Bears to host two first-round prospects

Rod Marinelli will be getting a close look at two defensive players this week. Both prospects could potentially be selected by the Bears in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft.

Each NFL team is allowed 30 pre-draft visits with individual prospects. Under former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo, those visits were used to scout late-round and potential undrafted players. This offered the team an up-close look at prospects that weren't invited to collegiate All Star games or the NFL Scouting Combine.

With Phil Emery running the show, Chicago is using pre-draft visits on a number of players that will be selected in the first few rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft.

The club has already brought in Baylor WR Kendall Wright, South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery, Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus and Syracuse DE Chandler Jones – all of whom will be drafted in the first or second round.

Unless these visits are all smokescreens, Emery apparently doesn't mind tipping his hand.

LB Dont'a Hightower
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Continuing with that trend, the club will be bringing in two potential first-day defensive players this week: Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower and South Carolina OLB/DE Melvin Ingram.

Ingram (6-2, 264) is a Top 20 player that will surely be drafted in the first round. He's arguably the most physical edge rusher in the upcoming class. His combination of size, athleticism and technique will translate very well at the next level. He should be able to contribute as a pass rusher from Day 1 and could easily develop into a double-digit sack producer.

Ingram has experience at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker. He's projected as either a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB. His versatility, coupled with top-tier natural talent, has him in high demand around the league.

Very likely, he'll be off the board when Chicago picks at 19th overall. The Bears want to get an up-close look at him this week to see if he can fill the club's pass rushing needs, just in case he does fall to them. If they like what they see, and he's sitting there when the team picks in the first round, he'll be hard to pass up.

Hightower is an extremely impressive linebacker that could play inside or outside in a 4-3 scheme. He's an effortless player who packs a punch. There are few harder hitters in the incoming class. He shows great instincts and toughness. He's a force against the run and shows great awareness in zone coverage – although he'll struggle in man coverage at the next level. Full scouting report.

Hightower is a player that could start for Chicago on the strong side right away and eventually replace Brian Urlacher in a few years. He's my favorite linebacker in this draft.

He's slated to go in the late first or early second round. He might be a bit of a reach for the Bears at 19th overall, unless he blows the team away during his individual workout.

If Emery selects Hightower in the first, he will instantly erase the questions about the team's depth at the position, while also landing the team's long-term inside linebacker in the process.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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