Off-season Agenda includes Tight End

Wide receiver and left tackle are the Bears' top two needs heading into free agency and the draft, but when it comes to tight end the team could also use an upgrade.

No tight end has ever been chosen as high as the fourth pick in the draft and it won't happen this year.

Virginia's Heath Miller is currently the top rated prospect at the position and he'll likely go no higher than tenth.

The battle appears to be for what tight will be next off the board. The current frontrunner is Stanford's Alex Smith. He had a productive career for the Cardinal, he holds the school mark for most receptions by a tight end.

However, it was his senior bowl performance that led to one AFC scout calling him the number one tight end prospect in the nation, ahead of Miller. "Alex Smith is a beast," the scout said.

Although that might not be the opinion held in the majority, Smith could be an option for the Bears in the second round. Depending on what happens on the NFL Combine later this month his stock could continue to rise into the first round, but the way it stands right now he's projected as a top 45 prospect. The Bears own the 39th pick.

At 6-foot-4, 257 pounds, Smith is an athletic pass catching tight end who makes plays into the defensive secondary. With his size he's an improving blocker that would fit best in a west coast offensive system.

Ron Turner's scheme doesn't stress tight ends in the same fashion that Terry Shea's was supposed to, but going into next season with Desmond Clark as the unchallenged starter would be a disappointment. In '04 the position accounted for 36 receptions for 366 yards and two touchdowns.

Another intriguing tight end prospect is Matt Jones. Not since Antwaan Randle-El several years back has a college quarterback come to the Senior Bowl and made a seamless transition to another position. Jones looked like a natural catching the ball and did so anywhere on the field with ease. The former Arkansas passer also impressed with his willingness to long snap and even field kick returns. Whether he stays at the wide out position or grows into a tight end is for another debate but there is no question that Jones left Mobile greatly enhancing his draft stock.

The Bears traded out of an opportunity to select Randle-El in 2002. Under Jerry Angelo have stayed away from drafting projects, but Jones could sway the critics if he can prove his 6-foot-5, 242-pound frame can be used for blocking on the pro level.

Jones has already been rated the fourth best tight end prospect in April's draft, which either shows how good he could be or how weak the class is as a whole.

Post Senior Bowl TE Rankings

#  Name School Year
1 Heath Miller Virginia 4Jr
2 Alex Smith Stanford 5Sr
3 Joel Dreessen Colorado State 5Sr
4 Matt Jones Arkansas 4Sr
5 Kevin Everett Miami-Fl 4Sr
6 Adam Bergen Lehigh 4Sr
7 Cody McCarty TCU 5Sr
8 Jerome Collins Notre Dame 5Sr
9 Tony Curtis Portland State 5Sr
10 David Kashetta Boston College 5Sr
11 Bo Scaife Texas 6Sr
12 Alex Holmes USC 4Sr
13 Caleb Blankenship Tulsa 5Sr
14 Tony Jackson Iowa 5Sr
15 Jonas Crafts UTEP 5Sr
16 Andy Thorn Northern Iowa 5Sr
17 Billy Bajema Oklahoma State 4Sr
18 Brian Casey Kansas State 5Sr
19 Kelly Griffeth Fort Hays State 5Sr
20 Chris Holmes Toledo 5Sr
21 Madison Hedgecock North Carolina 4Sr
22 Victor McClure Tennessee 5Sr
23 Jason Randall Michigan State 4Sr
24 Jared Clark Notre Dame 5Sr
25 Alex Faherty Yale 4Sr
26 Eric Knott Michigan State 4Sr
27 Victor Sesay Missouri 4Sr
28 Aaron Halterman Indiana 5Sr
29 Jon Lyon Washington 5Sr
30 Tory Humphrey Central Michigan 4Sr
31 Ben Hall Clemson 4Sr
32 Eric Rice Mississippi 5Sr
33 Mark Wood Fresno State 5Sr
34 Jocques Dumas North Carolina 4Sr
35 Patrick Estes Virginia 4Sr
36 Steve Fleming Arizona 5Sr
37 Billy Palmer Notre Dame 5Sr
38 Stephen Cucci Houston 5Sr
39 Stephen Spach Fresno State 5Sr
40 Willie Walden Montana 5Sr
41 Mike Larson Illinois State 4Sr
42 Calen Powell Duke 5Sr
43 Nick Brzezinski Saginaw Valley State 5Sr

Bear Report Top Stories