Hardin waived, caps messy 1st draft for Emery

The Bears have reportedly waived Brandon Hardin, last year's 3rd-round pick, who is the third of Phil Emery's first six picks no longer on the team. And then there's Shea McClellin.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday on his Twitter account the Chicago Bears have released second-year safety Brandon Hardin. Per Biggs:

"#Bears have waived S Brandon Hardin from the injured reserve. Tenure of the 3rd round pick from 2012 is over with the team."

The Bears have not officially confirmed his release.

Hardin spent his rookie season on injured reserve and was again placed on IR before the start of this season. He did not play a single snap for the Bears.

Hardin's release was not solely due to injury though. He did perform in a handful of preseason games and looked absolutely lost on the field. A cornerback at California, GM Phil Emery drafted Hardin with the intention of turning him into a safety. With his combination of size and speed, as well as his experience in coverage as a corner, Emery saw a potential long-term option on the back end of the defense.

Hardin missed his entire senior season due to injury and, as a result, was incredibly rusty during training camp his rookie year. When it came time to play, he was hesitant and unsure of his responsibilities. That, coupled with his inability to stay healthy, is the reason he's no longer with the team.

Of Emery's six picks in his first draft with the team, only three remain after just a season and a half. Seventh rounder Greg McCoy was cut in training camp last year and fourth rounder Evan Rodriguez was released this past offseason due to numerous alcohol-related off-field incidents. Waiving three draft picks this quickly speaks to Emery's willingness to cut ties with players that aren't meeting expectations – a trait his predecessor, Jerry Angelo, did not possess – but it also says a lot about Emery's ability as a talent evaluator and character judge.

This is exacerbated when you consider how poorly his first-ever draft pick, Shea McClellin, has played in his first season and a half. In 21 games played McClellin, billed as a pure speed rusher that could apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks off the edge, has just 3.0 total sacks. He's played seven games this year, with four starts, and has just 0.5 sacks.

Obviously, he is not the pass rusher Emery billed him to be. Yet even worse is his turnstile-like play against the run, even against tight ends.

I'm a firm believer that three years is necessary to properly evaluate a draft class, so there's still time for McClellin to turn things around before he's officially labeled a "bust." That needs to happen soon though, as he's shown no signs of improvement to this point, no matter what Emery says. But when three of your six picks are already gone, after just 23 games, we can say with confidence that Emery's first draft is a mess.

If it weren't for Alshon Jeffery, and to a lesser extent Isaiah Frey, Emery would owe the city of Chicago a public apology. Jeffery's play this season has been outstanding and he appears every bit the second-round pick for whom Emery traded up to select. And Frey's play at nickelback, while inconsistent, has been far above what anyone expected from a sixth-round corner.

Yet two out of six, or 33 percent, isn't going to cut it, especially for a general manager touted as one of the top talent evaluators in the game. If he continues at that pace – and it's far too early to grade this year's class – then Emery's tenure in the Windy City will be short lived.

Bears fans better hope he's learned his lesson.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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