There were plenty of mock drafts that had the Bears taking a defensive end in the first round, and that’s the position Phil Emery addressed with his first draft pick as general manager.
Emery surprised observers with the defensive end he took, though.
After the Seahawks drafted DE Bruce Irvin 15th and the Chargers picked DE Melvin Ingram with the 18th pick, the Bears passed on Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus, USC DE Nick Perry and Syracuse DE Chandler Jones — all players they had been linked to in the weeks leading up to the draft — and selected Boise State DE Shea McClellin, who rose up draft boards late in the process.
With DLE Israel Idonije signed through the 2012 season, McClellin doesn’t have to come in and be an every-down player, and that’s a great situation for him to be in as a rookie.
He can serve as a pass-rush specialist, playing in the sub package, which is really a piece the Bears have lacked and the position where McClellin will most naturally fit.
Chicago needed a player to plug in opposite DRE Julius Peppers and generate a push off the edge. Idonije is a solid player, but he’s made only 13 sacks in the past two seasons.
The McClellin pick may not be an immediate hit with Bears fans, but if he can consistently win one-on-one matchups and is more productive as a pass rusher than Idonije has been, the perception of the pick — underwhelming with many fans, judging from initial reactions — will change. McClellin will have to provide at least that much in his first season for this choice to be a hit.