With a new regime in place, the Chicago Bears are on the verge of a complete overhaul as they attempt to turn around their recent knack for falling short of expectations.
Numerous pieces have been moving around since the end of the 2012 season, but the fate of future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher still has yet to be decided. If the aging veteran opts to hang it up or leaves via free agency, the Bears need a replacement that can step in and be the same enforcer from Day 1. The 2013 NFL Draft would be the most likely avenue, but is there a prospect worthy of consideration?
Yes, there is: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
Arguably one of the best defensive players in college football this past season, Te’o proved himself to be a phenomenal playmaker against both the run and pass. He consistently made big plays when it mattered most (besides against Alabama) and showed the instincts that NFL teams covet in linebacker prospects. Put simply, Te’o has an outstanding grasp of everything that happens on the field and would be a great fit for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and the Bears’ Tampa-2 scheme.
While his draft stock dropped significantly following his well-publicized relationship woes, there’s still plenty to love about a player like Te’o. He may not be the brightest bulb in the box and has yet to outgrow his naivety, but the Heisman Trophy runner-up is an exceptional football player. I’m pretty sure naïve is way better than alcoholic, short-fused or self-consumed (i.e. Titus Young).
An extra positive: Te’o has a sweet bicep tattoo a la Urlacher.
The Bears have the No. 20 overall pick this upcoming April. While offensive tackle is certainly their biggest need heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, any options at the position available when the Bears are on the clock would be nothing more than reaches. And if Te’o is still on the board, Chicago would be getting a player with all of the physical tools, football IQ and leadership to lessen the pain of losing Urlacher.
When it all comes down to it, the biggest deciding factor will be whether or not the Bears think Te’o can successfully step into Urlacher’s shoes. If that’s the case, Te’o at No. 20 is a great pick.