Upgrading Line Was a Priority

The Bears knew who they wanted and even tried to trade up with Baltimore to get him. Yet Gabe Carimi dropped all the way to 29 and Chicago got the offensive lineman it truly coveted.

In the end, the Bears got their man.

They also got the self-proclaimed best offensive tackle in the draft when they took Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi with the 29th overall pick Thursday night.

Most NFL teams didn't agree with the 6-7, 314-pound Carimi's assessment, since he was the fifth tackle and the seventh offensive lineman selected.

But the Bears got a four-year starter at left tackle that faced some of the top defensive ends in the country. They included first-round picks Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue (16th overall), Adrian Clayborn of Iowa (20th overall) and Ohio State's Cameron Heyward (31st overall). He also benefited from going against another first-round pick in practice, teammate J.J. Watt, who was the 11th overall pick Thursday night.

"I know I can play right away," Carimi said at the Scouting Combine. "That's my best asset. I'm a draft-ready tackle. I'm physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there. That's why I'm the No. 1 tackle out there."

T Gabe Carimi
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

The Bears did extensive work on scouting Carimi, but they had some anxious moments awaiting their pick and hoping he would last.

"We were really fortunate to get a quality lineman like Gabe," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "Being in our backyard, we were able to see him play a lot. We feel like we can know as much as you can know about this player. He really does fit the profile that we were looking for."

Some talent evaluators believe Carimi is better suited to right tackle, but he believes he'll be fine staying on the left side, where he started 49 games for the Badgers.

"I'm a physical, tough player who finishes plays," Carimi said. "I can run block as well as pass block."

One knock against Carimi is that he came across as being too confident, bordering on arrogant, during his postseason and Combine interviews.

"If you look at any of the interviews I did at Wisconsin, I always talked about my teammates," Carimi said. "That (overconfidence rap) was just my own confidence in being able to play my position."

Angelo was asked if he was bothered by Carimi's attitude.

"Nah," he said, "I hope he's right, now."

Carimi said he wasn't disappointed to slip to the No. 29 spot and was looking forward to working with Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice.

"I can't wait," he said. "Left tackle, right tackle, wherever the Bears need me, I'm glad to be able to be plugged in. I can't wait to play for Mike Tice."

Carimi is Jewish, and he was asked at the Combine about playing on Jewish holidays.

"Basically what I did (during Yom Kippur last season) was go off Israeli time," he said. "I fasted at 12 o'clock and then had like three hours to IV up and eat. I didn't feel any different. I've already looked out 15 years from now and it doesn't happen on Sunday."

An early run on quarterbacks - four in the first 12 picks - left plenty of defensive line and offensive line talent on the board, areas where the Bears were looking to upgrade. But the available talent on both lines was quickly snapped up starting with Watt at No. 11. Three more O-linemen went from No. 22-25. But, when the next three picks were wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, cornerback Jimmy Smith and running back Mark Ingram, the Bears were left looking at Carimi to fill their greatest area of need.

The Bears attempted a trade with the Ravens to move up to the No. 25 spot, fearful Carimi would be gone at 29, but Angelo said a procedural glitch on the Bears' part torpedoed that swap, which he apologized for to the Ravens.

"But it worked out," Angelo said. "We got our player and I feel they got their player and we moved on."

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