Bears to go defensive line in first round

News from Halas Hall has the team highlighting a trio of defensive linemen with the 19th overall pick in next week's NFL Draft. Let's break down the three players the Bears may select in Round 1.

Inside information from the front office of the Chicago Bears has been hard to come by since GM Phil Emery took over this offseason. One of his first public statements after accepting the position:

"When it comes time to publicly assess our needs or publicly talk about players that we may target, we will not do that. OK? Because I feel that's a competitive disadvantage to do so. We will know internally what our needs are. We will know internally the players we are going to target. We will not give away our competitive advantage to outline who those individuals are or at what position they are."

Emery doesn't like to reveal his hand, as evidenced by his acquisition of Brandon Marshall in a trade with the Miami Dolphins – a move no one saw coming.

So when news about Chicago's plans in the upcoming draft is made public, it should always be met with skepticism.


DT Michael Brockers
Brian Spurlock/US Presswire

A few folks I trust have recently floated a few names to me, whom I believe are the top targets for the Bears in the first round of the upcoming draft: LSU DT Michael Brockers, Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus and Boise State OLB/DE Shea McClellin.

Brockers (6-5, 322) declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He showed up to Baton Rouge as a linebacker before putting on weight and moving to defensive tackle. He has a massive frame, which could make him a fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. On film, it appears he'd be a better fit as a 3-technique DT in a 4-3 scheme.

With the loss of Amobi Okoye, the Bears are in the market for a penetrating one-gap defensive tackle. Brockers is tough to move and has the power to work through double teams. He uses his 35-inch arms to keep separation from blockers, allowing him to easily shed linemen. He shows good instincts on the field.

Brockers lacks ideal experience, having only started one full collegiate season. He lacks ideal technique as a pass rusher and could struggle initially to get consistent pressure. At the combine, his overall performance was less than impressive, highlighted by a very poor 5.36 40-yard dash.

That said, Brockers has the frame and skill set to be an impact under tackle with the Bears. He could immediately slide into a rotation with current starter Henry Melton. His scheme versatility has a lot of NFL teams interested, so he may not fall to Chicago at 19th overall. But if he does, expect the Bears to call his name on Day 1 of the draft.

Mercilus is another player many experts feel is a Top 15 pick. He's been slotted as high as the Top 10 in some mock drafts and all the way into the bottom third of the first round in other mocks.

Like Brockers, Mercilus (6-4, 261) is a one-year wonder. He led the nation with 13.5 sacks last season, yet had been non-existent up to that point in his career. He played mostly off the edge but slid inside occasionally, rushing from the defensive tackle spot.

He's more of a speed rusher that has the quickness to turn the corner and close on the quarterback. His quick feet and strong hands will translate well at the pro level.

The Bears recently brought in Mercilus to Halas Hall for a private workout. Full scouting report.


OLB/DE Shea McClellin
Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

It appears the Bears are willing to put aside concerns about Mercilus being a one-hit wonder. They feel he'd fit well in a rotation with Israel Idonije, with Mercilus coming in on passing downs.

McClellin would fill a similar role. Yet unlike Mercilus, McClellin (6-3, 260) is an experienced player that started three seasons at Boise State. He showed well at the combine and reportedly was outstanding at his pro day. As such, he's been climbing up draft boards and into the first round. In fact, he was one of 26 prospects to accept an invitation to attend the draft on April 26 in New York.

McClellin is an accomplished pass rusher that led the Broncos last year with 9.5 sacks. He has speed and quickness around the edge, and uses a full arsenal of pass rush moves.

Due to his size and speed (4.63 40-yard dash) many 3-4 teams are interested McClellin as an outside linebacker. He appears to be better suited at OLB but 4-3 teams like the Bears believe he can play defensive end as well. Like Brockers, scheme versatility makes McClellin attractive to a lot of NFL clubs.

This news from Halas Hall answers at least one question: the Bears are looking for pass rush help in the first round. If the team can find a defensive lineman that will take pressure off of Julius Peppers, the defense may be able to once again reach elite status.

Emery will be looking to find that player next Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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