Top 10 Players The Chicago Bears Should Monitor at 2013 NFL Combine
Marc Trestman Needs An Impact Player In Round 1 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 to monitor at the NFL Combine from the Bears perspective who could be draft candidates in the first and second rounds.
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Tyler Eifert-Notre Dame-TE
Eifert has the 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.
Minter could be the beneficiary of the off-the-field-issues surrounding fellow inside linebackers, Alec Ogletree and Manti Te'o and move up some teams draft boards, including the Chicago Bears. He was viewed as a mid-second round pick after his season ended at LSU, but has seen his stock rise as other at his position have seen it fall. Minter has the ability to make plays from sideline-to-sideline and lead a defense and could look good in a Bears uniform whether Brian Urlacher is resigned or not. Stood out on an incredibly loaded college defense and could be a better pro than he was in college.
Ansah is one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire draft, and has the frame at 6-6 and 273-pounds to develop into a dominant defensive lineman. He has lined up across the line over the years having played nose tackle, defensive tackle, end and even some outside linebacker. In the NFL he projects to a base 4-3 end but could also play end in a three man front and could replace Israel Idonije who may depart via free agency. He has shown the ability to rush the quarterback no matter where he lines up and his versatility will have him soaring up draft boards. He has a quick first step that allows him to get past offensive tackles and shows a relentless effort in pursuit. He does need to work on defending the run as he can get too high as some college rushers tend to do and gets engulfed by bigger linemen. Has only been playing football since 2010 and is very raw as a prospect, but has enormous potential and a ceiling of a 10-sack a year defensive lineman.
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 required 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 think he will be around in the second round after not being able to work out at the combine and the Bears should not hesitate to draft the versatile lineman.
Jonathan Cooper-North Carolina-G
Cooper is a four-year starter that excels as a pass blocker with quick and nimble feet. He si 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 and could be available when the Bears pick at 20. Cooper would be able to step into a starting spot from day one and help turn a big weakness on teh Bears into a potential strength.
Floyd has the ideal size you look for in a defensive tackle at 6-3 and 298-pounds, and could interest the Bears if they are unable to retain Henry Melton. Floyd has above-average quickness and is fairly agile and mobile for being close to 300-pounds. He has more than 20 starts on his resume and was a valuable contributor on one of the nation’s top defenses this season, but has been a bit of an underachiever until this season when he started to put it all together, and will be a fast climber from the top of the second round mix into a possible top-15 selection after he impresses at the combine.
Ertiz is this year’s best tight end in my opinion, but some may view Notre Dame's Tyler 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 the 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.
Ogletree has serious character concerns after a recent DUI and a four-game suspension this season for a failed drug test, 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.
Fluker is an absolute physical presence at 6-5 and 335-pounds, Fluker will be penciled in at right tackle where he could open up holes for Matt Forte with relative ease for the next decade and provide an instant upgrade over Gabe Carimi or Jon Scott. Some scouts are concerned if he has enough foot speed to hold up in pass protection, but I think he has enough agility and good enough feet to be a standout at right tackle for a long time and would be a sight for sore eyes for Bears fans. He’s a multiple national title winner and has blocked for a Heisman winner in Mark Ingram and finalist in Trent Richardson.
Manti Te'o-Notre Dame-MLB
Surprised many when he returned to South Bend for his senior year, but the folks at Notre Dame were counting their blessings when he returned. He lifted his team to the top ranked scoring defense and an undefeated regular season that ended in the BCS Championship Game. Te’o is a complete linebacker that can make plays sideline-to-sideline and displays great instincts in the pass game as his seven interceptions as a senior suggest. Is a passionate and vocal leader that displays maturity and resolve well beyond his years and will be a starter from day one in the NFL. After a dismal performance in the title game and his off-the-field issue surrounding his love life, he will see see his stock dip out of the top 10 and could be on the board at 20 when the Bears pick, and could be a fine pick if the Bears don't resign Brian Urlacher.