When's the official start of the New Year? January 1?
Most Bears fans would beg to differ on that one. For them, the New Year begins with NFL Draft weekend. And although the Bears didn't have any picks this April until the third round, the entire draft process was still observed with keen interest by those in attendance at Saturday's annual Bears Expo at Soldier Field.
Mike Richards of Schaumburg watched the draft progress on the big screens while waiting in line for autographs in the main concourse.
"I know I need to pay more attention to moving forward in this line," Richards said, "but part of me still wants to keep up with the players each team is picking."
And what about the Bears' choices so far?
"We're down through the fifth round," he said, "and I see a lot of work on our defense. That's a good thing, as far as I can tell. There were some great pickups during the offseason, but that doesn't mean you don't need to also get these younger guys. That's the way you build for the future."
Northwestern defensive and Corey Wootton, who could have been a first rounder if not for a knee injury, particularly intrigued Richards.
"He's a big guy, and he seems to move pretty well," he said. "He played for Northwestern, so he has to be intelligent. He's local, so the city and this team are somewhat familiar to him already. That might speed his learning process. I am somewhat concerned about his injury. Wootton had ACL problems and ended up getting surgery, but that was back in early 2009. Hopefully any physical problems are in the past, and he can come on strong from there."
Marcia Henderson of Chicago was intrigued by the Bears' first pick, Florida safety Major Wright.
"Looks like a good choice," said Henderson as she strolled through Bears Tradition Hall. "Wright seems to have the body type that [general manager] Jerry Angelo favors. He isn't a huge guy, but he moves well and seems quite aggressive on the field. The Bears had problems at this position for quite a while now. It would be nice to find a durable player who knows the position and can get some production. I don't know too much about him yet, but I certainly plan to look up his stats when I get home."
Henry Peters of Downers Grove watched his son, Zach, play in the Kids Zone as the 181st pick in Round 6 was announced. Peters seemed delighted that the Bears selected Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour, also of Downers Grove.
"I think it doesn't hurt to go with a local kid," Peters said. "I watched him on TV right after he was selected, and he sure seemed excited to be with the Bears. I guess there is some question about his overall accuracy, but that's something that can be refined. I like his size. At 6-3, he should be able to see pretty well on the field. He is mobile and seems intelligent. Jay Cutler is our quarterback for right now, but that doesn't mean you don't also consider the future."
Jack Robinson of Evanston sipped a large mug of hot chocolate in the United Club food court while Kansas State cornerback Joshua Moore was selected in the fifth round.
"I like this one," Robinson said. "Zack Bowman and Corey Graham played pretty well last season, but I always worry about durability at that position. I don't know too much about Moore other than he played at Kansas State. His size looks good to me, and his skill level is supposed to be pretty high. He could add some depth in the secondary that the Bears have been lacking up to now."
Mary Stevenson of Chicago, however, admitted to having slightly less interest in this year's draft.
"That's why I'm in the Fan Store looking at t-shirts instead of staring at the TVs," Stevenson said. "So much of the excitement came last year with the Cutler signing and then early this year with [free agents] Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna joining the team. That seems like enough to last us for a long time. But then again, you never know. An underrated player who falls to the last round might be a really good pick in the long run. I'd never heard of [West Texas A&M offensive tackle] J'Marcus Webb until a few minutes ago, but now he's on our team [as a seventh-round pick]. For all I know, he could become a real playmaker. I do like the fact that he's on the offensive line. That seems to be a need."
So how did the Bears do overall, especially considering they only had five picks and made no trades all weekend long?
"That's the fun of the draft," she said. "Hope springs eternal, but you never know for sure what will happen until the season begins."
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Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for eight years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
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