With the recent free-agent additions of offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett, the Chicago Bears front office can now begin to narrow their focus on the 2013 NFL Draft. Both players shored up big positions of need. Bennett gives Jay Cutler a big, dependable target to throw to down the middle of the field, while Bushrod is a two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle who will help keep Cutler off his back. Bushrod's arrival forces incumbent left tackle J'Marcus Webb over to the right side. If Webb plays at the level he did in 2012, the addition of Bushrod will give the Bears stability on the edges.
The focus should now shift to shoring up the interior of the offensive line. For a variety of reasons, the Bears started four players at left guard in 2012. The season started with Chris Spencer, who was benched after two starts, then shifted to Chilo Rachal, who walked out on the club after he too was benched. Later in the campaign, Spencer returned back to right guard in place of the injured Lance Louis. In the starting LG role Edwin Williams was thrust, only to be benched a few games later in favor of rookie undrafted free agent James Brown.
The musical chairs at the left guard position left little to no hope that any of those four players could be a competent starter for the 2013 season. Simply put, the Bears need a major upgrade at the position with a player who can come in and play right away, but could also be a long-term starter.
In this year's draft there are three players who could be selected in the first round that would be plug-and-play starters. Today we'll take a look at the first, and what some draftniks are calling perhaps the best player in the 2013 NFL draft, Alabama's Chance Warmack. Warmack has been called the best prospect in the draft by the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, a premiere analyst. That's extremely high praise for an offensive guard prospect. In fact, I can't remember the last time I heard an offensive guard prospect being called the best player in the draft.
Arms: 33 3/4 inches
Hands: 9 5/8 inches
Combine40-yard dash: 5.49 seconds (tied for third slowest in the combine)
Bench Press: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: 9-2
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Warmack is a very thick and powerful left guard who is the epitome of every earth-moving piece-of-construction metaphor/cliché ever uttered by a scout or draftnik. In the last five years there probably hasn't been a stronger and more effective power blocker in the NFL draft. Warmack is very heavy handed and can jolt a defender in pass protection. As a run blocker, he usually wins the battle of leverage and can drive a defender out of the hole. He doesn't lose a lot of one-on-one battles.
Warmack is close to being ideal in terms of how he fits new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer's rushing scheme, which is a mix of inside zone blocking with some outside power. He typically doesn't include a lot of outside zone, as he prefers to run it between the tackles. This is the type of offense he ran with the Saints and I fully expect he'll do the same here as the running game/offensive coordinator. What Kromer ran with the Saints, the Crimson Tide run in Alabama, just without asking their guards to do as much pulling or outside zone work.
Warmack can dominate in stretches. His power is evident from the snap of the football until the end of the whistle. He has a nasty attitude and seeks out contact, which is precisely what you want to see from an NFL offensive lineman. He is the essence of a phone-booth guard who could dominate in the NFL between the trenches.
While Warmack is every bit a mauler and powerful short-yardage grinder, his athletic ability is a complete 180-degree difference. On film, he lacks any real burst, explosion or ability to get out as a pulling guard to hit a moving target. He's extremely one-dimensional as a player. He struggles when pulling down the line. He's at his weakest when asked to scrape off and get to the second level, where he typically ends up out of position or misses the target completely.
He has a tendency to gets his nose out in front of his toes and will lunge and lose his balance, causing him to fall forward. If a defender crosses his face and attacks the opposite gap, Warmack struggles to react and cut off quicker players.
He could really struggle against NFL-level speed and explosion at the under-tackle position. It's not that he's a bad athlete, he's just not as fast, athletic or balanced as some of the most successful guards in the pros.
While Warmack is a very powerful player, it's unclear why many believe he's the most complete player in the draft. He simply doesn't possess the ideal skill set to make him worthy of a Top-10 pick. Warmack lacks athleticism and cannot operate in space, something you can't say about any of the elite interior offensive linemen in the league.
Brett Solesky has worked in TV, newspapers and, for the last seven years, in radio. He also co-hosts the best Chicago Bears podcast on the Web, Bear Report Radio, which appears on BearReport.com and his blog MidwayIllustrated.com.