Playmaker at a Premium with 4th Pick

Bears coaches and management have been working to put a ‘shopping list' for the 2005 draft. Right at the top are playmakers at the offensive skill positions, but with a little more than a week from the draft nothing is set in stone.

"We've been looking at where are needs are and the most glaring holes come on the offensive side of the ball," Lovie Smith said Friday. "We do have talent there already, but we see the need to upgrade the overall skill level significantly."

When pressed for specifics on what players the team was focusing in on, Smith played it tight to the vest. Instead mentioning the ‘high quality of a number of prospects who would fit in well with our current plans', which could include a compliment to starting running back Thomas Jones.

"It's too early to say at this point," Smith said. "Thomas is a wonderful runner. He has speed and agility, everything that we want in a player. If we can get another more or less like him, that would be fine. Or, if we could get a player who is stronger in diverse areas, that would fit into our plans as well."

Although the Bears didn't bring in USC wide receiver Mike Williams in for a personal visit, the Bears are keeping a close on him as well as Michigan's Braylon Edwards.

"Braylon had a great senior year," Smith said. "I like him a lot. He's intelligent and has good moves. With Mike, I see him as making a good transition into the NFL.

"Both have excellent instincts for this game. These are top quality players with good futures ahead of them. We need production sooner rather than later, and they can offer that. I see either one fitting into our systems quite well."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner was also quite impressed with the two, but from his time in the Big Ten had knowledge of what Edwards is capable of doing to a defense.

"I've seen Braylon heading into the end zone far too often when we (Illinois) were playing Michigan," Turner said. "So I know how he plays and what he can do. He'd be one of those on my wish list, definitely."

Free agency has provided an avenue for the Bears to upgrade their offensive line with the additions of Fred Miller and Roberto Garza and Fred Mitchell. The team will look to add some depth and youth on the front line through the draft.

"Depth is never a bad thing, especially in the offensive line," Smith said. "We're always on the lookout for top quality players."

The Bears hope to add starters with their selections in both round one and two. Without a third round pick they will have to wait until the second day of the draft to add talent unless the team makes a deal to acquire additional selections.

Despite having an obvious need on the offensive side of the ball, the Bears say they will not reach for a player if the talent level does not match the selection. Meaning a defender could be added to the mix in round two.

"I'm not going to name names at this point," Smith said. "Just be assured we'll be after the very best possibility at every position.

"We want rookies who will thrive in our system, who can produce sooner rather than later. We got some wonderful young players in 2004. I'm confident that's the type of people we will be bringing in this spring."


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