Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery revealed Monday the club has fielded multiple calls from other team around the league seeking to move up and down the board through trades leading up to the NFL draft.
Naturally, Emery wouldn’t divulge plans, but disclosed “we’re working on a core of about seven players” as potential first-round targets, adding that his main concern headed into the draft is being “ready no matter what the scenario is.”
Obviously, trades fall into that category for the Bears, which hold the No. 19 overall pick.
“The biggest concern I have is that we’re ready for no matter what the scenario is; that we’ve thought through [them all], that we have [them] down on paper, that we’ve made those decisions prior to the draft that no matter what happens, we have an answer, and we have an answer that we feel good about,” Emery said, adding, “That that player that we end up picking regardless of it’s at 19 or a trade-up or trade-down scenario, no matter what happens around us that we’ve figured out how to get a good player.”
Emery explained the fluidity associated with holding the 19th pick is “why we have seven players in the mix, so that we have a solution to whatever scenario happens in front or around us.”
Emery acknowledged the Bears are receiving calls from multiple teams looking for potential trade partners to move up and down the board.
“Getting calls, [from teams] wanting to know if [we want] to move up the board or teams [that want] to know if we want to move back,” Emery said. “We’ll do whatever it takes for us to get the best players that we feel can get us closest to the championship in the fastest way possible. There is a sense of urgency. We want to be as good as we can be this year, and moving forward. We also want to move and get to the players we feel can help us the most. If that means trading up -- that's a good option versus the risk involved -- then yes. If that means moving back and we feel good about that player list moving back, then yes, we would do that. We wouldn’t hesitate.”
Interestingly, Emery mentioned a few of Chicago’s perceived areas of need -- receivers, defensive ends and defensive tackles, as well as college offensive tackles that project as NFL guards -- as the strengths of this year’s draft class. The general manager made sure to point out that, however, the moves made by the club thus far this offseason, add flexibility in terms of potential draft targets.
Emery wouldn’t characterize his draft philosophy as one borne from specific team needs or one involving him taking the best available player regardless of need or position.
“What we’ve done in free agency really allows us a chance to go one way or the other. It’s given us flexibility in terms of we can draft into a perceived strength so that we can make sure we get the player that’s gonna help us win championships the quickest way possible, or we can go and fill maybe what we perceive as a need,” Emery said. “Really we’re very orientated towards finding a player that’s gonna get us there the fastest. If that means that player patches a hole -- great. If that means that player is at a position of strength, but some aspect of his game is better than the ones we have even though we have a strong position, we’ll go that way if that’s the player that’s gonna get us there the quickest.”
In addition to the 19th selection in the first round, the Bears own the 50th, 79th, 111th, 150th, 184th and 222nd overall picks. Emery said that ideally, in the first and second rounds, “you want to come away with a player you feel is going to be a starter, or somebody that is adding or contributing greatly to what you’re doing in maybe your sub packages at a minimum.”
Emery indicated that near-immediate contributions are expected from a team’s third- and fourth-round selections, too, but as role players on special teams. Emery said that historically, “a lot of the punt and kick returners -- if they have that aspect to their game, even though they may be a role contributor at their position -- they go in the third and fourth round because you have a defined role for them.”
The later rounds become more of a crapshoot. But the objective is to find “someone who’s going to back up for your squad, provide quality depth,” Emery said. He goes about that by projecting -- based on physical measureables -- whether the prospect will ascend into a contributor.
“What you’re looking for there is players that have high measureables, meaning their height-weight-speed is at a level that if they develop, they have the athletic ability to continue to ascend. You want to take players and be oriented toward players that are bigger, stronger, [and] faster so they can continue to develop in that role and possibly hit on a starter.”