shalt, thou shalt nots inscribed across the walls of Radio City Music Hall for all to observe.
The business of the draft is the business of sounding right and ultimately being wrong in most cases. The misses are expected, but are nonetheless swept under the rug years later in the flurry of making newer, equally erroneous projections as if to cover up the past falsities. We tell ourselves that Reggie Bush is the can’t miss prospect of the decade, that JaMarcus Russell is a franchise quarterback in waiting.
We consider Marques Colston an afterthought because he lacks awareness and Russell Wilson undersized and incompetent. When players prove us all wrong, as they often do, we all quickly become the one-in-a-thousand scout that saw past the drawbacks and unearthed the Pro Bowler inside, unlike our ignorant contemporaries. We guess, we predict, we win some and lose the majority. But among those invisible commandments of drafting lies the rule that tells us to to destroy our rear view mirrors early, or else reap the criticism of imperfection.
With that in mind, it is the nature of any action hungry football fan to look upon the end of April the same way a child does the end of December. There are always new gifts to be unwrapped, ones that must unfortunately sit idle for months before being put to any real use during the regular season. And so we spin, and we evaluate, and we hope and wonder about just how bright the future will be for our beloved gridiron warriors.
Here is my compilation of fan, media, and my personal perceptions of each draft pick, complete with grades for each. I’m as restless as any of you for the start of September, so let the spinning begin.
Rd: 1 Pick: 20– Kyle Long (OG/T) Oregon- The Bears first pick was perhaps their most questionable in general terms, and was met with mostly negative reception with higher projected selections like Tyler Eifert and Sharriff Floyd still on the board. Long started only four games at Oregon after transferring last season and was said to be an elite athlete for his size despite the lack of experience.
Media: Though most members of the mainstream sports press were quick to question if Long was deserving of a first round pick, but upon closer inspection multiple mock drafters including Mel Kiper Jr. had him slotted to the Bears at one point or another. Nonetheless, most outlets decided that Long was a reach in the first and was too raw to make an immediate impact. C+
Fans: The Chicago faithful were up in arms about this one, to say the least. Most fans cited, questionably so, that Long would have lasted until the second round or at least the late first had the Bears been able to trade down. Though the swell calmed with time, the reaction is still largely negative about taking such a big gamble in the first round. C-
Me: I wasn’t nearly as critical of this pick as some, though I was as shocked as anyone to hear Long’s name given the way the board shook out. But it was always apparent to me that Long has a great pedigree and high upside, among other indicators for success. I’ve also heard that Long has already made a monumental jump from the end of Oregon’s season to the combine and is a quick learner. My biggest questions lie in Long’s ability to contribute right away to a line sorely in need of upgrade. The Bears are still in win now mode despite a change in regimes and I can only hope that Long plays consistent with that philosophy. B-
Rd:2 Pick: 50– Jonathan Bostic (LB) Florida- With popular mock selection Arthur Brown and a bevy of quarterbacks still on the board, the Bears again turned heads despite filling a need by taking Bostic to rejuvenate the aging linebacking corps. Bostic is said to be a powerful tackler out of the middle of the field but can overrun plays and lose positioning in the run game. Like Long, Bostic’s physical measurables appeared to be a large of his appeal in round two after a solid combine performance.
Media: Bostic was a late riser on most boards and was treated as a reach on that basis. Most outlets cited Bostic’s lack of refinement compared to similar options like Arthur Brown as reason for doubt, as well as his ability to as the central cog in a 4-3 run defense. He received a D equivalent from NFL.com, the lowest grade of any Bear draftee, among other mostly negative feedback. C-
Fans: Perhaps because they had been braced by the selection of Long, fans seemed to be less critical of Bostic despite acknowledging that he was a bit of a surprise choice. Most fans noted Bostic’s athleticism coupled with his production out of the middle at a successful Florida program as reasons to be optimistic about his transition to the next level. B
Me: Although I am a large Arthur Brown proponent and was disheartened so see that he didn’t end up a Bear, there is no doubting that Bostic possesses a high ceiling and a skill set that should bode well in the Windy City. Mel Tucker’s supposed elimination of the Tampa 2 linebacker coverage drops should give Bostic a great opportunity to acclimate himself as a rookie and play to his strengths in year one. B
Rd:4 Pick:117-Khaseem Greene (OLB) Rutgers- The Bears set the tone on a much more conventional day three by selecting Khaseem Greene, who was given a second round grade by most scouts but experienced an unforeseen fall to the middle of the fourth round. Greene excelled in turning the ball over and quickly ranging to make tackles in the open field. Some scouts have cited Greene’s stature at 6’0″ and injury history as areas for concern.
