Chicago Bears: Jace Amaro

Timmy JerniganMelina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State DT Timmy Jernigan was viewed as a first-round talent in early mock drafts.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears knocked out a need at cornerback on Thursday in Round 1 of the NFL draft with the selection of Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, and on Friday the team will stick to the plan of replenishing the defense in Rounds 2 and 3.

Despite perhaps more pressing needs at safety and linebacker, the Bears took a versatile cornerback in the first round. What's encouraging for the next two rounds is that this year's draft class is so deep, the Bears could still find players in need areas capable of contributing significantly as rookies.

[+] EnlargeEd Reynolds
AP Photo/Tony AvelarStanford safety Ed Reynolds makes sense for the Bears in the third round.
The Bears pick 51st and 82nd overall in the next two rounds, and with options aplenty on Day 2, I'd use the second-round pick on the best defensive tackle available since that position represents the best value. I'm more partial to Florida State's Timmy Jernigan (I don't care about the alleged failed drug test) or Notre Dame's Louis Nix than a boom-or-bust prospect such as Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman.

Then, in the third round, I'd look to add competition safety with a long, rangy prospect such as Stanford's Ed Reynolds.

Looking at the players still on the board, the Bears have several options available at defensive tackle in Jernigan, Notre Dame's Nix and Stephon Tuitt, Hageman, and perhaps even later in the draft with players such as LSU's Ego Ferguson, South Carolina's Kelcy Quarles and Princeton's Caraun Reid.

At safety, the Bears should strongly consider Reynolds. He picked off seven passes over the past two years and has an NFL pedigree, from his father, Ed Sr., who played linebacker in the NFL for 10 years. Dion Bailey of Southern Cal could be another option for the Bears at safety, perhaps in the third round, and Wyoming's Marqueston Huff is a potential pick even later (six double-digit tackle games; 20 stops against Utah State).

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Linebacker options are abundant, too. Brigham Young's Kyle Van Noy racked up 62 tackles for lost yardage over four years in college; he projects as a Sam linebacker in Chicago's scheme. Florida State's Christian Jones and Telvin Smith are also athletic possibilities for perhaps later in the draft.

Keep an eye out for Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood, who posted 332 career tackles and 9.5 sacks in college and met with the Bears at the NFL combine. New Bears defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni is familiar with Smallwood, having served as head coach at Connecticut from 2011 to '13. Pasqualoni told the Hartford Courant, "[What] I really like about [Smallwood], which I think is a strength, is that he doesn't process what he sees. He just goes. Some guys look at it and they hesitate, then they go. He's not a process guy. He's a read-and-react guy, which is a big part of that position."

Perhaps Chicago general manager Phil Emery will pull one of his usual surprise picks and grab an offensive player. That wouldn't be too much of a stretch, because the benefit of a class this deep is that the Bears can legitimately find ways to address needs throughout all seven rounds.

Emery has been high on Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and made 106 catches last season.
Ra'Shede HagemanJesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsRa'Shede Hageman would help shore up the Bears' run defense and he's a competent pass rusher.
Don't sleep on Day 2 of the NFL draft. Players chosen in the second and third rounds are expected to be serious contributors from the start. Since Phil Emery took over as general manager in 2012, the Chicago Bears have used second-round picks on Alshon Jeffery and Jonathan Bostic, who between them have already started a combined 29 games (Jeffery 20, Bostic nine).

These are vital selections for the long-term stability and health of a franchise.

My prediction is the Bears will select Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman with the No. 51 pick in the draft.

[+] EnlargeJace Amaro
AP Photo/Michael ConroyTight end Jace Amaro, who is projected as a second-round NFL draft pick, started all 13 games for Texas Tech in 2013.
Why Hageman? He is one of the best interior defensive linemen available. Hageman's 6-foot-5, 310-pound frame would help the Bears shore up their run defense, and he would be a nice complement to veterans Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins in the club's rotation. Hageman can also rush the passer, and he started 26 games for the Golden Gophers from 2011 to '13. He hasn't been injury-prone. Hageman has experienced multiple off-the-field issues (academic suspension and misdemeanor for disorderly conduct) and reportedly had a difficult childhood. But none of that looks to be terribly alarming. Emery is open to taking players who have supposed character red flags because he believes the organization possesses the necessary amount of stability and leadership.

What if Hageman is gone already? The Bears could turn to another defensive tackle, Florida State's Timmy Jernigan. Early mock drafts linked Jernigan to the Bears at No. 14, but he fell to the second round after he reportedly tested positive for a banned substance at the NFL combine. Jernigan is on the smaller side (6-1, 299 pounds), but he earned All-ACC first-team honors last season after posting career highs with 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Jernigan had nine tackles in the BCS National Championship.

What if they're both gone? Maybe the Bears will look to further bolster the offense by adding a dynamic tight end such as Texas Tech's Jace Amaro (6-5, 265 pounds). In 2013, Amaro caught 106 passes for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. How would he look alongside Martellus Bennett? Imagine both Bennett and Amaro in the slot in a four-receiver set. Good luck covering that combination when Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are flanked out wide. Amaro would likely represent the best available player in this scenario. He could be too talented to pass on.

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