Prospect Watch: Pre-Draft Visit OT

The Chicago Bears still remain tight-lipped on what they are going to do with Frank Omiyale. Should he stay at left guard, a tackle would be required in the draft. We know a prospect on his way to Halas Hall.

Since general manager Jerry Angelo was apparently convinced for quite some time that Frank Omiyale would be an ideal candidate to slide inside to guard, it would seem silly to move him back to tackle after just one season.

But that could be the case for the Bears in 2010, as Omiyale started last year at left guard, got benched midseason in favor of Josh Beekman but returned to the starting lineup down the stretch – some experts would even say he played well the last few weeks. Still, that hasn't quieted whispers suggesting Omiyale may now be headed to tackle, specifically on the right side opposite former first-round pick Chris Williams. That doesn't bode well for the future of Kevin Shaffer, who got the call at right tackle after eventual Hall of Famer Orlando Pace went down with a groin injury.

If Omiyale stays at left guard, it's natural to assume that tackle will be a top priority in the draft since Shaffer isn't a long-term solution there. But if Omiyale kicks over to right tackle, it's fair to conclude that guard moves up the list of needs because Beekman is better suited to play center. has confirmed that the Bears have scheduled a pre-draft visit at Halas Hall with USC offensive tackle Nick Howell.

OT Nick Howell
Getty Images: Jeff Golden

While he was not invited to either the East-West Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl, Howell was a member of the Texas team in the annual Texas vs. the Nation game, where the Bears discovered last year's fifth-round sensation, receiver and return man Johnny Knox. The Fresno native has experience at center, guard and tackle at one of college football's premier programs, finally settling in at right tackle opposite Charles Brown, who will likely be a late first- or early second-round pick next month. Howell is headed to Lake Forest as one of the franchise's 30 pre-draft visits, which are usually done to get medical information on unheralded prospects.

The 6-5, 290-pound Howell is not among the top 42 offensive tackles available for the 2010 NFL Draft, according to the rankings at

JC's Take: Howell is hardly a player to get excited about as a potential draftee, and he appears to be more of an undrafted rookie free agent-type anyway.

That being said, despite all the noise the Bears have made thus far in free agency, they are still yet to address an offensive line that was among the worst in the NFL this past season. Not only did Matt Forte have precious few holes to run through and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, but Jay Cutler was subjected to entirely too much punishment – it's quite an achievement that he was "only" sacked 35 times. And new offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn't exactly a max-protect guy when putting together his playbook, which means added responsibility for the big uglies.

Of all the offensive linemen the Bears have shown serious interest in leading up to the draft, guard Vladimir Ducasse of UMass and tackle Rodger Saffold of Indiana are the best prospects.

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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 and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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