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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Bears

By Michael C. Wright

Diligence by the Chicago Bears’ front office in free agency helped to carve out flexibility for the NFL draft, but defense still remains the major focus.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out on ESPN Insider today, and his choices through the first two rounds definitely reflect the team’s intentions to orchestrate a renaissance on defense.

With the 14th pick, the Bears could address a number of positions such as cornerback, safety, linebacker or the defensive line. Kiper projects Chicago to stick with the theme it established through free agency by using the pick to select Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. That selection would give Chicago its seventh new defensive lineman that wasn’t on the roster a year ago.

In the second round, Kiper predicts the Bears will scoop up Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner with the 51st overall pick. The selections of Donald and Joyner would certainly address a couple of Chicago’s most critical needs.

What’s interesting is that Kiper and fellow draft analyst Todd McShay have been fairly consistent in projecting the Bears to select Donald in their respective mock drafts. McShay predicted the Bears would take Donald in his most recent mock draft, but another potential target for the club -- Louisville safety Calvin Pryor -- would still be available in this scenario.

McShay mentioned “the Bears have already taken significant strides to upgrade their defensive line, signing Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen, but I still think Donald would be a great pick here. His addition would really solidify the line, as Donald is a perfect fit as the classic 3-technique defensive tackle in the Tampa 2 system, which is the most important position in that scheme.”

Kiper shares similar sentiments, writing: “The Bears added Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen in free agency, a big help to the defensive line. But by the end of last season -- with injuries to blame -- no defensive line was in worse shape than Chicago's, and the team still needs to stack up some more sand bags up front, or they're going to be in trouble against any team with a decent run game. Donald is the most disruptive interior defender in this draft, and precisely what the Bears need, a play-wrecker from the 3-tech role.”

Joyner, meanwhile, seems comparable in size to current starter Tim Jennings, at 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds. But don’t be dismissive of Joyner’s stature because scouts say he -- similar to Jennings -- plays bigger than his listed size. Perhaps that’s part of the reason Joyner was able to earn second-team All-ACC mention in 2011 after moving from corner to strong safety to start all 13 games. In fact, Joyner started 27 straight games at safety between his sophomore and junior seasons before switching back to corner as a senior.

At Florida State, Joyner served as a nickel corner, which is likely the role he’d take on with the Bears. Joyner certainly possesses the versatility to do it in the NFL considering he’s switched between safety and cornerback (where he lined up outside against top receivers, and inside as a nickel corner) the majority of his career.

Bears general manager Phil Emery often discusses the desire to land players who “transcend scheme,” and Joyner certainly appears to fit that description.