If recent history indicates any type of trend, the Bears could come away with a talented defensive player when they make the 14th overall selection in next month's NFL draft.
In the previous five drafts and nine of the last 10, the 14th pick was used on a defensive player, many of whom made significant impacts for their team. The last three picks at 14 and six of the last 11 have been defensive linemen, including two by the Bears, who had the 14th pick in 2003 and 2004 and chose a defensive lineman both times.
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History of No. 14 picks in the NFL draft2013 -- DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers: Started all 16 games as a rookie for NFL's No. 2 defense.
2012 -- DT Michael Brockers, St. Louis Rams: 28 starts and 9.5 sacks for space-eating run stuffer.
2011 -- DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams: Perhaps the game's best young pass rusher with 29.5 sacks in last 2 seasons.
2010 -- S Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: 3-time Pro Bowler has 15 interceptions for No. 1 defense. Has not missed a start.
2009 -- S Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans Saints: Starter since rookie season. Joined Eagles in 2011 for $16.5 million, 3 years.
2008 -- OT Chris Williams, BEARS: Cut in '12 after losing starting opportunities but started 16 games for Rams last season.
2007 -- CB Darrelle Revis, N.Y. Jets: 5-time Pro Bowler and best CB of his era. Signed with Patriots in 2012 ($32 million, 2 years).
2006 -- DT Brodrick Bunkley, Philadelphia Eagles: Above-average 90-game starter for 3 teams, most recently Saints.
2005 -- LB Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers: Started 84 games, including all 16 last season. Has survived 3 ACL injuries.
2004 -- DT Tommie Harris, BEARS: Had a spectacular first 5 years, including 3 straight Pro Bowls before injuries took their toll.
2003 -- DE Michael Haynes, BEARS: A nice guy who couldn't play end or tackle. Epitome of a bust (3 years, 4 starts, 5.5 sacks).
2002 -- TE Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants: Exceptional two-way talent had career 547 receptions, 6,143 yards in 136 games.
2001 -- OT Kenyatta Walker, Tampa Bay Bucs: Started 70 games in first 5 seasons but was was out of NFL after 6 years.
2000 -- TE Bubba Franks, Green Bay Packers: Big body with receiving skills. Made 3 straight Pro Bowls (2001-03).
1999 -- OT John Tait, Kansas City Chiefs: Solid, above-average tackle started 66 games in 5 years in KC, then 73 with Bears.
-- Bob LeGere
The only team that bucked the defensive trend in the last 10 years was the Bears, when they chose offensive tackle Chris Williams, and we all know how that turned out.
For the most part, however, the 14th pick has produced some stud defenders in recent years, including 2011 when the St. Louis Rams took defensive end Robert Quinn, and 2010 when the Seattle Seahawks took safety Earl Thomas. In 2007, the New York Jets selected one of the most talented cornerbacks in recent years, Darrelle Revis.
Quinn led the NFC with 19 sacks last season after getting 10½ in his second NFL season. Thomas has been a fixture in a secondary that has become the showpiece of the NFL's best defense. Revis is the leader among shut down cornerbacks in the NFL, and his ability to handle the best wide receivers by himself has led to that side of the field being known as Revis Island.
Odds are the Bears will use this year's 14th pick on a defensive lineman or defensive back, and there are a handful of players projected to be their choice.
If Bears general manager Phil Emery decides on a defensive lineman with the pick, it's almost guaranteed that player will be a tackle, considering their biggest splashes in free agency included signing defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. The only experienced tackles returning from last season are Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, and Ratliff will be 33 before the season begins.
No tackles are projected to be taken in the first 13 picks, which would give Emery his choice of Pitt's Aaron Donald or Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, if Emery decides to go that route.
The Bears also have stockpiled run-of-the-mill safeties in free agency to improve upon the subpar work of Major Wright and Chris Conte in 2013. Wright was allowed to leave via free agency, and Conte may not be 100 percent at the start of the season after shoulder surgery in late March.
Again, Emery could have his pick at the safety position. Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix both project as better NFL players than anyone on the Bears' roster.
Because two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman is 33 and on a one-year contract after battling through an injury-plagued 2013 season, the Bears might be wise to seek his successor. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert could be off the board by then, but Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard would be an ideal fit. Several other cornerbacks are expected to go from the middle to the end of the first round, including Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, who visited Halas Hall earlier this month, as well as Ohio State's Bradley Roby and TCU's Jason Verrett.
Even though the Bears drafted two linebackers last season -- Jon Bostic in the second round and Khaseem Greene in the fourth -- they must keep in mind that Lance Briggs will turn 34 during the season, and D.J. Williams will be 32 before training camp starts. Williams also has started just five games over the last two seasons.
The stock of UCLA's Anthony Barr has dropped on some draft boards in recent weeks. But if he fell to 14th the Bears would have to consider him if they believe, as many scouts do, that he could provide an exceptional pass-rush presence. Alabama's C.J. Mosley is another linebacker rated as a mid-first-rounder. Although somewhat undersized, he's an ideal fit on the weak-side in a Cover-2 defense because of his versatility and range.
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