2nd Round, 10th pick (42nd overall)
College Pedigree: A three-year starter at Abilene Christian after originally signing with Nebraska, he became the second-highest drafted player in school history after starting all 30 career games for the Wildcats and earning All-America honors as a senior.
Rookie Season: Played the first two games of the season as a reserve before taking over for Chris Harris in the starting lineup at free safety in Week 3. Totaled 70 tackles (53 solo) to rank fourth on the team and added 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 7 passes defensed. Played remarkably well the first half of the season or so, but he missed veteran Mike Brown down the stretch and gave up some big plays in the passing game.
Future Outlook: Despite the fact that he was a solid contributor as a rookie and should only get better, his starting job could be in jeopardy will the addition of Adam Archuleta. Possibly the fastest player on the entire Bears roster, a switch to cornerback could be in his future since both Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher are free agents after the 2007 season. If Brown does indeed move back to his original free safety position, Manning would likely be the odd man out.
DEVIN HESTER - CB, Miami (FL)
2nd Round, 25th pick (57th overall)
College Pedigree: Played offense, defense, and special teams for the Hurricanes, starting games at cornerback, nickelback, running back, and fullback while also seeing time at wide receiver in addition to his duties as return man on kickoffs and punts.
Rookie Season: Made an instant splash as perhaps the most exciting player in the NFL and quickly became a crowd favorite at Soldier Field. Although he only contributed 9 tackles in spot duty at cornerback, he set an NFL record by scoring 6 touchdowns on returns – 3 punts, 2 kickoffs, and 1 missed field goal – in a single season. Added another in the postseason when he became the first player in Super Bowl history to return the opening kickoff for a TD.
Future Outlook: Already the most feared return man in the league and could force a record amount of directional punts and squib kicks from opponents in 2007. Struggled mightily in limited action as a defensive back, and rumors persist that he may be moved to wide receiver to take full advantage of his natural ability with the ball in his hands. But even if he only makes an impact in the return game, Hester is already a difference-maker and a bona fide star.
DUSTY DVORACEK - DT, Oklahoma
3rd Round, 9th pick (73rd overall)
College Pedigree: A four-year letterman for the Sooners who started 26 of 48 career games and ranks fifth in school history in tackles for loss and 12th on the all-time sack list.
Rookie Season: Was placed on injured reserve Aug. 28 with a foot ailment and missed the entire 2006 campaign.
Future Outlook: Has raved about his work with strength and conditioning coordinator Rusty Jones and is stronger and leaner than ever. With Tommie Harris recovering from a torn hamstring and Tank Johnson currently serving a 120-day sentence for parole violation, could possibly head to training camp as one of the starters at defensive tackle. Coaches love Dvoracek's attitude and didn't mind saying goodbye to free agents Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone in the offseason.
JAMAR WILLIAMS - LB, Arizona State
4th Round, 23rd pick (120th overall)
College Pedigree: Three-year starter and four-year letterman for the Sun Devils who missed only two games as a collegian and earned honorable mention All-Pac 10 honors twice.
Rookie Season: Played the first three games on special teams and recorded 2 tackles, but he hurt his shoulder in Week 3 at Minnesota and was placed on injured reserve Sep. 26.
Future Outlook: Played extremely well in the preseason and was making his mark on special teams before the injury. If All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs is traded before the draft, would most likely get the first crack at replacing him in the starting lineup on the weak side. Possesses the speed and quickness to excel in Lovie Smith's Cover 2 scheme, but even if Briggs returns, Williams should be a solid backup and a force on the coverage units.
MARK ANDERSON - DE, Alabama
5th Round, 26th pick (159th overall)
College Pedigree: Four-year letterman for the Crimson Tide started the final 29 games of his 50-game career and compiled 141 tackles and 13.5 sacks, plus he's seventh in school history with 25 tackles for loss.
Rookie Season: Earned a spot in the defensive line rotation and immediately provided depth, energy, and production. Finished the year with 28 tackles (23 solos), 4 forced fumbles, and 2 passes defensed, but it was his team-leading 12 sacks that opened eyes across the league. Led all first-year players in sacks and was runner-up to Houston's DeMeco Ryans for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Future Outlook: Was playing just as much as starters Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye by the season's midpoint and could push one of those veterans for the starting gig in 2007. Incredibly instinctive pass-rusher with a high motor that never seems to stop, but he must get stronger at the point of attack if he wants to become a better player against the run. The Bears love to rotate their defensive linemen throughout games in order to keep them fresh, but Anderson has Pro-Bowl ability and is simply too talented to be a reserve much longer.
J.D. RUNNELS - FB, Oklahoma
6th Round, 26th pick (195th overall)
College Pedigree: Four-year letterman served primarily as a lead blocker for the Sooners but showed great hands out of the backfield and ranks third in school history for receptions by a running back.
Rookie Season: Backup fullback behind starter Jason McKie was on the inactive list most of the season and did not record a carry or a catch all year long.
Future Outlook: With McKie getting rewarded Nov. 2 with a five-year contract extension through 2011, it's hard to imagine Runnels having a long tenure in Chicago since the Bears make a habit of only keeping one fullback active on game day. It would make sense to find a bruising lead blocker to line up in front of new starting tailback Cedric Benson with his no-nonsense style, yet Runnels does not look to be the answer. He could certainly step in for McKie and do an admirable job, but he simply looks to be too much of a finesse player.
TYLER REED - G, Penn State
6th Round, 31st pick (200th overall)
College Pedigree: Four-year letterman who appeared in 41 games for the Nittany Lions, starting 30 of the final 35 games of his career at right guard.
Rookie Season: Spent the entire year on the practice squad along with fellow offensive line rookie Mark LeVoir.
Future Outlook: Could be in the team's future because the offensive line is an aging bunch. Ruben Brown is still performing at a Pro-Bowl level, yet he is 35 years old and may be playing his final season in 2007. Reed improved facing the likes of Harris and Johnson in practice every day, but it's no secret that the Bears are possibly looking to select another guard on Day 1 of the upcoming draft.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|