Was Shea McClellin a reach at No. 19?

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
1:14
PM ET
A text message from a high-ranking personnel evaluator came through hours after the Chicago Bears selected Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin on Friday with the 19th pick of the draft.

It asked a simple question: “What do you think...about the pick?”

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Clay Matthews
Al Bello/Getty ImagesMichael Wright thinks Bears' first-rounder Shea McClellin seems more poised to be like Clay Matthews than Aaron Maybin.
The message seemed tinged with sarcasm, so the wheels started spinning immediately. With so much big-name talent capable of filling needs at multiple positions still available in the first round, did the Bears and new general manager Phil Emery reach by grabbing McClellin? Multiple talent evaluators from both the NFC and AFC say yes -- and no.

The latter seemed to make more sense, given the circumstances the Bears faced.

So, naturally, the response to the original text message was, “What did YOU think of the pick?”

“Horrible, everyone had a second round grade on him,” the original texter replied.

Ok, got that. But that led to another question: “Where did you guys have him on YOUR board.”

“I can’t talk our board. But he would HAVE been there in the 2nd,” the evaluator said, punctuating the message with one of those nice text smiley faces comprised of a colon, followed by a comma.

Another other personnel man from a 2011 playoff participant said McClellin was a “late 2” on his team’s draft board.

But then a conversation with a talent evaluator from another playoff team offered a bit of clarity. Like Chicago, this club was looking for a pass rusher on Friday, but its pick wouldn’t come until after the Bears at No. 19. Between the 15th and 28th selections, seven teams -- counting the Bears -- drafted pass rushers.

The Seattle Seahawks started the run of pass rushers with its surprising selection of West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin. The New York Jets drafted North Carolina’s Quinton Coples with the next pick at 16, before San Diego -- one slot ahead of the Bears -- moved on South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram.

After McClellin came off the board to the Bears, just three top pass rushers (Chandler Jones, Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry) remained.

The third evaluator said his team graded McClellin “around the same” as the first two personnel men.

“But [were] willing to take [him] with our pick if we got shut out [during the run of pass rushers],” he said.

So at 19, was McClellin really a reach? That doesn’t appear to be the case, considering McClellin probably wouldn’t have been available Friday when it was time for the Bears to pick again at No. 50.

Besides, there’s no way Emery takes a pass on all the promising talent available at 19 for McClellin unless the team’s conviction in him was strong. While the situation is a tad different, Chicago’s decision to select McClellin brings the 2009 NFL Draft back to memory.

Back then, the Buffalo Bills -- enamored with his speed and other measurables -- made Aaron Maybin the No. 11 overall pick, passing on other promising prospects such as Clay Matthews and Brian Orakpo. Two years after drafting him, the Bills cut ties with Maybin -- who didn’t record a single sack -- while Matthews and Orakpo (both similar in size to McClellin) flourished with their respective teams, combining for 43 sacks.

Based on his intangibles, reputation as a hard worker, and relentless playing style, McClellin seems more poised to be like Matthews and Orakpo than Maybin. So if that’s a reach, it’s probably one worth making.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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