Chicago Bears: Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper stuck with his original pick for the Bears from his first mock draft, which was published Jan. 15. Here's the link to Kiper's latest mock draft.
Kiper wrote that Jernigan is "another pick I'm sticking with because the hand-to-glove fit of talent and need. I'm a bigger fan of Jernigan in a 4-3 look in which he's using his power to go through a blocker and not trying to beat people off the snap and use quickness. He's not a blow-by rusher, but he has the strength and quick feet to eat up a running play before it goes anywhere. The Bears were a mess on the inside of the D-line last year due to injuries."
There's no disputing that fact.
In 2013, the Bears allowed the most points (478) and total yards (6,313) in franchise history as opponents ran roughshod through the team's beat-up defensive line. Chicago surrendered 10 100-yard rushing performances, in addition to a 211-yard effort by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson on Dec. 1.
Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins suffered season-ending injuries in 2013, and both are set to hit free agency, as are defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Corey Wootton, who is coming off hip surgery.
So if the Bears decided to bring aboard Jernigan, in addition to finding a way to bring back Melton, Collins, Ratliff and Wootton, they'd wind up with a pretty formidable rotation up front, which they could bolster by adding another defensive end through free agency or the draft.
McShay put together his first mock draft on Dec. 18, before the official order was set, and he had the Bears drafting Florida's Dominique Easley, who has suffered two ACL injuries during his college career. Here's what McShay's take about the Bears taking Jernigan in his latest mock draft:
The Bears have a lot of uncertainty along their defensive line; defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins were both placed on the injured reserve last season and are free agents this offseason; DT Jay Ratliff and DE Corey Wootton are also scheduled to become free agents; and DT Stephen Paea's contract expires after the 2014 season. Enter Jernigan, who won't wow anybody with his physique at the combine and doesn't always look pretty out on the field, but is a stout, quick and powerful football player who would be a great fit in the Bears' one-gap scheme.If the Bears bring back some of the veterans, such as Melton and Ratliff, Jernigan might make a solid addition in terms of bringing in competition for them. With Melton playing under the franchise tag in 2013, there was legitimate concern that he might become complacent. And general manager Phil Emery's concerns about Melton's dedication to football aren't unfounded by any means, which is why the personnel exec voiced them during the team's season-ending news conference.
At the No. 14 spot, the Bears could decide to replenish the secondary by adding a cornerback (given that Charles Tillman is set to hit free agency), or a safety to replace Major Wright, who is also a pending free agent. But if Jernigan is available at 14, the value there might just be too much for the Bears to pass on given the team's current situation along the front four, not to mention the premium placed on that position in the club's scheme.
Here’s what Kiper wrote: “How would you have answered this question a week ago: 'Jay Cutler plays a full game against the Bengals -- how many times is he sacked?' The answer turned out to be zero, and Mills deserves his share of the credit. A lot of people have called Kyle Long the surprise stud on the O-line, but Long was just OK against Cincy, and it was Mills who has much greater positional value. In the fourth quarter, the fifth-round steal was involved in two critical plays. On fourth-and-1, the Bears picked up a key first down with Mills getting the necessary movement. On third-and-6, Bears RB Michael Bush didn't get the first down, but Mills sustained a block against Rey Maualuga and drew a personal foul penalty against Maualuga that iced the game. Great start.”
Mills definitely deserved mention for the performance in his NFL debut against Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who finished that game with three tackles and two quarterback hits. One of those hits came on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage when made a mistake and Long locked his eyes on Maualuga, which allowed Dunlap to come free.
Asked about his place on Kiper’s list, Mills smiled; happy to receive the recognition.
“When I saw it, Mel Kiper is one of the best sports critics in the world. So to see that, it was great that he thought of me as one of the top 15,” Mills said. “You can’t always pay attention to what you see online. You’ve just got to keep working.”
But undoubtedly, Mills gained confidence from the performance against Dunlap.
“I’m always my worst critic. I always think I did just O.K.,” Mills said. “But after seeing the film, I think I did a pretty good job not to give up any sacks to a person that just signed a contract extension for $40 million. He’s supposed to be their best pass-rusher, and he gave me his all. It wasn’t easy handling him, but just to come out with a win with my team and see everybody working hard across the board in all phases of the game, it was a great experience."
Every summer, with the NFL draft and free agency in the rearview mirror, I take a look at each team. What did it accomplish in terms of added personnel? How did its draft fill holes? What voids remain? Let's jump around the league, addressing three things for each team:
• Help added: What the team has done this offseason to improve its prospects. Given my greatest area of expertise, I put a particular emphasis on the draft.
• Questions that remain: A look at what voids must be filled.
• Next year's help now: With an eye toward next year's draft class, which player of 2013 could seemingly help the team in 2012? This is meant to be hypothetical, a quick look at prospects to keep an eye on.