1st Round Focus: What's the Latest?

The 2008 NFL Draft is this weekend, so it's crunch time for the Chicago Bears with regard to their evaluation process. Will they address the offensive line first? Is a skill-position player the way to go? Which prospects are rising up their draft board? Bear Report has all the latest from Halas Hall ...

Bears may not get a shot at any of the top offensive tackles available
The Monsters of the Midway need to fix their bruised and battered offensive line first and foremost this offseason, but it's possible that they'll miss out on all the Grade-A prospects at tackle in Round 1.

Miami has entered contract talks with Jake Long of Michigan, so it appears that he will be the No. 1-overall selection once Saturday rolls around. Ryan Clady of Boise State, Chris Williams of Vanderbilt, and Jeff Otah of Pittsburgh are all considered to be worthy of a pick in the top half of the first round, plus Branden Albert of Virginia projects as a tackle at the next level despite lining up at guard for most of his collegiate career. Gosder Cherilus of Boston College and Sam Baker of USC have both been given a first-round grade by many experts, although the Bears' choice at No. 14 would be too high for either of them.

RB Rashard Mendenhall
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The three teams that pick directly in front of the Bears in Round 1 – Buffalo, Denver, and Carolina – all have a need on the offensive line at tackle, which increases the likelihood of an early run on blockers and potentially leaving a lot of skill-position talent on the board for general manager Jerry Angelo.

If Clady, Williams, and Otah are all off the board, don't be surprised if Illinois running back and former Niles West High School standout Rashard Mendenhall comes back to Chicago.

Although the front office isn't saying much, it appears that the ankle injury Cedric Benson suffered in Week 12 this past season is indeed quite serious and could limit him in 2008. Since neither Adrian Peterson nor Garrett Wolfe is equipped to be an every-down back in this league, Angelo knows he needs to address the depth chart at tailback early on draft weekend. Mendenhall was simply sensational at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this past February, so he could be the shot in the arm that the Midway Monster ground game needs so desperately.

Angelo could then look for a tackle with the 44th-overall selection in Round 2, which looks to be a good spot for Anthony Collins of Kansas – the Bears have expressed interest in him previously.

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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