My initial reaction wasn't exactly shock — too many Jerry Angelo drafts have numbed me — but there was definitely surprise, and maybe a bit of disgust.
With consensus mid-first-round talents like offensive tackle Riley Reiff and defensive ends Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry on the board when the Bears were on the clock Thursday afternoon, new Bears general manager Phil Emery drafted ... Shea McClellin? A guy who was projected to go very late in the first round at the highest in the mock drafts I'd seen — some had him falling well into the second and even the third round? Why take him 19th?
Here's the thing: unlike many Bears fans, I wasn't really upset with the notion of Emery picking McClellin in itself, even in those initial few seconds of confusion. Emery's background is in college scouting. That's what got him this job. This is what he's supposed to do best. Any idiot could pick the next highest available player on Mel Kiper's Big Board when he's on the clock. If Emery thought McClellin was the best player left, then by all means take him.
My problem is that, if you're taking a guy significantly earlier than he's projected to go, there should be some value in trading down and getting him later. But Emery would know that, too. He'd certainly be better equipped than me to know if someone immediately behind the Bears in the pecking order had a significant interest in McClellin. The Patriots, who wound up taking end Chandler Jones 21st overall, and the Packers, who grabbed Perry 28th overall, were both rumored to be very interested in him.
Ultimately Emery decided that McClellin was worth taking at 19th. I've talked myself into taking his word for it, at least until it's Week 5 of the 2012 season and McClellin still doesn't have his first sack. Emery is, I'm sure, well aware that the 260-or-so-pound McClellin is undersized as a 4-3 defensive end. Emery is also, I'm sure, aware that McClellin will likely be used as a 4-3 end as long as Lovie Smith is the Bears' head coach. He weighed all of this and made the pick. I'm willing to believe that this might all work out until it's proven otherwise.
There are other aspects of Emery's draft that can be questioned. I loved his boldness in trading up in the second round to draft a receiver (Alshon Jeffery) who he evidently believes can be an impact player, but there are a ton of questions about Jeffery's work ethic and character. I was hardly thrilled that the Bears drafted yet another safety (Brandon Hardin) in the third round ... but the fact that Angelo took so many safeties, and missed on the vast majority of the picks, shouldn't be reason for Emery not to take one. I'm intrigued by tight end Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round, though lots of people consider him a reach.
Like many Bears fans, I'm worried about the fact that offensive tackle wasn't addressed at all in the draft ... and hasn't been addressed all offseason. But I also don't think that Emery should have taken Reiff (or anyone else) simply because they happen to play a position of need. If he thinks Reiff will be a bust, what good does drafting him do? If an impact player isn't there, don't pretend one is. Emery evidently thinks that JaMarcus Webb can be the guy, especially as the Bears get away from the tackle-stressing calls of the Mike Martz offense. I'm extremely skeptical of that, but we'll see.
So if I have to grade Emery's first draft, I'll give it an incomplete — which is the grade I'd give each of the 32 teams' efforts. I'm not going to be one of those reporters that grades everyone — giving out mostly As and Bs and failing no one, ever — when nobody has any idea exactly what any of these prospects will ultimately be. If McClellin and Jeffery are impact players three years from now, then Emery is the genius who thought outside the box and snagged them both. I'm willing to allow for the possibility that that will happen before I condemn the GM.