Bears Scouting Tour: 3/18

Bears were on hand for the Oklahoma pro day to watch up close a player they visited at the combine, and were also present at the Oregon State pro day to view an intriguing 2nd-round pass rusher.

Too Soon?

The Chicago Bears were one of 28 teams who sent representatives to Oklahoma's pro day last week. The two big names were WR Jalen Saunders and C Gabe Ikard.

Saunders (5-9, 165) transferred from Fresno State in 2012 and played 22 games for the Sooners the past two seasons. He was named second-team All-Big 12 in 2013 after catching 61 passes for 729 yards and eight touchdowns. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and followed that up with a 4.47 at his pro day.

Saunders is a small, quick receiver with good, not great, straight-line speed. He's a pure slot receiver who has the burst to create separation out of his breaks. In a creative offense like Marc Trestman's, Saunders could be a weapon out of the slot, similar to a player like Tennessee's Dexter McCluster (although Saunders is much faster, as McCluster ran a 4.58).

In 2013, Saunders returned 20 punts for 308 yards, good for a healthy 15.4-yard average. He reportedly looked very good returning punts during positional drills and has the makings of a dangerous third-phase player at the next level. He's projected as a fifth-round pick, where the Bears, who are in the market for a slot receiver and punt returner, may be all too happy to grab him.

Ikard stood on his numbers from the combine, where he was a top finisher amongst offensive linemen in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, demonstrating very good quickness. He's intelligent, experienced and durable, starting 50 of 52 career games at Oklahoma. He's a three-time All-Big 12 honoree and was a 2013 finalist for the Campbell Trophy, awarded to the nation's top college football scholar athlete.

Ikard isn't an amazing athlete and is more of a functional blocker. He doesn't have great power but he understands the value of proper technique. He has a very high football IQ, exceptional character and is a natural leader.

He's not a pure mauler and he lacks ideal foot speed in pass protection, so Ikard is likely a sixth- or seventh-round pick in this year's draft. The Bears are in the market for Roberto Garza's long-term replacement and it appears Ikard could be on their short list on the third day of the draft.


Brandin Cooks
Steve Dykes/Getty

Bears in Beaver Country

Chicago sent a scout to Friday's Oregon State pro day, where the big names were WR Brandin Cooks and DE Scott Crichton.

Cooks (5-9, 185) is a slot receiver similar in mold to Saunders, although Cooks is much faster, turning in a blazing 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine. He's small but extremely tough and durable, having never missed a game at any level.

He was a consensus All-American in 2013 after leading the nation with 1,670 receiving yards in the regular season. Cooks broke conference record for catches in a single season (128) and yards (1,730, which includes the bowl game). His speed and elusiveness make him a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.

Cooks has worked his way into the first-round conversation and will fall no further than the second round in this year's draft. If the Bears want arguably the most dynamic slot receiver in the draft to accompany Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in three-wideout sets, Cooks would be that player in the second.

Crichton (6-5, 269) could be even more appealing to the Bears. He started 37 of 38 games played at Oregon State. Despite being the focus of opposing team's blocking schemes in every game, he finished with 7.5 sacks last season, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors. He had 9.0 sacks in 2012.

Crichton worked out both with his hand in the dirt and in a standup, outside linebacker position, yet he's projected as a pure 4-3 defensive end. The Bears invested in a pair of defensive ends in free agency, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, and today signed Israel Idonije, yet that won't stop them from getting even younger up front.

A second-round prospect, Crichton could be on Chicago's radar if he's still on the board on Day 2 of the draft.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.

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