The 2014 NFL Draft is officially less than a week away. At 7 p.m. CDT this Thursday, May 8, the long-awaited selection process will begin.
The Chicago Bears have seven picks in this year's draft, including the 14th overall selection in the first round. GM Phil Emery yesterday said he has pared down his list of first-round targets to just a few.
"Every day we keep narrowing it in terms of defining who that group is. I would say for that first pick, we're right at six," Emery said. "I'd be happy that two out of the six were on the board at our pick and I'd be ecstatic if three out of the six were on the board at our pick."
With that in mind, here are the six players I believe Emery is targeting with the 14th overall selection.
Emery made it clear he doesn't believe Donald will be available when it's his turn to pick in the first round. That may or may not be true but the fact is, if he's still on the board at 14th overall, Emery isn't going to pass him up. Donald is a highly disruptive 3-technique, one-gap DT who can collapse the pocket in the face of the quarterback. Paired with Jared Allen on passing downs, Donald could help turn Chicago's pass rush into a formidable unit.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
The Bears are a mess at safety and Emery said yesterday the competition for both starting spots is wide open. Yet the candidates leave a lot to be desired. With Clinton-Dix, Chicago would get the most NFL-ready safety in this year's class. He's not a game-changing playmaker but Clinton-Dix is intelligent and technically solid in every aspect of his game. He plays fast, hits hard and is a leader on the field. He would instantly become the best safety on the roster and shore up the club's biggest position of need.
Emery said there's a big drop-off at the safety position behind Clinton-Dix and Pryor, so it's reasonable to believe both players are part of his Super Six-Pack. Pryor is a punishing in-the-box safety who can blow up opposing ball carriers. He's a borderline linebacker at times and would immediately give the Bears an imposing presence against opposing rushing attacks.
The Bears are old at cornerback and face Calvin Johnson and Aaron Rodgers twice a year. Dennard is the top lockdown cornerback in this draft, one who excels at press-man coverage. He's a physical, confident cover corner who often made it look easy at the collegiate level. Dennard has the skill set to keep Megatron and Jordy Nelson and Cordarrelle Patterson in check, which cannot be overlooked. He may not be the fastest or strongest corner in the draft but few could have as substantial and immediate an impact for the Bears as Dennard.
Fuller is a linebacker in a safety's body with a cornerback skill set. He's arguably the most versatile, toughest corner in this year's draft, one who can play in the box as a safety or out wide in man coverage. He's the most aggressive secondary defender in this draft in stopping the run and he has very good instincts and reaction time in zone coverage. Fuller is projected as a corner but could also play safety at the next level, which is the type of positional flexibility Emery covets.
DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Emery said that, with all things equal, "bigger is better". Well, there are few players with as much size (6-6, 310) and athletic potential as Hageman. A former tight end, Hageman is still relatively new to the defensive tackle position. He wasn't a dominant player in college but his "splash" plays have NFL teams salivating. His potential is through the roof, both as a run stopper and a pass rusher. If Hageman ever hits his ceiling, he'll turn into a force in the NFL. Emery has already shown a tendency toward "homerun" type players in the first round and Hagemen fits that criteria perfectly.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.