Grading Bears 2012 draft

Now that the dust has settled and we've had a few days to digest the Chicago Bears' selections in the 2012 NFL Draft, here are Bear Report's preliminary draft grades.

In a general sense, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery's first draft with the organization had a very Jerry Angelo-type feel to it.

That isn't meant as a slight to Emery but when you compare Angelo's last draft to Emery's first, you see a number of similarities.

Both general managers picked first-round players at the team's biggest position of need; both traded up in the second round; both drafted a safety in the third; and both went with an I-know-more-than-you-do approach with their late-round selections.

That's not to say that Emery will fail as often as Angelo did in the early rounds, or that Emery will follow this pattern in subsequent drafts. But a friend of mine texted my Saturday night with a question that pretty much sums it up:

"What do you think of Phil Angelo's first draft?"

Let's go round by round to answer that question.


DE Shea McClellin
Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire

Round 1
DE Shea McClellin, Boise State (6-3, 260)

In my pre-draft work, I labeled McClellin as a better fit for a 3-4 defense due to his relatively small size and questionable run stopping ability. A typical Chicago 4-3 defensive is big and tall, like the Bears' two starters Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers, who are 6-6 and 6-7 respectively. Yet coach Lovie Smith said measurables are often over-valued when evaluating collegiate prospects.

"Weight is one of the most overrated things that there is when you talk about football players," said Smith in his post-draft press conference. "You talk about strength and athletic ability more than that. Were not a two-gap hit guy's right down the middle [of the defense]; we don't play that style of ball. We're a get on the edge, maintain your gap [defense]. A defensive end that is 6-3, 260 pounds can do that easily. So that is no concern at all, Shea believe will be able to hold his own with the big boys that he is playing with."

McClellin has a relentless motor when getting after the quarterback and should provide immediate value as a situational pass rusher. Yet, despite Smith's confidence, the tape shows a player that may struggle disengaging from NFL offensive tackles. It's likely Idonije, a better run stopper than pass rusher, will play on 1st and 2nd down, with McClellin rotating in on 3rd down. In that role, he can have success. In addition, the Bears graded him highly as a special teams player.

Yet for a first round pick, I have a hard time justifying a player that may only see 15-20 snaps per game and whose value is tied to his special teams play. Typically, an NFL team wants a potential Pro Bowler in the first round, not a situational player that is good on special teams.

McClellin should be able to provide solid pass rush, something the Bears need, but as a first round selection, he appears to be a bit of a reach.

Grade: C+


WR Alshon Jeffery
Douglas Jones/US Presswire

Round 2
WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (6-3, 216)

Jeffery is the hardest Bears draft pick to grade. His playing weight in college was between 225-235, yet he trimmed down to 216 at the combine. His reduced size resulted in increased speed, evidenced by his 4.5 40-yard dash at his pro day, yet no one can be certain how he'll be able to perform with 15 fewer pounds on his frame.

As a sophomore at South Carolina, Jeffery was one of the most-productive receivers in the nation, racking up 88 catches for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. His production fell off last year due to poor quarterback play, which caused Jeffery's stock to slip. Questions about his ability to separate from NFL defenders also facilitated his slide into the second round, where the Bears traded a fifth-round pick to the St. Louis Rams to move up and grab him.

Jeffery has a number of question marks but his size and production in college show a player with a lot of potential at the next level. If he can take advantage of the attention opposing secondaries will pay Brandon Marshall, especially in the red zone, Jeffery could turn into a draft-day steal. Just as easily though, his fluctuating weight and subpar quickness could result in Mike Williams-like production.

Grade: B-


S Brandon Hardin
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

Round 3
S Brandon Hardin, Oregon State (6-3, 219)

Hardin is a big, physical defender that played cornerback in college. Shoulder surgery cost him his senior season. As a result, he wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Yet he tested very well at his pro day. Had he been healthy last season, Hardin likely would have been a second-round pick – at least that's what the Bears believe.

