This upcoming week, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery will be taking a good look at numerous prospects at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. There’s no secret that Chicago will devote most of their attention to the defensive side of the ball, and with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, they will more than likely pick up a defensive lineman. However, will they get a defensive tackle or defensive end?
Earlier this week, Bears head coach Marc Trestman stated that the defense will stick with their 4-3 alignment, killing the prediction of many saying that Chicago was transitioning to a 3-4. This new-found knowledge can definitely change the Bears’ game plan when deciding how to use their first-round draft pick.
There are a lot of things that Emery and Trestman must take into consideration when it comes to looking at their current situation at defensive end. First, there is the fact that Shea McClellin has been officially moved to outside linebacker, giving Chicago one less defensive end on their depth chart. Second, defensive end Corey Wootton will be an unrestricted free agent come March 11, and could possibly be lured away by another team. Finally, there is the decision of what to do with the aging Julius Peppers, who is slated to absorb a huge chunk of the Bears’ salary cap for 2014.
With the lack of depth at defensive end, re-signing Wootton can be looked upon as a must-do. Furthermore, in the event that Wootton stays in the Windy City, and if Chicago gives Peppers a pay cut, there will still be a need for more help at defensive end.
Now I haven’t forgotten about the defensive tackle position. This is still considered a top priority as well. However, depending on how the pieces fall once the Bears are on the clock, don’t be surprised if they do go with a defensive end.
Many are predicting that Chicago will select either Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan or Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III, who are both defensive tackles. But, there is the likelihood that Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy will be available as well.
Ealy has been lost in the shadow of the story and the play of his fellow teammate Michael Sam, who is the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. According to the list 2014 Top NFL Draft Prospects on cbssports.com, Ealy is ranked ahead of both Jernigan and Nix. In addition, Ealy is the second-ranked defensive end behind South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.
Though there is a great need at defensive tackle, having a chance to get one of the best overall players that’s available could be enticing.
The recent decisions of sticking with the 4-3 doesn’t etch in stone the possibility of the Bears drafting a defensive end with the 14th overall pick, but it does greatly increase the chances of that happening.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.