The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is a thing of the past. The incoming rookies were thoroughly poked and prodded by NFL teams, both physically and mentally, over the course of the week-long event in Indianapolis. The interviews are over, the drills have finishes and the results are in the books.
With that in mind, now is the logical time to begin our 2013 Chicago Bears draft coverage. We'll take a look at every position of need in this draft, as well as offering players spotlights and comparisons, mock drafts, film analysis and much more.
To kick things off, let's take a look at the top offensive tackles in this year's rookie class. These are the big dogs, upon whom the Bears will have to use a first or second round selection. The team doesn't have a third rounder because of last year's Brandon Marshall trade but we'll include third-round prospect in all of our analysis in case GM Phil Emery trades backward or forward into that round.
Chicago will be keeping a close eye on the following players, as edge protection has been an issue for years in the Windy City. The Bears trotted out a pair of youngsters last season: Gabe Carimi at right tackle and J'Marcus Webb at left tackle. Webb showed improvement in his third season but he's far from elite and was arrested this week for drug possession. Carimi was downright awful and may need to move inside to guard.
Beyond those two, the cupboard is empty. So expect the Bears to be in the market for one of the following players during the first two days of this year's draft.
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (6-6, 306)
Joeckel is expected to be the first tackle off the board and possibly the first overall selection. He's an elite, plug-and-play left tackle named first-team All-SEC and first-team All-American his junior season. His best attribute is his ability in pass protection, where he uses sound technique and very quick feet. His 7.40 3-cone drill at the combine was one of the best at the position, demonstrating his nimble feet. Joeckel could anchor Jay Cutler's blindside for the next decade, yet the Bears will likely have to trade away all of their draft picks to move up and select him.
Projected: Top 5
T Eric Fisher
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-7, 306)
Fisher was a standout at both the combine and the Senior Bowl. Last weekend, he was a top performer with his 116.0 broad jump and his 4.44 20-yard shuttle, while his 5.05 40-yard dash was also strong (compared to Joeckel's 5.30). At the Senior Bowl, he dominated against some of the best pass rushers in this class. There were questions regarding his strength, which he erased with his 27 bench-press reps at the combine. He has experience at both tackle spots, as well as playing some guard. He's fast, quick and great at the second level – all the traits you want in a zone-blocking tackle. He'd be a great fit in Chicago but his performance at the combine likely vaulted him into the Top 10. If he somehow slips into the teens, the Bears should strongly consider moving up to select him, as he'd be a long-term option on either side of the offensive line.
Projected: Top 15
Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (6-6, 303)
Johnson is raw. He played quarterback in high school, then tight end early in his collegiate career before switching to offensive tackle the last two seasons. Yet his upside is the highest of any incoming rookie lineman. He was an absolute beast at the combine, ranking as a top performer in nearly every category, which includes an outstanding 4.71 40-yard dash. He also shined at the Senior Bowl. Johnson is a natural at mirroring defenders in pass protection and uses his hands well, while also showing nastiness as a run blocker. He's a project who may not fully develop for a year or two but he's a risk worth taking. Johnson could land in the Top 15 but if he falls, Chicago should snatch him up at 20th overall.
Projected: Round 1
D.J. Fluker, Alabama (6-5, 339)
Fluker is a thicker tackle than the previous four prospects, which were all taller, thinner players. Fluker is a three-year starter at right tackle who can use his size to maul in the run game. He has big hands and very long arms (36 ¾ inches). He can anchor against bull rushes but speed rushers have given him problems. He's a pure right tackle who could come into Chicago and compete with Carimi. Fluker visited with the Bears last weekend and appears to be on their radar. He compares favorably to Minnesota's Phil Loadholt.
Projected: Round 1
Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (6-5, 306)
Armstead is a sick athlete. He was an all-state track and football player in high school and passed on scholarships to bigger schools so he could play both sports at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He was a three-time All-SWAC football player but an eight-time SWAC track and field champ. His quickness and athleticism are off the charts. His 4.70 40-yard dash at the combine was the best of all offensive linemen, while his broad jump and vertical jump were also near the top. He was impressive at the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl. Armstead's nimble feet allow him to mirror in pass protection and he's very good at pulling and locating defenders at the second level. He'd make an ideal zone blocker, whether at right tackle or at guard. His combine performance likely shot him into the second round, where the Bears would be wise to grab him.
Projected: Round 2-3
Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 313)
Long has great bloodlines. He's the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long. Kyle is intriguing. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox as a pitcher in 2008 but chose to play at Florida State instead. He was quickly cited with a DUI and, after just a semester, transferred to Saddleback Junior College, where he played football the next two years. He then transferred to Oregon, where he played one year, starting four games at guard. He requested eligibility for a sixth season but was denied. His lack of experience, as well as the DUI charge, will scare off a lot of NFL teams. Yet Long has shown the mobility and athleticism to play offensive tackle at the pro level. It may take him a couple of seasons but he has the ability to be a starter down the line. Unfortunately, the Bears need a player that can help them right away, not three years down the line. For that reason, Chicago might be better off taking a pass.
Projected: Round 2-3
T Menelik Watson
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Menelik Watson, Florida State (6-5, 310)
Watson is by far the most intriguing lineman in the draft. He grew up in England in poverty and used sports as a way out. He played basketball originally, then turned to boxing at Marist college before transferring to Saddleback Junior College, playing alongside Long on the offensive line. He started just a handful of games in 2011 but it was enough to earn him a scholarship to FSU, where he started every game last year at right tackle, allowing just one sack. Watson has just two seasons of football – not collegiate football, total football – under his belt, so he's as raw as they come. But his freakish athleticism has some scouts salivating. There has been talk of him moving into the first round but that seems like a reach. He's a project, at either tackle spot or even guard, and won't be useful for a year or two but Watson has Pro Bowl potential. The question is: can the Bears wait that long?
Projected: Round 2
Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 306)
Thomas tore his labrum at the Senior Bowl and did not participate at the combine. He said he's still 4-6 months away from recovering. As such, he'll likely slide down draft boards, which would be great for the Bears. Thomas started 37 collegiate games at an SEC school, at both left tackle and left guard. His versatility and experience are both attributes NFL teams look for. He's an agile player with strong hands, great flexibility and good knee bend. He struggles with bull rushers though. Thomas may project better as an offensive guard than tackle, but in Chicago, there's a need at both positions. Thomas is a Top 50 talent but the injury may drop him into the third round. If that happens, the Bears should run to the podium to select him.
Projected: Round 2-3
Oday Aboushi, Virginia (6-5, 308)
Aboushi's best aspects are his physicality and aggression. He plays meaner than every other tackle in this draft and, as a run blocker, he can maul. He's tall and lean and has experience as both a right and left tackle, although he's best suited for the right side in the NFL. He lacks ideal technique and needs to become more polished. He's also not an ideal athlete, ranking low for most drills at the combine, including just 17 bench-press reps and a ponderous 5.45 40-yard dash. He's a plodder who can struggle in protection. The Bears already have that with Carimi, so Aboushi is not a great fit.
Projected: Round 3
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.