Emery said that Hardin's size and experience as a cover corner should help him translate to strong safety, where he'll be tasked with covering the new wave of NFL tight ends. Hardin is also a strong tackler.

He'll likely challenge incumbent starter Major Wright. If Hardin wins out and proves capable of covering Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, while also showing good run support, he'll easily live up to his third-round status. Yet if his injury history carries over to the pros and he's forced to sit more often than he plays, he'll go down as a major bust – especially when you consider the team has selected a safety in every draft since 2005.

Grade: B-


TE Evan Rodriguez
Rob Carr/Getty

Round 4
TE/FB Evan Rodriguez, Temple (6-2, 244)

In this writer's opinion, Rodriguez was the best pick of the draft for the Bears. The club likely reached a bit to grab him in the fourth, but it was a necessary reach, as the team didn't have a fifth rounder due to trading up for Jeffery. It's unlikely Rodriguez would have fallen into the sixth round.

He's a hybrid player who blocks like a fullback yet has the receiving skills of a tight end. At Temple, he played H-back and filled numerous roles as a blocker and receiver. His versatility will provide a fresh, dynamic aspect to Chicago's offense. He can line up anywhere on the field and can be used in a number of different fashions. Mike Tice is going to love having him on his offense.

Rodriguez's versatility will make him a highly valuable member of both the Bears' run game and passing attack. He does bring off-the-field baggage but if he's put that nonsense behind him, he'll quickly become a fan favorite in Chicago.

Grade: A


CB Isaiah Frey
Douglas C. Pizac/US Presswire

Round 6
CB Isaiah Frey, Nevada (5-11, 190)

Frey was a three-year starter in college. He's durable, having never dealt with any significant injuries. He was productive as a cornerback, leading the Wolfpack in interceptions (5) his senior season, earning him first-team All WAC honors.

Yet Frey was drafted as a special teams player. His speed and footwork should allow him to have success as a gunner on punts. Yet he has all the measurables for an NFL cornerback, so down the road, with good coaching, he could turn into a contributor on defense.

Yet, to take Frey in the sixth, the Bears passed on some talented players at bigger positions of need. Frey will need to stand out on special teams if he's to justify being selected in the sixth.

Grade: C+


CB Greg McCoy
Jerome Miron/US Presswire

Round 7
CB Greg McCoy, TCU (5-10, 181)

The Bears went cornerback again in the seventh with McCoy. He was a two-year starter at corner but his value will come on special teams. In his senior season, he was named an All-American kick returner by CBSSports.com and Yahoo! Sports. He was also named Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year.

In 2011, McCoy led the Mountain West and ranked sixth nationally in kickoff return average at 30.6 yards. He returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown to begin the second half against Louisiana-Monroe, marking the first for TCU to begin the second half since 2005, and also enjoyed a 99-yard kickoff return for a score against UNVL. For his career, McCoy returned 52 kickoffs for 1,505 yards (28.9 avg) and three touchdowns.

Yet McCoy is the seventh corner on the current roster, meaning he'll have to beat out at least two players already on the team, which is highly unlikely. On top of that, the Bears have Devin Hester, arguably the best returner in the history of the game, and they also signed Eric Weems and Devin Thomas this offseason, both of whom are accomplished return men.

As such, McCoy is destined for the practice squad. Most teams don't expect their seventh rounders to be starters but considering his position and skill set, McCoy may never see the field as a member of the navy and orange, making him a questionable selection in the final round.

Grade: C-

OVERALL

Emery addressed positions of need with his first two picks, which should provide a boost to both the offense and defense. Yet this draft was filled with reaches. Every player has a high ceiling though and all, except for Jeffery, should contribute on special teams.

This was a solid, yet unspectacular group of players that all have the potential to be full-time contributors down the line. Yet with each comes with significant question marks. Time will tell if these six players can live up to their collective billing.

Grade: C+

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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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