Future Bears? Friday from Indy

The Chicago Bears singled out several prospects that they like at events like the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl, and now it's time to see what they can do at the NFL Combine. Bear Report has a seat in the front row as some possible future Midway Monsters do their best to impress team scouts.

DE Cliff Avril (6-3, 255) – Purdue
Even though he might ultimately end up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, Avril projects as the No. 9 defensive end available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"Just that you can play," Avril said when Bear Report asked what it means to be described as a "tweener," since some teams aren't quite sure what position he'll play in the NFL. "That you're versatile, basically. That you can play both positions. And those guys are usually talented, so I try to live up to that."

The Bears are set at defensive end right now and don't need any more depth there, but they did show an interest in Avril at the Senior Bowl and could be measuring him up to play strong-side linebacker in their 4-3.

QB Joe Flacco (6-6, 236) – Delaware
An incredibly impressive young man physically who looked awfully comfortable at the podium Friday morning, Flacco projects as the No. 2 quarterback available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"There might be a little bit," Flacco said when Bear Report asked about how much of a difference there is between the spead offense and a typical pro-style attack, "but it still comes down to decision-making and how good you are in the pocket. And I think I'm pretty good at all those things, so hopefully you'll see that."

It's no secret that the Bears are very high on Flacco and could be looking at him in the second round, although it's possible he'll be off the board by No. 44 overall.

WR De'Cody Fagg (6-1 1/2, 211) – Florida State
A stunning combination of size and speed who never quite lived up to his potential in Tallahassee, Fagg projects as the No. 30 receiver available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"One thing I know I need to work on is my quickness coming out of routes," Fagg said when Bear Report asked what he needs to improve on in order to get better. "I know I don't explode much coming out of routes, and that's one thing I've been training on and working on. ... So that's one thing I've got to show, that I can explode and come out of breaks quicker than what I was doing during the season."

He's not going to lift in Indianapolis because he'd rather wait until his pro day next month, although he will participate in all the other drills Sunday.

QB Colt Brennan (6-3, 207) – Hawaii
After a less-than-stellar performance at the Senior Bowl when he was once again labeled as a run-and-shoot specialist, Brennan projects as the No. 7 quarterback available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"I got sick right before the Senior Bowl," Brennan said when asked why he was able to put on so much weight in such a short period of time, "so I weighed in down there at 185. And today I was 207, so that's 22 pounds. But like I said, I had the stomach flu right before I got down there in Mobile, so I lost about five or six pounds just from not eating for about four or five days."

Bears officials spent a lot of time with Brennan before workouts began at the Senior Bowl, but he'll have to prove himself again in workouts because he was not at his best on game day in Mobile.

WR Limas Sweed (6-4, 216) – Texas
Arguably the top player in the country at his position heading into his senior season, Sweed projects as the No. 9 receiver available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"I think it's a key thing," Sweed said when asked if his height is the main reason he's considered a top prospect. "Any time a guy can be a bigger receiver, he can definitely be a threat in the red zone and use his body to block out the defenders – something that smaller guys obviously have a harder time doing."

Bears officials also spent considerable time with Sweed before he re-injured his wrist at the Senior Bowl, and he just might be available in the second round now after looking like a first-round lock not too long ago.

RB Rashard Mendenhall (5-10, 225) – Illinois
One of several junior tailbacks jockeying for position in the first round and a player that Bears fans saw a lot of down in Champaign, Mendenhall projects as the No. 4 running back available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"Having to share time, that's part of the NFL being a running back," Mendenhall said when asked about not necessarily being a featured back right away. "A lot of teams are going to a two-back system more so, and it's not a problem with me. Right now, I'm focusing on the Combine and making it to a team. And whatever happens from then on, I'm going to take it as it comes."

Bears GM Jerry Angelo might have a hard time justifying another ball-carrier in the first round after taking Cedric Benson No. 4 overall just three years ago, but a player of Mendenhall's natural talent is certainly intriguing.

QB Paul Smith (6-1, 198) – Tulsa
A very productive player in college despite a lack of prototypical measurables, Smith projects as the No. 16 quarterback available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"Not really," Smith said when asked if constant skepticism from scouts about his height is starting to get irritating. "I understand. I think I'd rather be where I'm at than to be 6-5, 240 and have nothing wrong. It's fun going up against the odds. I've always been an underdog, and I think this nation cheers for the underdog sometimes. And I try to thrive in that role, whether it be at my high school, at Tulsa, or now competing for a job in the NFL. I'm excited about having some negative things said about me and having an opportunity to [disprove] him, as opposed to being perfect. And then you have to go out and be perfect, or you got overhyped."

Bear Report reported that Bears officials took particular interest in Smith at the Hula Bowl, and they should only like him better the more they get a chance to speak with him during interviews.

RB Jonathan Stewart (5-10, 235) – Oregon
Another junior who's competing to be the No. 2 tailback taken after Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Stewart projects as the No. 5 running back available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"Yeah, this is a competition," Stewart said when Bear Report asked about him being measured against all these great running backs in Indianapolis. "But at the same time, you've got to relax. If you don't relax, it won't be that good on an experience for you. All the players that I've been around, it seems like everybody is relaxed and just going through the process. And yes, this is a business trip. This is an interview really. It's just a longer process."

Stewart says that he's looking to run somewhere in the 4.4-range in the 40-yard dash, which would be awfully impressive for such a big back and certainly make him a lot of money.

OT Sam Baker (6-4 1/2, 309) – USC
A four-year starter in a pro-style offense at one of the nation's premier football programs, Baker projects as the No. 6 offensive tackle available in the NFL Draft according to Scout.com.

"You'd have to ask them," Baker said when asked by Bear Report why his draft projection has been all over the place lately, anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second. "I'm really not sure how I'm projected or anything like that. I'll worry about that in April."

There are many players in the mix to be the second tackle taken in this year's draft after Jake Long of Michigan, and Baker will certainly be in the conversation if he does well during drills this week.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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