Media: Greene was perceived as instant value in the fourth round and was given favorable marks by most outlets. Greene’s flexibility and ball hawking pursuit appear to make him a great fit for Mel Tucker’s scheme and was a clear example of taking the best player available after taking two players at the same position with back to back selections. A-
Fans: Bears fans rejoiced in what was finally a widely predicted selection once they saw that Greene would fall to 117. As a converted safety with a nose for the ball, fans couldn’t help but think that Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach’s departures would be that much easier to stomach with Bostic and Greene waiting in the wings. A
Me: I absolutely loved this pick at the time of announcement and thought that the selection of Greene helped widen the safety net in the line backing corps now that two second round caliber players had been selected. Greene appears to present an ideal fit as an active outside linebacker in a 4-3 base set that can roam from sideline to sideline and snag interceptions in coverage. A-
Rd: 5 Pick: 163– Jordan Mills (OT) Louisiana Tech- After trading down ten spots to add a 7th round pick from the Falcons, the Bears targeted the offensive line again with the selection of Mills. Though he came from a small school and was somewhat under the radar during the evaluation process, Mills was a first team All WAC selection who has the potential to play right tackle in the NFL, adding competition for J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi during training camp. As is often the case with late round linemen, Mills’ footwork and technique were called in to question but was praised for his aggressive, mauling style and strong play against elite competition during the Senior Bowl.
Media: Mills wasn’t a flashy pick, but the media seemed to respect his skill set in round five and respected the selection on that basis. ESPN went as far as to say that Mills would be given “every opportunity” to compete with J’Marcus Webb for the starting right tackle slot next season. B-
Fans: Despite the lack of big name value, fans seemed happy to get a productive player to help supplement the offensive line. The trade down seemed to boost spirits as well, giving Bears fans a reason to watch both of the closing rounds and witness a pair of additional acquisitions. B+
Me: I didn’t have much intel on Mills going into the draft, but once the selection was made I did a bit of digging and came away satisfied with the selection. Any fifth round tackle who isn’t automatically expected to kick inside is a plus in my book, and Mills fits the continued theme of high upside athleticism that Phil Emery valued in the earlier rounds. Ryan Swope would have been a nice add as a slot receiver who saw his stock slip, but the Bears recognized the depth of a highly talented offensive line class and came away with a player who would probably have gone higher in other recent years. That doesn’t change the fact that mid to late round tackles are more of a gamble than nearly anywhere else, and Mills could get lost in the fray as easily as he could succeed in Chicago. C+
Rd: 6 Pick: 188– Cornelius Washington (DE) Georgia- Round 6 marked another occasion for the Bears to pounce on a prospect in free fall, using a late 6th round pick on Washington, who many gave a 3rd or 4th round grade. Washington had been cast by some as a 3-4 blitzing linebacker but the Bears maintain that he can work as a hand on the ground defensive end.
Media: Most draftniks had no choice but to give this selection positive marks at such a late juncture in the draft, regardless of fit or need. It would be hard to find an evaluator of note that saw Washington as 6th round material, and Mel Kiper went as far as to call Washington a 2nd round prospect on his board. A-
Fans: Phil Emery’s gambling seemed like a thing of the distant past with three logical picks in the bag on day three. Fans were largely receptive to Washington’s arrival and were galvanized by his versatility and physical gifts, but some questions were raised as to his ability to effectively fit into a conventional 4-3. B+
Me: Surprise surprise, the Bears go with another athletic defender at a position of need. These are, of course, pleasant surprises, and Washington may have been the most welcome surprise of all value wise. Sixth round picks often struggle just to make the 52 man roster, but Washington appears all but a sure thing to man the fourth defensive end slot and help provide situational pass rushing along the defensive front i.e. Shae McClellin of 2012. When you see this much talent this late, you don’t pass. The fact that the defensive line lacked depth was just icing on the cake. A
Rd: 7 Pick: 236– Marquess Wilson (WR) Washington St- The Bears’ final selection of 2013 went towards Wilson, a troubled but talented receiver out of the northwest. Wilson is the all time leader in receiving yards in Washington State history and 9th in Pac-12 history, but slashed his stock after a fiasco with former coach Mike Leach that ended in Wilson voluntarily sitting out the final three games of his junior year.
Media: The media summed up what anyone who had followed Wilson’s story already knew: the talent was well worth the risk, but risk was indeed present in the character department. At this stage, raw skill often outweighs other drawbacks, and so the Bears wrapped up their draft with thumbs up from analysts. B+
Fans: It may have been the visions of Wilson lining up with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall next season that had fans so jubilant on Saturday, and they voiced an overall approval of the selection and apparent disregard for Wilson’s tenuous history. A
Me: I documented my impression of Wilson at the combine in a previous article in February. It was apparent that Wilson was one of the most fluid receivers at the combine and had perhaps the best hands I saw from anyone all day not named Robert Woods. And I understand that a 7th round pick is a very small price to pay for such a large possible payoff. But one possible situation scares me here- what if Wilson says and does all the right things during training camp, lands on the team, and then becomes a distraction during the season like he was at Washington State? Until he plays at least one full season without complaint, I can’t give this selection complete marks. B
Me: BFollow @troypsphillips