By Chris Luttig
The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is in the books.
While not as many surprises or trades (five) as in previous years, many top-tier players never heard their names called. The Jacksonville Jaguars made the boldest move, selecting Blake Bortles (QB/ UCF) with the third overall pick — only three years after taking Blaine Gabbert 10th overall in 2011.
Johnny Manziel slid all the way to the 22nd pick in the draft, when the Cleveland Browns traded up with the Philadelphia Eagles to make sure they got their guy. The biggest surprise saw the Minnesota Vikings sneak back into round one with the last pick, stealing Teddy Bridgewater from the Houston Texans.
As early as two months ago, Bridgewater was still considered the top quarterback in the draft and possibly the top pick overall. For most analysts, the biggest surprises are the names still left on the board. There’s so much talent left that rounds two and three could be more exciting than the much-hyped first.
The Chicago Bears addressed their needs in an aging secondary by selecting Kyle Fuller, one of the top-rated defensive backs with the 14th overall pick. This is the Bears’ first cornerback selected in the first round since Walt Harris was picked 13th overall in 1996.
Fuller (6-feet, 190 pounds) comes to the Bears from Virginia Tech University. He brings 4.49 40-yard-dash speed along with an impressive 38.5 inch vertical jump. While Fuller isn’t in the top-speed tier of the available defensive backs, he makes up for it with the size, balance, and route/ball reaction. Fuller is a natural leader. He was a team captain who competes on every down. He knows how to work as a pro, thanks to his two older brothers, who have played in the NFL.
While Fuller will be the heir apparent to Charles Tillman, who recently re-signed for one year, he will see plenty of playing time. Bears General Manager Phil Emery has been very high on Fuller since bringing him in for a pre-draft visit, and going to Virginia Tech to see him work out. Many analysts have already inserted Fuller as the Bears starting nickel defensive back before he even arrives in Chicago.
Mike Mayock, a draft analyst for NFL Network, has compared Fuller to Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro Brandon Flowers, a Virgina Tech alumni. The Chicago Bears announced Fuller will be formally introduced at Halas Hall tomorrow, May 9, at 3:30 p.m. Chicago’s next pick in the second round is No.19 (the 51 overall), and the No. 18 pick (82 overall) in the third round.
The Green Bay Packers were also in need of defensive backs or a hybrid LB/DE. Much to their surprise, with the newly inflated value of safeties by NFL teams, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6-foot-1, 208 pounds), from the University of Alabama, was still on the board.
After being selected by the Packers, Clinton-Dix tweeted, “Glad to be a Cheese Head! #PackersNation.”
Clinton-Dix shows flashes of greatness from ball skills to instincts, covering sideline-to-sideline with ease. He comes game-ready from a pro-style Alabama secondary that has produced three first-round picks in the previous two drafts. Clinton-Dix will be a starter from day one in a less-than-stellar secondary that should greatly improved with his addition.
Now, Clinton-Dix needs to live up to the hype that had him projected as high as a top-eight pick. The Packers have three picks tomorrow between the second and third round with No. 53, 85, and 98.
With so much talent still on the board, there is no telling what will happen next. Quarterbacks Derek Carr and Tom Savage are still available. The top four defensive lineman (Jernigan, Truitt, Nix, and Hageman) are also still up for grabs, while several top offensive lineman still to come. No running backs and only one tight end were drafted Thursday. This is a positive note for the Chicago Bears, who can fill their need at defensive back and possibly grab a top-tier runner with their third pick, if one of the top three is still available.