The Chicago Bears’ NFL odds to win the Super Bowl were 28/1 immediately after free agency, and are now 20/1 following the 2014 draft. Apparently sportsbooks liked what Chicago has done in improving one of the worst defenses in franchise history.
Stop The Bleeding On D
No Chicago team had ever been worse against the run than the 2013 Bears, who allowed a league-worst 161.4 rushing yards per game. The offense was very good, ranking No. 2 in points. Thus it's no surprise that Bears GM Phil Emery focused almost entirely on defense in free agency, adding the likes of ends Jared Allen (Vikings), Lamarr Houston (Raiders), Willie Young (Lions) and Israel Idonije (Lions), as well as safeties Ryan Mundy (Giants) and M.D. Jennings (Packers). Chicago also re-signed two starters, linebacker D.J. Williams and cornerback Charles Tillman.
Tillman is a former Pro Bowler, but is now 33, on a one-year contract and was limited to a career-worst eight games last year due to injury. It was replacing Tillman down the line that the Bears had in mind when they selected Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with their first-round pick. Fuller has good size at 6-feet, 198 pounds and can also play some safety. The Bears expect Fuller to be their nickel cornerback from Day 1, and they will be in the nickel more often than not playing against NFC North quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford twice a season.
Fuller was the second cornerback off the board, and the Bears opted for him over safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) or Calvin Pryor (Louisville) despite a screaming immediate need at that position. Chicago hopes it added a contributor at safety in fourth-rounder Brock Vereen, whom the team traded up to get. Vereen, the brother of Patriots running back Shane Vereen, played both cornerback and safety for Minnesota. Vereen started 36 games and made four interceptions while breaking up 22 passes. He benched 225 pounds 25 times at the combine, more than any other safety or cornerback.
Some experts believed the Bears reached for LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson in the second round, but they may have gotten a steal with Arizona State tackle Will Sutton in the third. Sutton, a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, had 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss for the Sun Devils in 2012 and projects to line up at three-technique in the NFL. His production wasn't quite as good last year because of weight problems, but he reportedly is down to 290.
Don't Forget About Offense
Bears head coach Marc Trestman is an offensive guy, and Emery didn't forget about him, adding Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey and San Jose State quarterback David Fales. Carey was last season's Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. He finished his collegiate career with 22 100-yard rushing games, and an average of 117.8 yards rushing per game. Carey could step in immediately as Matt Forte's backup because the Bears released Michael Bush this offseason.
As for Fales, he's obviously a project, but it's not out of the question he earns the job as Jay Cutler's backup -- and Cutler hasn't proven able to stay on the field. Fales threw for 4,189 yards, 33 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and completed 64.1 percent of his passes in 12 games in 2013 for SJSU. Right now, Chicago's No. 2 behind Cutler is the totally untested Jordan Palmer. Carson Palmer's brother has thrown 15 regular-season passes in his career and not since 2010. Cutler hasn't played all 16 regular-season games since 2009, his first year in Chicago. Expect the Bears to keep looking for a No. 2 after losing Josh McCown to free agency because Fales likely isn't ready and Palmer hasn't proven he can do the job.
Full List Of Draft Picks
Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech (Round 1, No. 14 overall); Ego Ferguson, defensive tackle, LSU (2, No. 51); Will Sutton, defensive tackle, Arizona State (3, No. 82); Ka'Deem Carey, running back, Arizona (4, No. 117); Brock Vereen, safety, Minnesota (4, No. 131); David Fales, quarterback, San Jose State (6, No. 183); Pat O'Donnell, punter, Miami Fla. (6, No. 191); Charles Leno, offensive tackle, Boise State (7, No. 246).
NFL free picks: Chicago is +350 on NFL odds to win the NFC North, second to Green Bay. If Cutler can play every game, the Bears are a good NFL pick there. If he misses multiple games, missing the playoffs again is a good possibility.