The NFL Scouting Combine is upon us once again, and prospects of all makes and models find ways to earn… or lose… millions of dollars before playing a single down of professional football.
But it’s not only players that have a lot to prove. The Wonder Twins, Ryan Pace and John Fox, could be faced with a steep learning curve in their first draft together. The debate is already raging about what to do with the seventh overall pick.
Pace already told us what he’s looking for in the first round: the best player on the board.
Thanks for clearing things up, Ryan.
A sound strategy, yes, but it gives no clues to which way the team may be leaning. That’s where I come in.
My first instinct tells me to address the most glaring need, and when you measure that in quantity and quality, that’s undeniably the defense. And in a defensively-rich talent pool, an edge rusher, a defensive tackle or a safety would make for very logical choices.
But if you buy into the notion that Marcus Mariota, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, is falling into the realm of possibility for the Bears, it severely muddies the waters.
You can only draft one position at a time. When you strip positional needs out of your analysis like Pace is claiming, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis on a one-by-one basis.
Would drafting Mariota to replace Jay Cutler be more beneficial than drafting, say, Danny Shelton to provide a true nose tackle in a 3-4 defense?
That’s the $100 million question, or the $126 million question if you’re talking in terms of Cutler’s salary.
Mariota has his flaws. He’s not a lock to be a superstar like Andrew Luck was, despite all that he was able to accomplish in college. Much of his success was predicated on the offensive tempo he worked with while at Oregon, and his ability to use his legs on occasion to keep defenses off balance. When you look strictly at his ability in the pocket, things start to get dicey.
If we’re to assume a similar offense under John Fox that we saw in Denver, Mariota’s playing style doesn’t seem to mesh with the run-first, ball control mentality that will likely be on display.
This is not to say that Mariota wouldn’t be a breath of fresh air for the franchise. He’s a consummate leader, something we’re devoid of here in Chicago, and his personality not only lends to being likable, but coachable. Maybe he can change his game with tutelage and time, and the Bears have plenty of time to burn before they’re relevant again.
On the flip side, what do you have if you stick with Jay Cutler? The demeanor is something that will never change, but maybe he has a little more to play for with this clearly being his last shot at success in Chicago. I’ve backed way off of my Cutler love of days past, but I still believe he can win you games.
Fox should put Cutler on the “Tony Romo Plan:” ask him to do much less, rely more on a power running game, and be a contributor to winning games, not the sole reason you win or lose a game. When you put the onus on Cutler to sling the ball around the yard 40+ times, you’re asking for trouble.
But ask him to be a compliment to a balanced attack, and you have something there.
You have already shown that you can win games with Cutler under center. In an era filled with underachieving QB draftees, that in itself says a lot. Not saying that Mariota will be a bust, but it comes down to know vs. unknown.
You know you can produce wins with Cutler under center. He has all the tools to fit the system. Mariota doesn’t fit the system in the same way, and projecting his ability to win at an NFL level is nearly impossible. Unless, of course, the Eagles break the bank and trade up to draft him, reuniting him with Chip Kelly. That’s as close to a sure thing as you can get when it comes to Mariota having success.
Getting back to the original comparison: if the Bears were to take a Shelton at nose tackle, a Randy Gregory or Shane Ray at edge rusher, or a Landon Collins at safety, you have immediate improvements.
As good as Jeremiah Ratliff was this past season, he’s 34 and undersized to be a true 3-4 nose tackle. Maybe he pulled it off when his was in his prime back in Dallas, and when he had DeMarcus Ware creating havoc on the edges, but that’s not the situation he’s in anymore.
Gregory or Ray WILL be an upgrade over Shea McClellin. Period. End of story. Same can be said for Collins over anyone who the Bears threw in at the clown show known as the secondary. Why? Because we KNOW that what the Bears put out at those positions last year wasn’t cutting it, and that makes it pretty easy to justify taking a chance on an unknown.
If the Bears target a quarterback in the draft, it should be in the later rounds. That is, after they take a few more defensive players, a speedy receiver for the slot, and a third down running back.
This isn’t about Jay “deserving” another chance, this is about a safe approach into a true rebuild. And as much as it pains Chicago fans to hear, we have to realize that Cutler is the safest option going forward.