Christmas comes early for Smith

For Bears head coach Lovie Smith, this weekend's draft seems like Christmas in April.

"This is very exciting for me," Smith said. "The anticipation is incredible. As an assistant coach for the Rams, I was involved in the draft process, but not as actively as I have been here this year. Right now I feel like a little kid who is about to open all those gifts. I just can't wait for Saturday morning."

Smith has been meticulously rating a wide range of college players since he took the Bears helm.

"I've watched hours and hours of film. It's been incredibly time consuming, but I feel that the research will pay off," Smith said. "It's impossible to over prepare in a situation like this. I know quite a bit about a number of athletes and I've had the chance to decide whether or not they will fit into our system."

Smith has found that he and Bears GM Jerry Angelo often have different criteria when evaluating talent.

"I might be looking for size at one position while Jerry might be emphasizing speed," Smith said. "Jerry might want more game experience while I am looking for potential. We tend to view things slightly differently, but then we reach a consensus. The bottom line is that both of us are after the very top player who would meet our needs during each round."

While the Bears are in the position of going for the best player available, need is still an important factor in the decision making process.

"I wouldn't want to pick somebody just because he was a good athlete if we already had strength at that spot on the lineup. Both Jerry and I are assessing our requirements, then going from there. We have no desire to waste a pick where we are already strong."

Meaning the only position that has been ruled out as a potential first-round selection is quarterback. Rex Grossman has been given keys to the car.

"I found the quarterbacks to be quite interesting this year," Smith said. "But not as a choice for this team."

Wideout is definitely a need area and there will be options for the Bears in round one.

"I don't think that you can ever have too much speed there," Smith said. "Who pops out at me? Reggie Williams looks good. His talent and his attitude would make him a good fit here."

Still the emphasis of the draft will be to improve overall team speed and inject talent to a defense that wasn't addressed in free agency.

"Our defense is strong but it could use more quickness and depth," Smith said.

Smith, Angelo, and the assistant coaches have been evaluating the current Bears during the first two mini-camps of the season.

"It's been very good for us," Smith said. "During the first camp, none of the players were familiar with the system or with the coaches. There was a tremendous amount to be learned. In the second camp, we saw just how well they have implemented what they have experienced so far."

Leading up to the draft everyone involved with the Bears draft will continue to watch tape and o through stats. The Bears had one of the best drafts in the NFL last year coming up with at least four starters. Greg Gabriel, director of college scouting, said he plans on repeating one ritual in attempt to strike gold twice.

"I plan on wearing the same outfit as last year," Gabriel said.


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