The Bears' draft board is nearly finalized, and they have identified a handful of players they expect to be available when their first-round pick rolls around late next Thursday night at No. 29 overall.
"There are four, five, six guys that, based on our projections and our grades, would be in the running for the pick," said director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, general manager Jerry Angelo's right-hand man.
Conventional wisdom says the Bears will target an offensive lineman first, but they could also use a 3-technique defensive tackle to replace Tommie Harris, and they only have two linebackers under contract.
Since there are so many scenarios that could play out before the Bears are on the clock, they will ideally have players at four positions targeted.
T Nate Solder
Chuck Cook/US Presswire
"Four is probably a good number," Angelo said. "If you can do that, that gives you the flexibility; or, you can take the best player available. But you still have to address your needs."
Nowhere is the Bears' need greater than at offensive line, given their yield of an NFL-worst 56 sacks last season. Angelo said at least five offensive linemen will be selected in Round One, and as many as seven. Angelo would not say how many of them the Bears grade as first-rounders. If six or seven are off the board before the 29th pick, the Bears could turn their attention toward the defensive line or elsewhere.
The consensus top five offensive linemen are tackles Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Nate Solder, plus guard-center Mike Pouncey; not necessarily in that order. After that, the consensus next best are Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod and Baylor's Danny Watkins, who was a tackle in college but projects to guard in the NFL. Both players have frequently been projected as the Bears' top pick in mock drafts.
While the line crop is considered very good, the D-line class is excellent, especially at end, where seven could be first-round picks."It's really deep with the defensive line," Angelo said. "I thought last year was really good, but this year's even better. But it's a good year for offensive linemen, too. Maybe not the quality (of the defensive linemen), but the quantity is very good."
Nice fits: Tackle Derek Sherrod, guard Danny Watkins, defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
If some of the handful of players that they have targeted with the 29th pick are still on the board then, general manarer Jerry Angelo and the Bears would welcome the chance to trade down a few spots.
"When you start thinking about the possibility of trading down, you want to at least have half as many guys that you like as the number of picks that you would go down," said Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.
That means if the Bears trade down six spots, they would like to have three of their targeted players still available.
T Danny Watkins
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty
But assuming they stay at 29, it would be a shock if the Bears did not add an offensive or defensive lineman, and they're definitely more needy on offense.
Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod has been compared to Bears lineman Chris Williams, whom they drafted 14th overall in 2008 as a left tackle. But Williams was shifted to left guard last season, and his play has been inconsistent at both spots. Sherrod started 35 games at left tackle the past three seasons, but there is debate as to whether he's a better fit on the left or right side.
Baylor's Danny Watkins, a Canadian, played hockey and rugby in high school and was a firefighter before returning to school and playing football for the first time in junior college. He turns 27 in November, which is overaged, but not a deal-breaker for the Bears.
"Players play into their 30s at that position," Angelo said. "You could even say into their mid-30's and still play good football. We've had a few here, and we have a few here (center Olin Kreutz is 33). I don't think it's a red flag. Red flags are a real concern. A yellow flag, you'd be cautious, but it wouldn't stop you from taking a guy."
Watkins was a tackle in college but projects to guard in the NFL.
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