As we inch closer to the NFL Draft, all the experts have the Bears going for a defensive tackle with the 14th pick. Why wouldn’t they? Last season, they had no pass rush, and their rushing defense was the worst in the league. They were consistently killed up the middle, so it would be logical to pick up either Aaron Donald or Timmy Jernigan. Well, what about Justin Gilbert?
I have previously said that I like Gilbert with the #14 pick. Now, there are more who agree. Hub Arkush came out with his mock draft last week, and, would you believe it, Justin Gilbert is his pick for the Bears!
I know everyone is falling in love with Donald. He is the sexy pick right now. I must admit that it would be very difficult to not pick him up. I’ve gone back and forth on that myself many times. Look at Emery’s draft history, and the words he said after last season ended.
Emery has a history of picking players that surprise. He doesn’t surprise for the sake of it, however. He puts in a lot of work and does his homework on potential players. Many did not see the Shea McClellin pick, the Alshon Jeffery pick, or the Kyle Long pick. The jury is still out on McClellin, but Jeffery is turning into a star and Long was a Pro Bowler in his rookie season.
Gilbert can be Emery’s next surprise.
In the NFC North, the Bears will see some pretty good quarterbacks.Four of their games will be against Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, guys who can sling the ball. It will be important to have athletic, aggressive playmakers in the secondary. Gilbert fits that bill.
At 6-0, 202 pounds, Gilbert has the size to keep up with big receivers such as Calvin Johnson. He also has the speed, running a 4.37-4o at the combine.
After the defensive debacle last season, Emery said after the season that he wanted athletic playmakers who have a nose for the ball. Gilbert is that type of player. He had seven interceptions last season, returning two for touchdowns.
Gilbert also helps as a kick returner. He has a career return average of 26.3 yards and has six touchdowns.
Gilbert can get himself in trouble with his aggressiveness. He’ll sometimes bite on fakes. He also has a tendency to lower his shoulders and lunge, which makes him miss tackles. Under Charles Tillman’s tutelage, he can improve his technique and get even better.
After Gilbert’s performance at the NFL Combine, he moved ahead of Darqueze Dennard. That means he has also moved up on the draft board. How, then, will he be available at 14?
The keys to all this are the Detroit Lions and the Tennessee Titans. Both could use a cornerback. The Lions are also interested in adding another receiver to go with Johnson. They did get Golden Tate, but he has his ups and downs.
I feel the Lions will go after Mike Evans. Having a trio of Johnson, Evans, and Tate will make the Lions offense more formidable. Another way they can go is by picking up a left tackle to help protect Stafford.
Reports have it that the Titans are looking for rushers in their new hybrid defense. One of the guys they are looking at is Anthony Barr. If they indeed go that way, it makes Gilbert available.
I don’t want you to think that the Bears should forget the tackle position. There will be some gems available later in the draft. This could be one of the deepest drafts in a long time. RaShede Hageman, Dominique Easley, DaQuan Jones, and Anthony Johnson are good pickups who should be available between the second to fourth rounds.
We should all be ready for another Emery surprise in this draft. He has certainly surprised us during free agency. Seeing how hard he works on player scouting, we should also expect players that will come in and help the team on its way to playoff contention.