What We Learned in Indy, Part II

Now that the NFL Combine is in the rearview mirror, the Chicago Bears can start putting together their draft board accordingly. What exactly did they learn in Indianapolis? Bear Report was on the scene all week long and puts together a list of observations. Let's move on to the defensive prospects.

Drafting a true nose tackle to play next to Harris is not an easy task
There were several quality defensive tackles on hand for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but not one of them said during their press conference that they're looking forward to playing nose tackle at the next level. Tommie Harris is arguably the best three-technique tackle in the league, but after Dusty Dvoracek was lost for the year in Week 1, the Bears had a tough time finding the right fit alongside Harris on the nose. Bear Report specifically asked Dre Moore of Maryland, Pat Sims of Auburn, and Demario Pressley of North Carolina State – possible options in the second or third round – where they see themselves playing eventually, and all three of them hinted that three-technique would be their position of choice.

One name GM Jerry Angelo can scratch off his draft board is Texas DT Frank Okam, who weighed in at a mammoth 345 pounds and didn't look to be a Lovie Smith-type penetrator during workouts.

Depth at defensive end could also make it easier to trade down in the first
14th overall might be a good place to be if a team wants to draft a stud running back like Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois or Jonathan Stewart of Oregon, and the same can be said for an elite defensive end like Derrick Harvey of Florida or Lawrence Jackson of USC. The Bears appear to be committed to Cedric Benson in the backfield and they've already got a solid three-man rotation at defensive end, so the possibility of trading down in the first round and acquiring another pick or two in the process looks promising. If Angelo is sold on taking an offensive tackle with his primary selection, a few good ones should still be on the board somewhere in the 20s because this is a deep class.

It was a mistake to draft Dan Bazuin in the second round a year ago with Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, and Adewale Ogunleye on the roster already, so taking a defensive end in the first round this April would make even less sense.

Find a way to get Rodgers-Cromartie no matter where you draft him

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Michael Conroy/AP Images
The Midway Monsters locked up both of their starting cornerbacks, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher, with long-term contract extensions last offseason, but that doesn't mean they should automatically pass on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Tennessee State. A below-the-radar prospect who really put on a show at the Senior Bowl, he posted a blinding 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and displayed the kind of natural athleticism during workouts that makes scouts drool. And he's also a first cousin of Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions this past season and might be the best overall athlete in the entire league.

Rodgers-Cromartie lined up at safety periodically in Mobile and looked quite comfortable roaming the middle of the field, so he's got superstar written all over him right now no matter where he plays.

Phillips is the only safety remotely worthy of a pick in the first round
Bears brass can talk all they want about the return of Mike Brown and how his presence at the safety position makes them a better defense, but the fact remains that he's dealt with a major injury each of the last four seasons. Miami S Kenny Phillips comes from a program that has recently produced the likes of Ed Reed and the late Sean Taylor, and he solidified himself in Indianapolis as the only safety to consider in the first round. Jonathan Hefney of Tennessee is undersized at just 5-9 and 190 pounds, and Thomas DeCoud of California intercepted a grand total of one pass during his career with the Golden Bears.

There may be more pressing needs on the other side of the ball, but don't forget that this supposedly vaunted defense fell all the way to 28th in 2007 at 354.7 yards allowed per game.

Resist the urge to draft an outside linebacker replacement for Briggs
Three-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs is as good as gone, and there are rumors abound that he's already got a deal in place to head back to the west coast and will sign a free-agent contract with the 49ers. While it's never a good thing to lose a player of his caliber, there's every reason to believe that third-year pro Jamar Williams can step in right away and play pretty well on the weak side. Angelo also drafted Michael Okwo in the third round a year ago, so this defense should be able to withstand the loss of Briggs assuming the organization hits on just one of those two players.

Of the second-tier outside linebacker prospects available in this draft, Geno Hayes of Florida State is currently much more athlete than football player, and Ali Highsmith of LSU ran a very disappointing 4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

To go back and read Part I of this series, where we break down what the Bears learned from the offensive prospects, Click Here.

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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