NFL Draft Buzz: Two More Targets

Just 24 hours before the start of the NFL Combine, the Chicago Bears are starting to widen their search for fresh players. The experts at are reporting that an offensive lineman and a cornerback have been added to the list. Who are they? Ed Thompson has the latest scoop.

The University of Virginia's Branden Albert is hearing that he could be playing guard or tackle in the NFL after gaining some game experience at both positions in college. The 6-6, 320-pound offensive lineman is confident he could play either role at the next level.

OL Branden Albert

"Because of my size, I'm bigger than most guards," Albert explained during a recent interview. "And I can play tackle because of my athleticism."

Albert started all 36 games of his collegiate career before opting to head to the NFL following his junior year, and two teams have definitely taken notice of his durability and overall skill. Albert said that both the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers have made inquiries about him recently.

The Bears are in desperate need of a youth movement offensively up front, at both the guard and tackle spots. Nine-time Pro Bowler Ruben Brown, 36, looks like he's going to retire after shoulder surgery, and Fred Miller, 35, was released Monday thanks to a miserable `07 campaign. Angelo didn't draft an offensive lineman last year until guard Josh Beekman in the fourth round, but expect him to take at least one trench warrior on Day 1 this April.

According to's most recent rankings, Albert is the No. 3 guard available in the 2008 NFL Draft. ...

As reported in an earlier edition of NFL Draft Buzz, Kansas State cornerback Justin McKinney had received some interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But now, has learned that he also drew the attention of a number of scouts during Hula Bowl week.

CB Justin McKinney
Dave Weaver/AP Images

The Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, and Carolina Panthers all had questions for McKinney as he worked out in Honolulu. A Day-2 pick whose stock is on the rise, McKinney is a scrappy corner who registered six career interceptions, including three during his senior campaign. But perhaps more importantly, he consistently displayed his physical nature by leading his team in tackles in 2007 with 74, including 51 solos.

McKinney also revealed that the scout he believes liked him the most was one from the Miami Dolphins.

"I didn't really have to tell him anything about myself," said McKinney, as it turned out the scout had attended a number of his games during the season as well.

The Bears appear to be in pretty good shape at McKinney's position, with both starters, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher, signing long-term extensions before last season. GM Jerry Angelo also selected a pair of corners, Corey Graham in the fifth round and Trumaine McBride in the seventh, just a year ago. But Ricky Manning Jr., who disappointed in 2007 as the nickelback, could be on the chopping block because of his $1.85 million salary for 2008.

According to's most recent rankings, McKinney is the No. 30 cornerback available in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and syndicated through John Crist, the Publisher of Bear Report, also contributed to this story.

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