The Bears went into this draft needing to better protect Jay Cutler, who has struggled at times over the past few years behind a bad offensive line. Without a third-round pick from the Brandon Marshall trade, Chicago had to address their need on the offensive line early in the first two rounds. They were able to do that but as Chris Tripodi writes below, their draft may not have a big impact on Cutler’s 2013 protection or this season as a whole.
Kyle Long/G/Oregon (Round 1/Pick #20): The second of Howie Long’s children to get drafted in the first round, Kyle Long was a surprising choice by the Bears. Rated as our sixth best guard and a third-round prospect, only Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper went ahead of him. Long was originally a defensive end like his brother Chris but moved to the offensive line in 2011. With just two full seasons on offense under his belt, Long is raw and wasn’t even ranked by scouts until his breakout senior year. He’s a versatile lineman that is big enough (6-6, 313) to play tackle and moves well enough to be a guard. Long has to improve his strength in the running game and gain experience at the position, but he may be the eventual replacement for 2011 first-round bust Gabe Carimi, who has already been moved from tackle to guard. Hopefully Long’s career doesn’t follow Carimi’s blueprint.
Jon Bostic/LB/Florida (Round 2/Pick #50): With middle linebacker D.J. Williams playing on a one-year deal, Bostic is likely to find himself in the starting lineup in 2014 if he shows potential as a rookie. A prototypical run-defending 4-3 middle linebacker, Bostic explodes up the field to fill gaps against the run. He has great speed to the flanks and is a quick blitzer who penetrates the backfield well. Bostic doesn’t always use his speed to take good angles to the ball but should be able to develop his reads and coverage skills in a situational role as a rookie before stepping in as Chicago’s long-term replacement for Brian Urlacher next season.
Khaseem Greene/LB/Rutgers (Round 4/Pick #117): With Lance Briggs turning 33 in November and becoming a free agent after next season, Chicago got nice value taking Greene in the middle of round four. A late-second/early-third round prospect on our board, Greene’s game took off after moving from safety to outside linebacker and he was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a junior and a senior. His lack of size (6-0, 240) is a slight limitation but his speed and athleticism make him effective both in space and in pursuit. A nasty defender and solid tackler, Greene may replace strongside linebacker James Anderson when his contract expires next season before taking over for Briggs if the veteran moves on the following season. Either way, expect him to be starting soon.
Jordan Mills/T/Louisiana Tech (Round 5/Pick #163): A third-round value in the 5th round, Mills is a project with the upside to give the Bears a complete starting tackle in the future. A lack of speed hurts Mills at times but he has the strength and nastiness to move defenders in the running game and the footwork to handle pass rushers off the edge. Chicago will be looking to replace right tackle J’Marcus Webb next season and Mills is a great candidate to step into his starting spot.
Cornelius Washington/DE/Georgia (Round 6/Pick #188): A part-time starter at outside linebacker on a stacked Georgia defense over the last few years, Washington was another good pick by Chicago with the potential to fit into a situational pass-rushing role as a rookie. He has a great first step and good speed off the edge, which he will need to avoid blockers that can easily handle his 258-pound frame. Washington never really had the opportunity to reach his full potential with the Bulldogs and found himself in a great situation with Chicago, where he can learn from Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.
Marquess Wilson/WR/Washington State (Round 7/Pick #236): Wilson was well on his way to stardom and a possible early-round pick after an All-Conference sophomore season where he caught 82 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. He struggled to get on the same page with the Cougars’ new coaching staff last season and played just nine games before accusing the staff of abuse and leaving the team. He’s not a true vertical threat despite good speed (4.47) and his 6-2, 194-pound frame may lead to struggles against stronger corners, but Wilson runs good routes and shows ability running after the catch. He has good upside for a late pick and can make his mark as the Bears’ fourth receiver this year if he can handle the demands of a professional coaching staff.
Grade: C+. While the Long pick was slightly questionable, he has enough potential to make it look okay in a year or two and the Bears hit pretty well with the rest of their picks. They found a potential starting tackle in the fifth round and drafted the eventual replacements for linebacker fixtures Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. It’s possible that none of their six picks will start in Week 1, which hurts their grade, but Chicago picked players with solid long-term potential who are good fits for their roster.