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Friday, February 22, 2013
Emery likes Bears' familiar draft position

By Michael C. Wright

Shea McClellin
Shea McClellin contributed as a rookie but perhaps not as much as GM Phil Emery would have liked.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Holding the 20th selection in the upcoming draft, the Chicago Bears sit in a similar situation to 2012, when they picked defensive end Shea McClellin at No. 19, and general manager Phil Emery expects to employ the same strategy in making this year's pick.

That's why owning such a late pick in the first round isn't an issue to Emery.

"Where your record stands puts you where you're at. So as far as that's concerned, that's where we deserve to be," Emery said. "Last year, we were in a very similar spot, and we had about seven players on the board we felt good about, and we took one. I'm assuming now working through this process that number will probably be 7 to 10 we feel good about. We'll pick the best player that can help us win now; the one that has the biggest impact now."

McClellin contributed as a rookie in 14 games, and finished the season with 2.5 sacks. McClellin played in 369 snaps in his first season, and posted four quarterback hits to go with 22 pressures. Lining up at both the right and left defensive end spots, McClellin missed just three tackles all season.

Despite the promising start for McClellin, he didn't fully meet Emery's expectations for rookies. The general manager never expressed that sentiment, but his philosophies on expectations for rookies relative to draft position suggest McClellin still has improvements to make.

Emery expects first- and second-round picks to become almost immediate starters.

"It's interesting because there's been a lot of research on that in terms of where the starters come from. It's very position specific. The hope at the end historically (is) you need to get those first and second picks as starters," Emery said. "That third pick should at least be a contributor to your team. Then from that point on, through the fourth round you're looking at contributors. The rest of them are usually backups on your 53.

"Historically that's how it falls. But we all know there's been a number of college free agents and players at very specific positions -- guards, safeties, fullbacks -- that make it from the fourth round down. Even though they're not targeted starters during the course of the draft, they end up starting for a number of teams."

Second-round pick Alshon Jeffery started in six of his 10 games as a rookie, but hand and knee injuries limited his 2012 impact. Jeffery caught 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

Third-round pick Brandon Hardin spent his rookie season on the injured reserve because of a neck injury suffered in the preseason, and fourth rounder Evan Rodriguez started five games. Rodriguez caught four passes for 21 yards, but a knee injury limited his effectiveness.

Sixth-round pick Isaiah Frey spent his rookie season on the practice squad, and seventh-round pick Greg McCoy never made the team.

Emery considers the strength of the 2013 draft class to be the cornerbacks, which might be an area of need for the team soon considering Kelvin Hayden isn't expected to return next season. Nickel corner D.J. Moore is a pending free agent along with Zack Bowman.

"When I look at it, there are a number of corners in this draft class that can play and they can help teams as a 1, 2, or 3," Emery said. "I would say that's a strength. There's a strong safety class. In our minds, there are five or six starters in this class at safety and that's rare to me.

"There's a really good number – between (defensive) tackles and end -- of players that can help teams and can be potential starters. The offensive line class has strength in the front end, when you look at it from tackle, guard and center, and you look all the way through. There are a number of players who would be in the mix as starters."