Draft Plans in the Final Stages

Because the Bears imply they have no interest in drafting a quarterback, at least in the first round, nothing would please them more than for quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith to both be chosen in the three picks ahead of their No. 4 position. That means they would have their pick of all but one of the talented running backs and wide receivers.

"We would like to see that happen," Bears GM Jerry Angelo said. "Then it would just push more of those (other) guys down. That'd be a good thing for us." It could be equally as advantageous for the Bears if one of the QBs is left on the board and some team further down the draft board decides to trade up to the 4 spot because it has to have a young signal caller.

"We'd like to have that pick have value, not only because there'd be a quality player there but because there'd be some interest there," Angelo said. "Or if somebody really covets a quarterback."

The Bears would love to trade down from the No. 4 spot. Angelo's philosophy has always been to build through the draft, and he loves to have as many picks as possible. But the Bears are currently without a third-round pick from the Marty Booker-for-Adewale Ogunleye trade with the Dolphins during the 2004 preseason.

Angelo is also believed to be hesitant to enrich any player from this year's crop with $10 million in bonus money when there appears to be a lack of blue-chip players. Moving down a few spots and saving several million dollars would be Angelo's ideal scenario.

If the Bears can't get out of the four hole, or even if they do, it would be a shock for them not to add offensive firepower. The addition of UFA wideout Muhsin Muhammad was a start, but for the league's worst offense, the project is far from complete.

Angelo is believed to be enamored of Texas workhorse running back Cedric Benson, who fits Ron Turner's new offense much better than incumbent Thomas Jones, whose 240 carries last season were almost twice as many as in any of his previous four NFL seasons. Benson carried 1,112 times during his college career, and his forte is pounding the ball between the tackles, whereas Jones is more of a slasher.

The Bears don't really have a proven backup behind Jones, assuming in-limbo UFA Anthony Thomas finds a new home, which is likely after the draft. Jones could become the Bears' third-down/change-of-pace back since he's a better receiver than Benson, who was rarely used as a pass catcher at Texas. Jones led the Bears with 56 catches last season, although he averaged just 7.6 yards per grab.

If Auburn's Ronnie Brown slips to No. 4, the Bears might consider him, but they may still prefer Benson.

The other possibility is Michigan's Braylon Edwards, who many scouts believe could be the best player in the draft and the closest to a sure thing. Receiver still is an area of weakness for the Bears, whose returning wideouts had a total of two TD catches last season.

Aside from Muhammad, the young group of Bobby Wade, Justin Gage and Bernard Berrian don't really excite anyone. Each of the three has shown flashes of contributing in a limited role, but none of them appear to be quality No. 2 receivers.

Southern Cal's Mike Williams is a consideration if the Bears trade down, but he may be too similar to Muhammad, whereas Edwards, Mark Clayton or Troy Williamson might be better complements.

In the second round, the Bears are expected to address wide receiver or running back, whichever spot isn't fortified in the opening frame. There is more depth at wide receiver, so that makes sense in Round Two.

Tight end is a long shot, but if Angelo is able to manufacture extra picks, someone like Heath Miller or Alex Smith could do almost as much for the offense as a top-notch wide receiver.

Defensively, there is much more need at linebacker than on the line or in the secondary. The Bears would love a third linebacker to start with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, but they seem to be leaning toward looking at a veteran free agent for that spot.

The defensive line is fairly talented and very deep, with rotations fairly well set, but Angelo has a history of almost always drafting a lineman early, and the Bears' pass rush wasn't anything special last season. Neither was the offensive line, although that has been bolstered for the second straight off-season by a pair of free-agent acquisitions, right tackle Fred Miller and interior journeyman Roberto Garza.


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