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updated: 5/11/2014 3:33 AM

Bears' Emery again taking big chances

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESSBears general manager Phil Emery listens to the Bears' first round draft pick Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller on Friday.

      ASSOCIATED PRESSBears general manager Phil Emery listens to the Bears' first round draft pick Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller on Friday.

 
 

You can call Phil Emery any number of things -- and you might have used a few special words the last couple of days.

But you can't call him afraid.

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This Bears GM doesn't lack for confidence and he simply doesn't care what fans or media think of anything he does.

And that's a refreshing change from the past.

Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith drafted for safety and avoiding criticism, preferring the low reward of a high floor over the big risk of a high ceiling.

Angelo admitted as much and it cost him repeatedly.

Emery, on the other hand, drafts for high ceiling, knowing the floor could also be much lower.

That netted him Shea McClellin.

But it also gave him the courage to fire a coach in Smith who was extremely popular with his players, was always going to play it safe and averaged 9 wins a season.

Smith won a total of three playoff games in nine years and pretended offense was something played in other sports but never in the NFL.

Emery decided that wasn't good enough.

So he went for a coach with a high offensive ceiling, an unproven commodity working in Canada who might have been a full-blown disaster, a coach no one else would consider.

Instead, he gave the Bears the brightest offensive mind they've ever had, and though the jury may be out on Marc Trestman, the Bears' prospects with a quarterback guru on staff are brighter than they've been in some time.

In his first big move, Emery traded two third-round picks for Brandon Marshall, reuniting Jay Cutler with his favorite receiver, and giving the Bears the No. 1 receiver they had coveted for so very long.

After the McClellin pick -- which has a chance to go down as one of the worst ever -- Emery took Alshon Jeffery -- which has a chance to be one of the best ever.

Jeffery at one time had been projected as a top 10 pick, but he had fallen as far as the third round on many draft boards and the Bears took him in the second round at No. 45 overall.

A year ago, Kyle Long appeared to be a huge reach, but Long turned out to be one of the Bears' best offensive linemen.

He found Jordan Mills in the fifth round, and Mills played next to Long as the starting right tackle all season.

In the seventh round, Emery drafted Marquess Wilson -- a player most teams obviously wouldn't touch -- and Wilson may have a big future with the Bears.

Emery also signed tight end Martellus Bennett and linemen Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson, and the Bears were one of the few teams in 2013 to start the same five offensive linemen in every game.

This off-season he cut Julius Peppers and rebuilt the defensive line with Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jeremiah Ratliff.

Now he has gone for corner Kyle Fuller in the first round, when there were seemingly much better defensive backs on the board. He took defensive tackle Ego Ferguson in the second, another huge reach considered a fourth-rounder. And he grabbed defensive tackle Will Sutton, an absolute monster two years ago, but after gaining weight he wasn't nearly the same player last season.

"I've never gone into a draft thinking you could meet all of your needs on that day, so meet the needs that are most important," Emery said. "It was extremely important for us to have another corner that could cover, somebody with upside who could be a future starter.

"And it was extremely important for us to get a couple young D-tackles to add to our group, so that we could be more physical up front and stop the run."

Asked if he felt any of these players were gambles, Emery said, "No. I like players that still have something to grow into.

"When you talking about ceilings, to me those are sufficient athletes, sufficiently strong, instead of good or better. We're always looking for athletes that are good or better at their position because then they have the upside to develop.

"If you're already at a ceiling, your developmental curve other than just gaining experience is much lower, but as you're gaining experience and you still have a good level of athleticism for the NFL, for your position, you still have some upside. We haven't seen it all.

"It takes athleticism to do the things you're going to be asked on an NFL field. It's different than college. So if you already see a sufficient-level athlete at the college level, that level is going to change a little bit. It's not going to be quite as good. But if you've got one that is projected as good, you've got a chance that he's going to continue to grow as a player."

In other words, yes, they are gambles.

It's always scary when your GM thinks he's the smartest guy in the room, that he knows something no one else knows, but Phil Emery has already provided evidence that sometimes he does know something about a player that others don't seem to fully understand.

That's certainly better than a GM afraid to take a chance, concerned about having to answer questions and being criticized.

You'll never have to accuse Emery of being that guy.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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