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Louisville safety Calvin Pryor would start Bears’ NFL draft with bang

Updated: May 5, 2014 11:25PM

Bears general manager Phil Emery stunned us last year.

This time, he doesn’t have to.

The Bears have said they are looking at six candidates to select with the 14th pick when the NFL draft begins Thursday. Each one would represent a step toward fixing their all-too-familiar defensive weaknesses.

The Bears need starters at the three-technique tackle and both safety spots. They also must develop the next generation of linebackers and cornerbacks.

Their needs are obvious. How they maneuver through the draft to get what they want, though, is a trickier proposition.

Below is one way they could do it, a ‘‘perfect world’’ draft based on need but rooted in who will be available each round.

The result fills at least three holes, takes risks on two long cornerbacks, scores a backup running back and steals the most exciting player in the draft.

It’s no Kyle Long stunner, but we think the Bears would take it.

Round 1 (No. 14): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

We said ‘‘perfect world,’’ sure, but Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald won’t be there at No. 14. That leaves the Bears to fill another need with Pryor or Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The team would be thrilled if either were still available, but Pryor would bring a fierce attitude to a franchise that hasn’t had a tone-setting safety in years.

His familiarity with new assistant defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, an old college mentor, would make the transition even smoother.

Round 2 (No. 51): Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Picking a safety first means the Bears will have to turn to defensive tackle in the second round. Sutton might be the pick, particularly if Florida’s Dominique Easley parlays his repaired knee into a higher second-round landing spot.

Sutton, a three-technique, has cut down to 292 pounds. That is more in line with his weight in 2012, when he had 13 sacks.

Round 3 (No. 82): Chris
Borland, LB, Wisconsin

We know, we know: All things being equal, Emery prefers size. But Borland’s 6-0, 248-pound build and short arms will drop him far too low, and the Bears won’t pass on the second-best prospect at inside linebacker in the draft.

Put him behind D.J. Williams in the middle and let Jon Bostic fight Shea McClellin for the strong-side job. The Bears could have their next generation of linebackers ready to go.

Round 4 (No. 117): Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia

The best pass-catching running back in the draft is a logical choice to back up Matt Forte, who had the second-most receptions among running backs last season. Sims’ 6-0, 215-pound frame could withstand a pounding if an injury forces Forte to the sideline.

Round 5 (No. 156): Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech

Emery’s interest in converting a cornerback to safety might benefit the 6-0, 213-pound Exum, who could play on special teams and serve as cornerback insurance while learning safety.

Round 6 (No. 183): De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

Perhaps the most exciting player in the draft, Thomas would become the Bears’ kickoff and punt returner overnight and give coach Marc Trestman an intriguing toy to use out of the backfield or as a slot receiver.

Round 6 (No. 191): Dontae Johnson, CB, North Carolina State

At 6-2, he has the size to play corner or shift to safety. If he and Exum are redundant, that’s a good problem to have.


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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