What We Learned: Pre-Draft Presser

The Chicago Bears streamlined their pre-NFL Draft luncheon, with only general manager Jerry Angelo and director of college scouting Greg Gabriel open for questions. Here are five things we learned about the team's strategy for this weekend after listening to the two of them speak Tuesday at Halas Hall.

1. No regrets whatsoever about making the move for Cutler
Not only does general manager Jerry Angelo have a certain satisfaction finally having a Pro Bowl passer at his disposal, but he feels he can finally move on and address the rest of his team without worrying about the game's most important position.

While Angelo made sure to say good things about Kyle Orton and how well he played this past year before injuring his ankle midseason, it's obvious the entire organization feels Jay Cutler is a big-time upgrade and will make the skill-position players better automatically. Although the Bears don't have much ammunition left for this weekend's NFL Draft, Cutler's presence makes that pill much easier to swallow now. Angelo went on to say it was more important to protect Cutler with a reinforced offensive line than it was to surround him with a better receiving corps, which is why he brought in the likes of Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer via free agency instead of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Torry Holt.

Toward the end of the proceedings, Angelo said he actually took the demands of Bears fans and the scrutiny of Chicago media into consideration before pulling the trigger on Cutler – the GM firmly believes the QB can handle it all.

2. Receiver at No. 49 overall is far from a foregone conclusion
Even though there is little debate from insiders and outsiders alike that wideout is the primary need for this team right now, Angelo made it clear he's not going to take one in Round 2 just to take one.

WR Kenny Britt
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Angelo and director of college scouting Greg Gabriel both talked about pass catchers having the toughest time making the leap from college to the pros, with even some of the best taking as many as three years before becoming quality contributors. It appears the Bears are high on late-first to early-second round guys like Kenny Britt of Rutgers and Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina, hoping a talent like that falls to them at No. 49 overall regardless of the reason. Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias or Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi are much more realistic at that spot, but instead of reaching for the eighth- or ninth-best player at such a position, expect the Bears to go another direction and take the best prospect available at a not-so-immediate need.

Don't look for a safety like Louis Delmas of Western Michigan or Rashad Johnson of Alabama, however, as Angelo believes you can finder good players at that position in later rounds since they often don't have the physical measurables cornerbacks do.

3. Don't hope for the Bears to trade up in the draft at any time
Angelo admitted that the Cutler trade robbed him of a great deal of ammo, meaning the likelihood of him wheeling and dealing back into the first round are slim and none – especially since his compensatory pick in Round 3 can't be traded.

The Bears can certainly get a good player where they currently stand in Round 2, but the odds of landing another rookie to make a Matt Forte-like difference are long at best. That's all the more reason to assume the only way Chicago can get one of the higher-regarded receivers in this draft, like Britt or Nicks, is to pray they slide to some degree Saturday, as Angelo simply can't afford to go get one of them – even a mild jump of four to five slots would be hard to do. Angelo says he hopes to find three starters in this draft once it's all said and done, although he's talking about a year or two down the road as opposed to Week-1 starters this September.

If anything, look for Angelo to entertain a few trade-down offers in order to recoup some of the picks he surrendered both in this year's draft and next year's draft in the Cutler blockbuster.

4. Chicago learned its lesson with the Williams disaster a year ago
Angelo said the team has re-focused its philosophy on a few fronts with regard to the draft, most notably how they handle prospects with questionable medical histories.

OT Chris Williams
Warren Wimmer Photography

Chris Williams was selected No. 14 overall out of Vanderbilt last April, even though he was crossed off the board by a few clubs because of a potential back problem – and even though said back never gave the former Commodore any trouble as a college player. Naturally, Williams went down on Day 2 of training camp and was essentially forced to redshirt his rookie season after having surgery to repair a herniated disc. While the heads at Halas Hall claim Williams is now 100 percent healthy and ready to be a starter along the offensive line, he'll be moving over to right tackle because Pace was signed in the offseason.

Angelo firmly believes his medical staff does as good a job as any in the National Football League, and he reminded the press that frequently-injured first-round busts like Rex Grossman and Cedric Benson were never hurt before, but he'll be less likely to roll the dice on a player with questions raised by his training staff.

5. More Omiyales and fewer Beekmans on the O-line down the road
Another organizational change that has been made is how the Bears will evaluate tweener offensive linemen, as they now prefer tackles that can also play guard as opposed to guards that can also play center.

This sounds like a direct shot at Josh Beekman, who was drafted out of Boston College in the fourth round two years ago in part because he had the versatility to play both guard and center. But with Frank Omiyale – himself a backup tackle with only one career start under his belt – inked in free agency to challenge Beekman for the starting job at left guard, Chicago is putting more value on linemen that can play four positions (left and right tackle, left and right guard) instead of just three (left and right guard, center). So if Angelo is considering a blocker this weekend, chances are he will have logged a lot of time at tackle even if he projects best at guard.

That means youngsters like Andy Levitre of Oregon State and Kraig Urbik of Wisconsin, both of whom played a lot of tackle but are listed as guards, could be on the radar in Round 3 or 4.

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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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