NFL Combine Edition: Top 10 Options for the Chicago Bears in the NFL Draft
Chicago Bears Best Options in First Round of NFL Draft
The Chicago Bears finished with a 10-6 record and normally that would have them playing in the postseason, however for Lovie Smith that record was the best of those that didn’t get to see the second season and cost Smith his job after nine seasons in Chicago.
Last year the Bears owned the 19th pick in the NFL draft and took Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin who surprised many at the time of the selection and had a relatively uneventful rookie season finishing with only 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
In his second draft as general manager Phil Emery needs to get more production out of his first round pick and after neglecting the offensive line last year--the Bears biggest need--many are expecting a first round pick to be an offensive lineman that can step in and start right away. Another need is to find a pass-catching tight end after getting zero production form starter Kellen Davis and reserve Matt Spaeth in 2012.
Defense can never be ruled out as the Bears have a number of players north of 30 and could see a defensive lineman selected in the first round for a second year in a row, a linebacker drafted to replace free-agent Brian Urlacher and adding another cornerback to compete for the nickel spot and eventually succeed pro-bowler Charles Tillman cannot be ruled out.
Here are 10 names likely be available when the Bears are on the clock in April’s draft at the positions of need.
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Syracuse OT Justin Pugh
Three-year starter is going to need to add bulk to his 292-poud frame, but has elite pass blocking skills and is able to handle speed and power rushers with relative ease. Can play too high at times in the run game, and with added bulk will help him drive defenders off the ball. Shows good awareness and is a smart player who is quick to pick up a scheme and read opposing defenses. Scouts will love that he shows a mean streak. With Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan electing to return to school, Pugh will move up the rankings even if he is a second round talent at the moment.
Tennessee OL Dallas Thomas
A bright spot for the struggling Volunteers is an above average pass blocker who has room to improve if can utilize his hands better to get power rushers disengaged off his light frame. Moves and mirrors the defenders well, but needs to develop more upper body strength. Added bulk and strength would aid in his run-blocking which is average. The offensive lineman has experience at left guard and left tackle and has a dearth of experience with little to no injury history. Thomas would provide versatility along a bears offensive line that needs help at guard and tackle.
Oregon DE Dion Jordan
At 6-6 and 240 pounds, Jordan lacks the bulk you like to see in a defensive end, but has enough versatility in his game to line up as a pass rush specialist on third downs early in his career as he bulks up to the 260 pound range. Jordan reminds me of Aldon Smith who had 14 sacks as a rookie playing a rushing end for the 49ers a year ago and is developing into one of the best pass-rushers in the league. With his toughness and effort, Jordan is capable of being a matchup nightmare on 3rd downs and develop into an every-down end.
Would Emery take a defensive end for a second year in a row? If he does that could be an indictment on the McClellin pick.
Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson
At 290 pounds, Richardson has the makings of the prototypical three-technique tackle in a 4-3 Cover-2 defense that needs explosion and quickness to disrupt the pocket form the interior of the defensive line. However, we don't know what type of defensive scheme the new coach will want to run. The former JUCO transfer has had some injury problems in his college career, but has worked hard to get back to top form and plays with an aura of confidence that is evident on film. Is currently a better player vs. the run than rushing the passer, and could complement Henry Melton well on the inside of the defensive line.
Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks
The Thorpe award winner given to the best defensive back reminds me some of Charles Tillman. The lanky corner returned to school after potentially being a first round pick a year ago and has supreme ball-hawking skills and can take it to the house when he gets the ball in his hands. Banks also has experience on special teams as a returner which will add to his draft value. He has had success covering AJ Green, Julio Jones, and Percy Harvin among others in the SEC. Banks is tied with former first round pick, Walt Harris for the school record for interceptions with 16. He could immediately step into a nickel role as a rookie and eventually be the full-time replacement to the veteran Tillman.
Georgia ILB Alec Ogletree
Has serious character and durability concerns, but his talent is not that far behind Notre Dame's superhero Manti Te’o as an inside linebacker. In fact, his athleticism trumps the Heisman runner-up but needs work on his intangibles. However, he has elite physical tools and will fly to the football in the run and pass game. Has potential to be a supreme pass rusher and can cover tight ends, but does not have great instincts or ball hawking skills.
With Brian Urlacher a free-agent and showing signs of diminishing skills and health, now may be the best time to draft his replacement and let Urlacher walk. I think Urlacher will return on a one or two year deal though and will allow Ogletree to provide depth and insurance to another injury.
Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert
Prototypical frame for a tight end at 6-6 and 250, but has just adequate speed which limits his ability to separate from the defense. Can win jump balls vs. linebackers and safeties in the red zone, but isn’t much of a threat to do much after the catch. A tad bit of an overrated prospect who benefits by playing for Notre Dame, and is a below average blocker who will need to improve to be among the best at his position in the NFL. The combine will be key for Eifert and his 40 time could move him up the draft boards and should the Bears take him, would fill a massive need for the Bears who have been missing a presence in the middle of the field since trading away Greg Olson.
Stanford TE Zach Ertz
This year’s best tight end in my opinion, but some may view Eifert as the top tight end. Ertz is following in the footsteps of his former teammate Coby Fleener and leaves Stanford after being far and away the team's top receiver this year for the Rose Bowl winners. Has shown he is a fine in-line blocker and can make catches down the field and can stretch the seam and beat linebackers and safeties--as he did when he nabbed teh game-winning touchdown vs. Oregon with defenders draped all over him. Is a hard worker that loves the game of football and has experience playing in a pro style offense. The Bears could use Ertz to open up the middle of the field which simply was not an option in 2012 with Davis and Spaeth, who both could be gone in 2013.
Alabama OL Barrett Jones
Has lined up all along the Alabama offensive line the last four years and won the Outland Trophy starting as the left tackle on the national champions a year ago and won the Rimington as the best center while winning another national title. A three-time national title winner, who possesses every intangible you look for in an offensive lineman, yet is not overly physical, nasty, or athletic but excels in leverage and taking the proper angles to seal off the defender reminds me of long-time pro bowl center Matt Birk.
Jones played in the title game with a bad foot that requires surgery and will be unable to work out prior to the draft, so there is a gamble associated with taking him at No. 20, but i thnk this is a case where the reward far outweighs the risk.
North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper
Four-year starter excels as a pass blocker with quick and nimble feet. Is an above average blocker in the run game and delivers a good hand punch with a nasty demeanor. He can line up at either guard spot and could play center in a pinch, but his best position is at left guard where he can get out and pull to the second level as well as any guard in America.
Alabama left guard Chance Warmack is likely to be the top guard off the board and there isn't much of a drop-off between the two players. Cooper would be able to step into a starting spot from day one.