What to Watch: NFL Draft Weekend

The Chicago Bears are putting together their final draft board as we speak, moving many prospects up and down and eliminating some altogether. We have no idea what will occur in the NFL Draft, but Bear Report has a hunch what Bears fans should be on the lookout for this weekend. Ready?

Receiver will be the choice in Round 2 only if a top prospect slides
General manager Jerry Angelo and Co. are well aware that wide receiver is their primary need heading into selection weekend, but he refuses to take one just for the sake of taking one. Angelo was adamant that protecting new quarterback Jay Cutler up front was more important than finding new weapons for him out wide, which explains why he was so diligent bringing in free-agent offensive linemen but didn't so much as entertain a pass catcher for a visit. Angelo specifically mentioned names like Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina and Kenny Britt of Rutgers, both of whom have late-first to early-second round grades, so he'll likely jump on one of them if they happen to slide Saturday.

But if Nicks and Britt – and maybe Ohio State's Brian Robiskie – are already off the board by the time he picks at No. 49, Angelo may address another position instead of settling for Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias or Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi.


LB Brian Urlacher
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Draft may be more defensive than many think
It's easy to look at a depth chart that consists of multiple Pro Bowlers Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher and automatically assume the Midway Monsters are going to be dominant again on defense – should everybody stay healthy, of course. However, this D has underperformed for quite some time, starting with the last month or so of the Super Bowl season back in 2006. Not only has the front four not been able to put consistent pressure on the enemy passer the last two years, but the secondary has been carved up by some pretty run-of-the-mill quarterbacks and no longer has its captain back there: locker-room leader Mike Brown.

The Bears currently have an open competition at strong-side linebacker and a defensive backfield that's somewhat up in the air, plus the household names are starting to get long in the tooth and haven't been as productive as they were during the glory days of Lovie Smith's Cover 2.

Corner could be valued just as high or even higher than safety
The defensive backfield is going to have a different feel to it now that Brown is no longer in the mix, although the coaching staff is no doubt used to filling his vacancy since he was so injury prone the last several years. Moving Kevin Payne back to strong safety from free safety should only make him better since he's a tough in-the-box defender, and a lot of scouts believe newly-signed Josh Bullocks could benefit from a change of scenery since he played with some atrocious cornerbacks during his time in New Orleans. Believe it or not, corner could be a greater concern because Charles Tillman is coming off shoulder surgery, Nathan Vasher has been a disappointment since signing a big contract two years ago, and Corey Graham will never be a lockdown cover guy.

Instead of hoping for a safety prospect like Louis Delmas of Western Michigan or Rashad Johnson of Alabama in Round 2, Bears fans shouldn't be surprised to see a big corner like Jairus Byrd of Oregon or Kevin Barnes of Maryland later.


QB Jay Cutler
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Deals will involve trading down or picks next year
While it would be great to see Angelo continue his aggressiveness and make a leap back into the bottom of the first round to snatch a top receiver, he simply doesn't have the ammunition to make that happen. Remember, the third-rounder he still does have was a compensatory selection awarded by the NFL after Bernard Berrian fled for Minnesota in free agency, and league rules prevent those picks from being traded. If anything, Angelo will most likely entertain offers to move down once or twice over the course of the weekend, and he might even give up a pick this year in order to recoup something better next year – he'll be without a choice in Round 1 again in 2010 because of the Cutler deal.

Chicago can get an awfully good player in the second round, but Angelo admits the odds of locating another immediate star like Matt Forte are long at best.

Never say never to a value at quarterback or defensive lineman
In one of his more interesting sound bites from Tuesday's meeting with the Windy City media, Angelo says he thinks of defensive linemen in the draft the same way he thinks of quarterbacks: he'll never say no if there's a good value on the board. In other words, even though the starters are supposedly set at both D-end and D-tackle, the organization would have a hard time turning down an end like Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech or a tackle like Evander Hood of Missouri in Round 2. Both have first-round ability and should be long gone before the Bears are on the clock at No. 49, but tell that to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Cleveland's Brady Quinn.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the coaching staff is buying what Caleb Hanie is selling and believe he's progressed enough to be the primary backup to Cutler, meaning a signal caller probably wouldn't come to Chicago before Round 6 at the earliest.


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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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