- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. and ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. agreed in their second mock drafts that the Chicago Bears will use the 14th pick to select Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.
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.