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Thursday, April 3, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Bears

By Michael C. Wright

The Chicago Bears hold the No. 14 pick in the 2014 NFL draft after putting together an 8-8 record under head coach Marc Trestman and missing the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons, in part because of a traditionally strong defense finally realizing its mortality.

So, similar to the way the club retooled the offense going into 2013, the Bears plan to work diligently on the defense, with the draft most likely focusing on cornerback, defensive tackle, safety and perhaps even linebacker additions.

Mel Kiper Jr. put together his fourth 2014 NFL mock draft for ESPN Insider today Insider and took a different approach to this one than he had in previous incarnations of this annual staple.

Instead of simply projecting picks, Kiper acted as if he were the general manager of the respective teams, making the picks in the best interests of the respective clubs. That approach resulted in Kiper using the 14th pick to draft Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

The pick makes sense, given that the Bears spent heavily in free agency on the defensive line with the acquisitions of defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, in addition to re-signing veteran Jeremiah Ratliff. Sure, Dennard is a polished prospect, experienced and a steady performer that would no doubt be the future for the team at the corner position. But don’t assume Chicago would automatically opt to go the corner route just because it invested so heavily on the defensive line in free agency.

The Bears did put themselves in the position to draft the best available player at 14, but a quick look at the current roster reveals there’s still a void at defensive tackle. Ratliff and Stephen Paea, who will be a free agent after 2014, appear to be the starters at this point. But behind them, the roster features Nate Collins and possibly Israel Idonije because of his ability to kick inside from defensive end to tackle.

Houston possesses the versatility to move inside as well, but his primary position is defensive end.

So from this vantage point, the Bears still need a defensive tackle to add to the rotation, and general manager Phil Emery could find it difficult to pass up a talent such as Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald to take a corner. Safety is an option too at some point in the draft, but No. 14 might be too early for the Bears to address the position. Besides that, there’s a good possibility the club could find an impact contributor at safety in the second round or later.

Kiper has the Bears addressing needs at defensive tackle in the second and third rounds with Virginia’s Brent Urban and Princeton’s Caraun Reid.

So if the Bears go with a cornerback in the first round such as Dennard or Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert (if he falls to 14), they’ll certainly have to look hard at going the direction Kiper prescribed in his latest mock draft while also considering the addition of a safety and at least one more linebacker in the later rounds.

At this point, Dennard or another corner would seem to be logical moves for the Bears in the first round considering all they did in free agency for the defensive line. But from this vantage point, there’s still work to do on that front, which is why you shouldn’t count out the Bears using their first-round pick on one of the top defensive linemen such as Donald or Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan.