Although he played the majority of his career in South Bend at the middle linebacker position, he's certainly stout enough to fit Chicago's scheme over on the strong side. While Lance Briggs is an elite weak-side defender and Brian Urlacher will be in the Hall of Fame one day for his work in the middle, neither Hunter Hillenmeyer nor Nick Roach established himself on the strong side this past season. When Lovie Smith was asked about the competition between the two for the starting job in 2009, the head coach made sure to mention fourth-year pro Jamar Williams as a part of the equation, too.
The Bears have drafted a lot of linebackers in the later rounds during the Jerry Angelo regime, although most of them have been of the smaller-and-speedier variety so they can contribute on special teams – they need a bull who can hold the point of attack on the strong side of the formation.
While he caught many people off guard by declaring for the draft following his junior season in Columbus, Hartline was no doubt influenced by the Buckeyes' decision to focus more on the ground game with super freshman Terrelle Pryor replacing erratic senior Todd Boeckman under center. Some scouts thought he was nothing more than an undrafted free agent heading into the draft, although Hartline performed well at the Scouting Combine and could hear his name called in Round 5 or 6. Chicago has also shown some interest in his partner in crime at Ohio State, Brian Robiskie, so it's possible team officials liked what they saw on film from Hartline, too.
Anything the Monsters of the Midway can do before next season to get Kyle Orton more weapons in the passing game has to be considered a good idea at this point.
The Bears originally liked what they saw from Johnson at the East-West Shrine Game in January, spending a noticeable amount of time with him there. Since the Bulls' option attack spread the ball around to so many players, he wasn't utilized as much as he could have been and never saw a noticeable jump in his numbers his last three seasons at USF. But he's got very good size, is one of the stronger wideouts in the draft, and ran fairly well at the combine, so maybe his best football is still in front of him if he gets the proper coaching at the next level.
Like Hartline, Johnson is nothing more than a fifth- or sixth-round prospect, but Chicago could target more than one receiver on draft weekend since they have a projected No. 1 (Devin Hester) that came into the league as a cornerback and a projected No. 2 (Earl Bennett) that is yet to catch his first NFL pass.
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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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