Worth a look

The Bears need to upgrade their talent at running back this off-season. With yesterday's landmark ruling by a federal judge to allow Maurice Clarett to enter the NFL draft Chicago has another option to choose from this April. However is a player that hasn't been on the field in over a year worth a first day selection?

While the NFL plans to appeal Thursday's ruling this piece is not a debate whether or not Maurice Clarett should be allowed to enter the NFL draft, but rather if the Bears should consider selecting the running back this April.

The Bears primary needs are a left tackle, defensive line help and a running back. The plan is for at least one of those areas to be addressed in free agency leaving two major holes heading into the draft.

Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones and Steven Jackson of Oregon State are at the head of the class in terms of running back talent. Both are projected to go anywhere between the 5th pick and midway through the first-round. The third back chosen has been up for grabs between Greg Jones and Chris Perry, but with Clarett in the mix he could emerge as the next tailback taken.

Clarett showed talent in his freshman year at Ohio State as he played a major role in their National Championship run in 2002. While there are questions about Clarett's speed and durability, the most important inquiry could be a look at his character. Clarett was barred from playing in the 2003 season for accepting improper benefits from a family friend and then lying about it to investigators, which prompted his decision to sue the NFL last summer to challenge the league's draft eligibility rule. A recent ESPN report linked Clarett with several improper actions, including ties to a known gambler.

Despite character issues the combine will ultimately factor where Clarett goes in the draft. If he can disprove questions about his speed then he could jump into the first-round, but if he runs a sub-par forty-time then the second or third round are more likely destinations for the running back.

If both Jones and Jackson are gone by the time the 14th pick comes then the Bears could go with either a left tackle or an interior defensive lineman. Leaving the door open for Clarett to be their man in the second-round.

Some may argue that Clarett is a similar type of back to the one the Bears have now in Anthony Thomas. While Clarett has a little bit more juke in his step, one-year of college ball is hardly enough to make a complete assessment. However Clarett may be worth the chance when all is said and done.


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