The move would certainly make sense if Jernigan, widely regarded as the draft’s best defensive tackle, is still available because he fits Chicago’s scheme. But the question for Bears general manager Phil Emery might be whether Jernigan “transcends scheme” as he so often likes to say.
A junior, Jernigan led Florida State with 11 tackles for lost yardage last season and is considered one of the draft’s premier run stuffers. Kiper ranks Jernigan at No. 10 on his Big Board, while Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. lists him as No. 7 in his top 32.
McShay wrote this about Jernigan:
Jernigan performed well in the Seminoles' BCS title game victory over Auburn, recording nine tackles, although he appeared gassed at times in the fourth quarter and had to come out of the game for a stretch. He is a classic 3-technique with good first-step quickness and good range versus the run, and is a very disruptive player.
Kiper, meanwhile, is enamored with “his great sense for how to disrupt the run game in particular. He could be quicker off the snap -- maybe it's just anticipation -- but he makes up for it and can both drive blocks and split doubles. Once he's in motion, he has good burst, power and improved hand use to free himself. He's a former defensive end who brings a lot of quickness to the inside. He moves easily and can occasionally shoot gaps or move laterally and scrape with pace to get down the line.”
If the Bears selected Jernigan at No. 14, they certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.
Coming off a season in which the Bears allowed the most points (478) and total yards (6,313) in franchise history while consistently allowing opposing running backs to run roughshod, Emery has said he wants to infuse youth on defense. So Jernigan would be an ideal starting point.
Chicago lost defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins to season-ending injuries in 2013, and both are set to be free agents along with defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Corey Wootton, who is coming off hip surgery.
If the Bears did draft Jernigan and found a way to bring back Melton, Ratliff, Collins and Wootton, who is capable of playing inside and on the edge, they’d have a pretty strong rotation along the defensive line -- especially if they could add another pass-rusher capable of contributing as a rookie in the later rounds.
"I feel I am the most versatile defensive lineman in the draft," Jernigan told ESPN's Joe Schad. "Some team will get an athletic, hard-working lineman who attacks, plays smart and doesn't come off the field."