Chicago Bears draft sleepers to watch for

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As Chicago Bears fans prepare for the draft, they’re all trying to guess who the 14th pick will be. If the last two years is any indication, it isn’t any of the names you’re used to seeing on mock drafts.

We all know the Bears needs and every fan has different things they want for the team. We know the Bears are putting an emphasis on rebuilding their defensive line this year, but they can’t ignore their secondary, can they?

As you prepare for the draft, here are a few names who you may not think the Bears are considering, but very well could be. Of course, as he has the last two years, general manager Phil Emery might have an even bigger surprise up his sleeve.

 

Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina

Martin was one of my initial sleepers for the Bears, before they signed a bunch of defensive ends in free agency. After initially ruling him out, I’ve re-added him to the list with the thought that Lamarr Houson could be a defensive tackle.

At 6’6″ and 272 pounds, Martin tested out as one of the most athletic defensive linemen at the combine, this coming after a senior season in which he had double-digit sacks.

He’s said to be stout at the point of attack and expected to be an excellent run defender right away in the NFL, but the scouts I spoke to are worried about him being too stiff to be a great pass-rusher. The answer to that would be to move him inside on third downs, as the Bears did with Israel Idonije two years ago.

 

Dominique Easley, DT, Florida

I’m less concerned about Easley’s injuries than I am about his lack of exposure, especially playing inside.

Easley was a defensive end two years ago and moved inside this year, but tore his ACL just three games into the season. That injury left questions about his ability to hold up inside for a full season unanswered. He also has refused to test in any speed or agility drills, so we don’t know for sure how his explosiveness or agility measures with others.

It looked elite on tape, but did he lose anything from the second knee surgery? The Bears got a close look at him and almost certainly had their stop watches out when he did individual drills so they had something to go by.

We learned that they don’t put as much value on exposure as others do last year when they took Kyle Long in the first round. If they think Easley is an elite talent and don’t have any concerns about his healthy, he could be the 14th player chosen in the draft.

 

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Verrett’s only real flaw is that he’s short, but the height requirement changes when you look at him for what he is and not what he is not.

I don’t know if Verrett will ever be a premier outside cornerback, capable of locking down Calvin Johnson. Then again, who is? What I do know is that he would give the Bears a physical slot corner with explosive athleticism. Verrett will be able to step into the Bears defense and be a better run defender than any of their linebackers not named Briggs were in 2013.

In a division with Golden Tate, Randall Cobb and Cordarrelle Patterson, having someone who can cover the slot and not get destroyed in the run game is of great importance.

This pick isn’t about eventually replacing Charles Tillman, it would be about making their defense the best it can be in 2014. Tillman is going to start next year, they need someone who can play the slot corner role. They could worry about replacing Tillman some other time.

 

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Offensive tackle isn’t seen as a primary need, but maybe it should be.

Jordan Mills was good for a fifth-round pick last season, but that’s about it. To say he struggled in pass coverage wouldn’t quite cover it, but he was above average as a run-blocker. Ultimately, I see Mills as a guard, which may not be good for his career with the Bears.

This isn’t as much about Mills as it is about Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod was an upgrade over J’Marcus Webb, but he isn’t great and never has been. When playing against the top pass rushers, the Bears need to give Bushrod quite a bit of help. They also have to help Mills. When you have to help both tackles, there is a problem.

With Lewan, the Bears would solidify the right side of their offensive line. He should be able to step in and hold his own as a rookie. If Mills continues to show the development he did last season, the Bears could eventually move Lewan to the left side and either trade or release Bushrod. Such a move likely wouldn’t happen until after the 2015 season, however.

This pick is a long shot, but if Lewan is the best player on the Bears board, he would be an upgrade. What they do at the position in the future would sort itself out.

 

Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

I won’t waste a lot of time on Shazier as I already covered him as an interesting prospect for the Bears.

The bottom line with him is that he would be the best athlete on the field in just about every game he played in. He’s a player who is capable of banging with Eddie Lacy and running with Randall Cobb. The Bears would be able to stay in their base defense more as Shazier can be a very versatile weapon if used creatively.

 

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