|Published:||Apr 27, 2012 4:53 AM EDT|
|Updated:||Apr 27, 2012 6:32 AM EDT|
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - Shea McClellin grew up chasing chickens on a farm in Idaho. Now, he'll get paid to track down the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.
The Chicago Bears selected the defensive end from Boise State on Thursday with the 19th pick in the draft, their first under new general manager Phil Emery.
"This whole journey has been great," McClellin said. "I came from a small town, but I really consider myself a big-city guy."
He is joining one of the NFL's storied franchises, an organization that's undergone some big changes this offseason, starting at the top. Emery replaced the fired Jerry Angelo as general manager and has been a busy man ever since he took the job.
The Bears used their first-round pick to address a need on defense after concentrating on other areas in free agency and trades, including the blockbuster deal that brought Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall from Miami.
Fans were eager to see what Emery would do in the draft, and he started by going with a player who led Boise State with seven sacks last season and ranked sixth in school history with 20 ½ in his career.
Emery stopped short of declaring McClellin a starter but made it clear the Bears are looking for him to make an impact quickly.
"That was a big part of it," Emery said. "We were looking for guys that can contribute right away."
There were a number of ways for the Bears to go in the draft, with issues on both lines, a need for a young linebacker and holes at receiver even with Marshall in the mix. That Chicago went for a defensive end was hardly a surprise given its issues up front.
The Bears tied for 19th last season with 33 sacks but were 28th against the pass in part because of a lack of pressure, and with McClellin in the mix, maybe the load will be lightened a little on Julius Peppers. Teams still figure to key on him, but with someone else possibly causing some havoc, he might not see quite as many double teams.
Emery said McClellin was among the seven players the Bears had identified as targets for the 19th pick and was a logical choice after West Virginia's Bruce Irvin went to Seattle at No. 15 and San Diego took South Carolina's Melvin Ingram at 18. He figures to play on the left side, opposite Peppers.
"This is a very natural football player," Emery said. "He plays with a very low pad level. He finds the ball quickly. ... He has a very natural ability to find the right path to the ball off blocks and make tackles. He's a small-town guy and a great character fit for us."
McClellin was raised by his grandparents on a farm with a variety of animals off Chicken Dinner Road in Marsing, Idaho. Now, he's joining a defense loaded with stars such as Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
"I knew if I came to Chicago, I'd be rushing the quarterback, rushing the passer a lot," McClellin said. "It's going to be a great opportunity for me."
For Emery and the Bears, the draft is just the latest task in a busy offseason.
There were sweeping changes following an 8-8 finish, an overhaul that few would have predicted with Chicago sailing along at 7-3. Jay Cutler broke his right thumb trying to make a tackle after a late interception against San Diego in the 10th game and things unraveled from there.
The offense suffered another huge blow when Matt Forte sprained the MCL in his right knee against Kansas City on Dec. 4, and the late slump ultimately cost Angelo his job. Gone, too, is offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who had an expiring contract, and quarterbacks coach Shane Day. Offensive line coach Mike Tice is the new coordinator following a promotion.
Emery was an area scout with Chicago from 1998-2004 and was the Kansas City Chiefs' director of college scouting when the Bears came calling. He had one mandate from president Ted Phillips: Close the talent gap with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.
To that end, Emery made a huge splash when he acquired Marshall from Miami, but he didn't stop there. He filled a big hole at backup quarterback, signing Jason Campbell from Oakland, and beefed up the backfield by signing former Raiders running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million deal to team with the unhappy Forte.
Emery added special teams star Eric Weems, with Johnny Knox's status uncertain because of a back injury, along with guard Chilo Rachal and linebacker Geno Hayes. The Bears also took care of some of their own, most notably giving linebacker Lance Briggs an extension through 2014, even though he had two years left on a six-year, $36 million deal, but Forte's situation remains unresolved. He hasn't signed his $7.74 million franchise tender.
It's an issue that's been hanging over them for some time, but they at least addressed another one on Thursday. Emery insisted the fact that the Bears drafted a defensive end doesn't mean that they thought there was a bigger need there than on the offensive line, a sore spot for Chicago the past few years.
"It just says that that player was at that spot," Emery said. "At that time, (he was) the highest rated player we had among the seven and we felt really good moving forward."