Bears Brass Talks Draft, Contracts

Who does Jerry Angelo like at No. 14 overall? How many prospects does Greg Gabriel have left on his board? Which position does Lovie Smith covet the most? Find out the answers to these questions and more as JC attended a pre-draft luncheon Tuesday hosted by the Chicago Bears at Halas Hall.

General manager Jerry Angelo
How many Pro Bowl players do you see in this draft, and what positions are deepest in your opinion?

I would say that some positions, as in every draft, are going to be stronger than others. I think there's been a lot said about the tackle position in particular. The defensive line position, particularly defensive ends. The corner position. Those are probably, and along with running backs at least in the top tier, where you'll see your special players. To come up with a number, probably 10 I would say you might consider special players in this draft.

There might be some trading up more so because there are players with the perception of being special in this draft. In normal years, you wouldn't see maybe that many, and people wouldn't be talking about trading up in the first round. There's a little more of that going on, at least from what I'm hearing.


Jerry Angelo
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You've said that you want more competition in the backfield this season. Assuming you take a running back fairly early this weekend, what does that say for the prospects of Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson, and Garrett Wolfe?

Well, it's just going to be more competition. Until somebody proves that they're the guy, then we have to make sure we create as much competition at that position to make sure that we get that done.

I don't know for sure what's going to transpire on the weekend. I have got a pretty good idea, but we want to create competition in all the positions that we feel that we didn't necessary get the production that we needed. In part, that's how we determine our needs and, obviously, our philosophy going into free agency. And because we didn't do much in free agency, in turn it puts us more into a draft mode as we're going through this weekend.

Head coach Lovie Smith
What have you learned about evaluating skill-position players like running backs during your time in the league?

It's hard to do. It's hard evaluating all of the positions. You never know for sure. You have to go on what you've seen, but a lot comes into play with it. I mean that's pretty much what it is. Each year, you never know.

Every once in a while, there's a great player that comes around like Adrian Peterson. But he wasn't the first player in the draft. He had as much impact as probably any player in last year's draft, but he wasn't the best player in the draft. That's why to try to figure out exactly who the best player in the draft is is pretty hard. What you learn is that you just go. You do your research. You look at as much video as you can. You talk to as many people as you can. You work the players out and then go from there.


Lovie Smith
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It's assumed that you will select a lot of players on offense because that's where most of your needs are. But is it hard for a defensive coach like yourself to resist taking defensive players?

I think you need to be careful about what everybody says we're going to do and what we're going to actually do. Our philosophy is we look at the best available. Sometimes need positions will move up a little bit more, but I never think you pass a great player. Period. Who's to say that we're not looking at some defensive players?

If you look at our history, history can tell you a little bit. We've had defensive players in just about every draft we've had here. So who's to say that this year will be different?

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner
You recruited Rashard Mendenhall at Illinois and know him pretty well. There are rumors out there that you like him a lot, so how much will you be banging the table to get him this Saturday?

I don't know what the rumors are. My son did tell me something about he saw something on some internet somewhere that said I didn't like him or something. That's about all I've heard. To answer that question: I love him. I loved him coming out of high school. He was a top guy that we recruited, and my feeling on him hasn't changed.

I think he's an outstanding football player. He's a great football player. As has been stated by a lot of people, there are lot of real good players in this draft. And he in my opinion is definitely one of them.


Ron Turner
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Everybody in this league is looking for a prototypical left tackle that can protect the quarterback's blind side, but the game has evolved to some degree. Is the notion of needing that reliable left tackle oversold in today's game, and is having a center that can make all the blocking calls at the line of scrimmage more important these days?

No, I don't think so. It is critical to have somebody over there that can do all the things you want your left tackle to do. Somebody who's athletic enough to be able to set and protect the edge against a speed rusher and yet be, in our case, be physical enough to come off the ball and run the running game that we want to run.

No, I don't think that's being overstated. I think that position, having someone there is critical.

Defensive coordinator Bob Babich
How much better can Tommie Harris be with a stalwart nose tackle lining up next to him, and is that player currently on your roster? And why did it not work out with Darwin Walker last season?

Well, I think that Tommie Harris obviously is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Any time that you have a player that is playing at a high level next to you, it's going to increase your chances to be successful. But we feel very comfortable with the noses that we have on our team.

Darwin's production was not what we had liked. As far as why he's not with us, I have no part of that. But he had some injuries throughout the season. I think that hindered his progress. We're just very pleased with the guys we have on our team right now.


Bob Babich
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What positions would you like to see the team address defensively on draft weekend, and where do you think you might be able to get some help with a few of the late-round picks?

I think the defensive line. I think that that class is a little deeper. The safeties, there is some concern after the top players. But overall, I think that there's been some very good safeties that have been drafted late in the draft.

I think the Giants have done a great job with it, and we had some good players that we've drafted late that have done a good job. So I think there's always later in the draft. With the evaluation process, there's always players that can be found that can help you.

Special teams coordinator Dave Toub
Lovie Smith has talked about getting Devin Hester more involved on offense and even thinks he can be a No. 1 receiver, so much so that he's toying with the idea of limiting him on special teams. Since he's your main weapon in the return game, how does that make you feel?

I don't like hearing that, obviously. I've talked to Devin, and I've talked to Lovie about it. Just having him line up in there on kickoff return just changes the mindset of another team, and I don't think we're going to see a situation where he's not in there.

He's a No. 1 receiver now. We're projecting a lot of things. If he is that guy, then you're gonna look at it. But is he gonna be that guy right now? I don't see that happening this year. I mean, that's my personal view of it. Maybe down the road, but not right now. I don't think we need to really address it right now.


Dave Toub
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With Brendon Ayanbadejo now gone, you need a new special-teams ace. Nick Roach is a young linebacker who you seem to like a lot, so what can we expect to see from him on the coverage units and is he capable of being your next special-teams captain?

We had him, I think, the last three games, and he was very productive. Brendon's a first-in guy. He gets down the field first. A disruptor. He's more a play off of other guys. He's a tackler like Adrian Peterson, the running back for us is.

He's got a great upside. He's a young player. He showed us a lot last year in production, and we think highly of him and we're glad to have him.

Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel
Instead of talking about what you like to see in players, tell us what you don't like to see in players. How do you go about weeding out certain prospects and eliminating them from your draft board?

You're looking at a lot of different things. Athleticism, stength, size. They all fit into the criteria. Character fits into the criteria. And I say character, I mean football character. So it's a lot of different things.

And then when we're putting our board together, we know where we're picking in each round. So you're anticipating. "Okay, is this player going to be here when we pick in such and such a spot?" So you've got to look at it that way, too.


Greg Gabriel
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It's going to be a little different this year on Saturday, as we'll only have two rounds instead of three and the time between picks has been reduced. Because this system will be new to everybody, do you see that having any effect on how many trades we see, how many reaches we see, and things like that?

I don't think it has anything to do with how things are going to shake out. It changes the things on TV. That's about it.

We've spent months in preparation, and so have the other 31 teams. You're prepared for the draft. If you're thinking about trading up, if you're thinking about trading down, you're making those calls now or you've been making those calls for the last few days so that teams know. The trades are generally made before you're on the clock, so that loss of five minutes isn't really going to make any difference.

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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