Chicago Bears: Greg McCoy
For the first time since 2002, the Bears had a new set of eyes overseeing the draft process. The Bears fired longtime general manager Jerry Angelo at the end of the 2011 regular season and replaced him with respected scout and college talent evaluator Phil Emery.
First-round pick: Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
Number of picks: 6
How they did: Three members of the 2012 draft class had important roles for the Bears last season: McClellin, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (second round) and nickel back Isaiah Frey (sixth round). Safety Brandon Hardin, selected in the third round out of Oregon State, spent his rookie year on injured reserve and suffered another injury in the final preseason game last summer that again landed him on IR. The Bears quietly released Hardin several weeks later. Fourth-round pick tight end Evan Rodriguez contributed to the offense in 2012 but was released the next offseason after multiple brushes with the law. Greg McCoy, a cornerback/return man out of TCU whom the Bears took in the seventh round, failed to make the club out of training camp in his first season.
Pivotal pick: The Bears were in need of fresh legs at defensive end to complement Julius Peppers, who at that time still played at a Pro Bowl level, and veteran Israel Idonije. Emery bypassed what some considered safer pass rushing options at No. 19 overall (Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus) and selected McClellin, who impressed the Bears with his combination of speed and athleticism. Two years later, McClellin is projected to compete for a starting job at strong side linebacker in 2014. McClellin was certainly disruptive at times rushing the passer from the edge, but the name of the game at defensive end is sacks. McClellin had only a combined 6.5 sacks in two years, with three of the quarterback takedowns occurring in his memorable effort against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 4 when McClellin knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game with a fractured collarbone. McClellin went on to win NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Best pick: Jeffery, by a mile. Undeterred by the rampant questions surrounding Jeffery's weight and attitude in his final year at South Carolina, the Bears moved up in the second round to snatch the former All-American wide receiver. Jeffery rewarded the Bears' faith by being named to the Pro Bowl in just his second season after catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 wideout holds the top two spots in franchise history for receiving yards in a game with 218 yards against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 6, and 249 yards against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 1.
Worst pick: Hardin. A former and often injured collegiate cornerback, Hardin failed to make the transition to safety. Although Hardin had impressive size (6-foot-3, 217 pounds), he didn't seem to bend his hips much and appeared to play too high. Even if he stayed healthy, it would have been difficult to make an argument for the Bears to keep Hardin on the 53-man roster based on pure performance and football skills alone. The Bears are still searching for help at safety, in part, because the Hardin pick failed to pan out.
The No. 1 reason the Bears hired general manager Phil Emery was to fix the team's approach to the draft after the final years of Angelo's watch produced far too many misses.
Rodriguez was the fourth-round pick in Emery's first draft class. To admit defeat this early on a relatively high draft choice would be crushing, even if Rodriguez has done little to justify his spot on the team, outside of his draft status.
Rodriguez's final numbers his rookie year: four catches for 21 yards in 12 games.
To be fair, the Bears' offense last year was dysfunctional, and Rodriguez was never given the opportunity to stretch the field in the passing game -- the role Emery envisioned -- so it was easy to wipe the slate clean and expect Rodriguez to have a larger impact in the new Marc Trestman offense.
Chicago Bears muddied the draft picture for outsiders with the moves they made in free agency, but that certainly added flexibility for what the club can now do with the 20th overall pick.
So as we prepare to get into that subject in preparing to kick off coverage of the 2013 NFL draft, let's take a look at how the team fared in 2012 with its six draft picks. Often immediately after a selection is made, reporters -- having not seen any of the prospects play a single down in the NFL -- submit overly positive or negative grades.
Well, we've now had an entire season to make an evaluation, and here's what we think:
Shea McClellin, DE, Boise StateRound: 1 Pick: 19 (Overall: 19)
Initial grade: B+
What we say now: First, the bad. McClellin struggled early on at training camp, and never cracked the starting lineup as a rookie. Sure, he was a rookie. But shouldn't a team's first-round pick be an immediate starter and impact player? McClellin wasn't either of those, but that's not to say he didn't produce a solid rookie campaign. He played in 14 games with 2.5 sacks and seven tackles, and after the season, Emery discussed metrics that would indicate McClellin was an impact player. The problem was he didn't make enough of an impact. Right now, this looks like an Emery single. This team needs home runs with the first-round picks.
Current grade: C
The Chicago Bears wrapped up their three-day minicamp Thursday at Halas Hall, and here are some quick observations from the final session:
• Charles Tillman demonstrated his takeaway skills for the second consecutive day against the same victim: tight end Kellen Davis. Tillman pulled a ball out of Davis' hands and sprinted towards the end zone just as a Jay Cutler's pass hit the tight end’s chest during team drills. More impressive is that as Cutler barked out the cadence, Tillman told the defense exactly where the ball would be going on the play.
• He might not make the Bears' roster or any other NFL roster for that matter, but we’re giving the Thomas Jones “Big Guns” award to tight end Draylen Ross. Ross originally signed with the Bears in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of North Texas, and faces long odds to make the team. Based the size of his arms, perhaps he’s got a future in body building if football doesn’t work out.
• Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery continued his inactivity in the final day of minicamp. Limited over the last two workouts with a lower-leg injury, Jeffery didn’t participate in any portions of the Thursday session at Halas Hall. Jeffery’s injury isn’t believed to be serious.
• Veteran tight end Matt Spaeth spent Thursday rehabilitating his sore hamstring during the workout with athletic trainer Bobby Slater.
• With Spaeth out, the Bears worked Kyle Adams and Davis with the starters in double tight end sets.
• Edwin Williams took reps with the second team at center.
• Rookie Greg McCoy took reps with the second team opposite veteran Kelvin Hayden. McCoy hasn’t necessarily moved up the depth chart. It’s likely the rookie received those repetitions because the team held out Wilhite.
• The Bears worked out two more tryout players on the final day of minicamp. The club brought in a pair of cornerbacks in Jeremy Ware, a former Michigan State standout drafted in the seventh round of 2010 by the Oakland Raiders, and Cornelius Brown, who signed with the Bears in 2010 as a rookie free agent.
Financial terms of the deals weren’t immediately disclosed.
Rodriguez, a tight end out of Temple, was a two-time first-team all-MAC selection. He caught 35 passes for 479 yards and two touchdowns during his senior season. Bears general manager Phil Emery said on draft day he envisions Rodriguez as not only a key contributor on special teams, but also a player capable of starting in the club's base offense.
A kick returner and cornerback, McCoy started 39 of 52 games at Texas Christian University, and was drafted in April by the Bears with the 220th overall selection. McCoy posted 92 tackles at TCU to go with seven interceptions and 17 pass breakups.