LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery was so busy in free agency he didn’t mind having a few extra weeks to prepare for the draft.
Time’s just about up.
The three-day proceeding starts with the first round Thursday and the Bears, owners of the 14th pick, still need help on defense even after some big moves. So a little extra time to study the prospects suited Emery just fine.
“I love it, honestly. I’ve heard reports of people complaining about it,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re complaining about.”
The draft was pushed back about two weeks because of a scheduling conflict at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Emery said that allowed the Bears to have “less-rushed conversations” as they try to weigh short-term gains against long-term benefits.
The defense ranked among the league’s worst a year ago and was the biggest reason the Bears missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years at 8-8.
The Bears have been busy addressing that, bringing in Jared Allen and parting with Julius Peppers in an effort to spark a defense that ranked 30th overall, last against the run, and tied Jacksonville with a league-low 31 sacks. They still need help on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary, particularly at safety.
Chicago has one pick in each of the first five rounds (Nos. 14, 51, 82, 117 and 156) and two in the sixth round (183 and 191). With that in mind, here are five things to know about the draft.
STILL ON THE DEFENSIVE: Emery said he has six candidates for the 14th pick assuming the Bears keep it, and there’s a good chance he’ll go with a defensive player even though he wasn’t ruling out offense. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert could be strong possibilities for Chicago.