Thursday, May 8, 2014
If we were picking for the Bears at No. 14 ...
By Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson
Safety Calvin Pryor forced nine fumbles over his last three years at Louisville.
Draft day is here, and the Chicago Bears are hours away from being on the clock with the 14th overall pick in the first round (assuming they don't trade down). Who would our Bears writers take if they were running the war room at Halas Hall?
A defensive tackle probably provides more value at No. 14, but more than likely, a player such as Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be gone once the Bears go on the clock. So the next best thing would be to address the club's glaring need at safety, which is why I'd take Louisville safety Calvin Pryor in the first round.
Of all the team's position needs headed into the draft, safety is the only one that's absolutely imperative for the Bears to address at some point this weekend.
Cornerback makes sense as well in the first round, but let's remember the Bears already have a pair of starters (very good ones, too) in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
At safety, the Bears signed Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray during free agency, and although this trio has started games in the NFL, is anyone absolutely confident any of these guys can get it done consistently for an entire regular season? I'm not, and that's not to say they can't. Maybe they can. But I certainly wouldn't leave it up to chance without doing everything in my power to strengthen the position.
As it stands now, both starting safety spots are up for grabs, according to general manager Phil Emery. So why not add a young, intimidating, physical presence such as Pryor to throw into the mix with the other players on the roster for a training camp competition to determine the starting two on the back end?
Compared side by side with Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is considered the better pass defender, Pryor's numbers stack up favorably. Over his last three seasons in college, Pryor, like Clinton-Dix, picked off seven passes.
The difference in my opinion is Pryor has delivered more crushing, knockout blows on opponents; the type of hits that set the tone and energize an entire defense, while striking absolute fear in the opponent. Perhaps that's how Pryor forced nine fumbles over his last three years at Louisville, while Clinton-Dix forced only one in the same span at Alabama.
The Bears can't go wrong with either player at No. 14, because both would address an immediate need. But my preference is Pryor just because I like his style of play and believe it would transfer well in Chicago. He reminds me a lot of former Bears safety Mike Brown.
Jeff Dickerson: Pryor or trade down
The greatest unknown in tonight's opening round of the NFL draft centers around the quarterback position.
If available, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor makes sense for the Bears at No. 14 overall, especially if Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is off the board.
Pryor would immediately add a physical and intimidating player to a defense that failed to scare anybody last season. Pryor isn't the best coverage safety in the draft (that distinction goes to Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), but he dominates in run support. Remember, the Bears ranked a respectable 15th last season in passing defense, but 32nd (dead last) versus the run.
With the safety declared wide open by general manager Phil Emery, it's easy to envision Pryor stepping into the starting lineup from Day 1 and strengthening the middle of the Bears' defense.
Pryor also is an open book to the Bears. There are no secrets. One of his former college coaches at Louisville, Clint Hurtt, was added to the Bears' coaching staff in the offseason. The valuable inside information that Hurtt can provide on Pryor, and the rest of the college football landscape from his days as a recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals and University of Miami, cannot be overlooked.
Pryor, Donald, Clinton-Dix, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and even UCLA OLB Anthony Barr seem logical candidates for the Bears to consider at No. 14, although Pryor appears to be the most feasible pick at this late juncture of the pre-draft process.
But what if the quarterbacks slide as many expect?
The Bears could be tempted to trade back in the first round to acquire more picks if a quarterback-hungry team presses the panic button and attempts to move up from Bortles or Manziel.
Maybe Emery can still grab Pryor a few picks later or in the 20s. If not, Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman are among the strong options that should be available beyond No. 14.
In a draft rich with offensive talent, teams need to strike quickly to scoop up the top defensive players. Expect the Bears to address defense in Round 1. That's about the most definitive statement a media member can make regarding Emery's draft plans.
But that's what makes the draft so much fun, isn't it?