Chicago Bears: Busy Sunday
The waiting game finally ended for the Bears on Sunday morning, and by the end of the day they had a large and unique class of athletes.
After more than six hours of the 2009 draft, they finally got to make their first pick: San Jose State defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert, the 68th selection. It wasn't until 31 picks later that the Bears made an effort to shore up their most glaring weakness, at wide receiver, by taking Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias.
Seven more picks followed, including a defensive end who converted from running back, a fourth-round pick who says he was the best cornerback in the draft, two wide receivers, one of whom was among the fastest players at the Combine, and a 300-pound tight end.
Gilbert converted last season from defensive end to tackle and responded with the best season of his college career. He led the nation in tackles for loss with 22, and also had 9.5 sacks. He was named the Western Athletic Conference's co-defensive player of the year.
"He can play end," Angelo said. "(But) I really like him inside. He's an under tackle for us."
That's the same position that three-time Pro Bowl pick Tommie Harris plays, but the Bears prefer a rotation along the defensive line, using several players on a regular basis, so Gilbert should be able to contribute soon.
"Inside I feel like I'm really quick," he said, "and outside over a tight end, I feel really strong playing that position."
The 6-5, 288-pound Gilbert really came on strong during his senior season and continued to build momentum with an impressive performance at the East-West Shrine game and outstanding test results at the Scouting Combine, including a position-best 40-yard dash time of 4.82.
The knocks on Gilbert are that he faced a lower level of competition in the WAC, but Angelo said he can contribute right now.
"He's ready to go," Angelo said. "We were really happy in terms of the jump that we saw him take as a senior. He took a quantum step in his senior season. It was irrelevant what his competition was. They played Cal-Davis, they played Nebraska, and then he goes down to the East-West game and you kept seeing the same (good) things."
The Bears waited until the second-to-last pick of the third round to get Iglesias.
He has good size (6-1, 210) and soft hands and was a full-time starter for the Sooners the past three seasons. Iglesias showed improvement every year, catching 74 passes for 1,150 yards as a senior. He lacks great speed (4.53 in the 40) but shows quickness as a route runner and after the catch.
"He's been the go-to receiver at Oklahoma the last two years," Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said. "He's going to fit in good here."
Iglesias lacks a little speed, but not so for fifth-rounder Johnny Knox, who ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine, and in two years at Division-II Abilene Christian he caught 118 passes for 2,227 yards and 30 touchdowns.
At the top of the fourth round, the Bears took Texas defensive end Henry Melton 104th overall with a pick they got dealing their second-round pick to the Seahawks on Saturday.
Melton is a project who may take some time to develop. He was a 270-pound running back in his first two seasons with the Longhorns and scored 10 touchdowns for the 2005 national champions as a true freshman. The 6-3, 280-pounder didn't start until his senior season and is very raw as a defensive end but has outstanding athleticism for the position. And he doesn't lack for confidence.
"It's a great selection," he said of the Bears' decision to draft him. "They got a great player."
Melton wasn't invited to the Combine, but after his pro day said: "(The scouts) got to see the awesome athleticism they didn't know I had."
Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore, who came out after his junior season and is a fraction under 5-foot-9, makes Melton appear as if he suffers from low self-esteem.
"I didn't believe I was going to get too much better than what I was," he said of his decision to leave school early. "I felt I was the best cornerback in the draft."
Seventh-round pick Lance Louis showed the Bears he had the athleticism for tight end when he ran a 4.75 40 at 300 pounds.
"I've never seen a guy that big run that fast," Angelo said. "He's got some special traits."
Best pick: CB D.J. Moore. The Bears were able to get a seasoned SEC veteran cornerback in the middle of the fourth round (No. 119 overall). Moore lacks some size at 192 pounds and a fraction under 5-foot-9, but he makes up for it with other attributes. He's an excellent ball athlete who had 13 career interceptions and has started since early in his freshman season. He also returned punts and kickoffs for the Commodores and caught seven passes for 143 yards (20.4-yard average) last season and carried the ball nine times for 76 yards (8.4-yard average).
Could surprise: Small-school WR Johnny Knox might be easy to identify on the field — he's the fast one. He ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine and put up huge numbers at Division-II Abilene Christian, where, in just two seasons, he caught 118 passes for 2,227 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also showed soft hands at the Combine and looked like he belonged with the big boys.
Detroit Lions: A perfect 10?
You can't say the Lions didn't stick to their plan.
General manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz said repeatedly talent would trump need in the draft because the Lions' roster was so barren after the NFL's first 0-16 season.
The result wasn't what Lions fans might have hoped, wanted or expected. The Lions went offense with their first two picks — Stafford and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew 20th overall — even though their defense ranked last the past two seasons.
And they would have gone offense with their first three picks had Ohio State running back Beanie Wells fallen two more spots. Coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions were looking hard at Wells, who went to Arizona 31st overall. The Lions took Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas at No. 33.
"Let me say this: Everybody we drafted we liked and we saw a role for, so it wasn't like we were just drafting just blindly to take guys," Schwartz said. "But I thought we did a really good job of balancing high-rated players with how we were going to use them."
By some measures, the Lions got good value. Many would say they got the best quarterback (Stafford), best tight end (Pettigrew) and best safety (Delmas) with their first three picks.
And it's not like they didn't fill needs. They got a franchise quarterback. They got a complete tight end. They got a playmaking safety. They got not one, but two returners.
But they ended up with two returners, two tight ends and two outside linebackers when they had a gaping hole at middle linebacker. (One will move inside.) They took only two linemen — none in their first five picks — when they have said they believe in building from the inside out.
"We went into the draft saying, 'Let's not go into the draft saying we have to help this position,'" Schwartz said. "What we need to do is go in and say, 'Hey, look, let's grade the talent. Let's take the talent, and let's fit them into our needs.'...
"You don't want to strictly draft need just to take players that your scouts don't really have a good feel for, your coaches really don't have a good feel for. You'd rather take somebody that you like. We still have other opportunities to fill some holes."
Best pick: When the Lions picked Pettigrew, fans at the Ford Field draft party booed louder than they did when the Lions picked Stafford. The fans would have preferred Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga or Ole Miss left tackle Michael Oher. But both of those players had issues and dropped in the draft, while Pettigrew was a top-10 pick on some teams' draft boards. Until they took Pettigrew, the Lions didn't have the kind of complete tight end that is important in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's system.
Could surprise: Stillman defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill is raw. Coming from a small college program, he needs to learn technique and make the adjustment to the NFL. But at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, he has the size the Lions want as they try to bulk up their defense, and he can learn behind veteran behemoth Grady Jackson.
Minnesota Vikings: Gambling on Harvin
There is no question the Vikings took a gamble by selecting Percy Harvin with their first-round pick, but the feeling was that the risk of the move was well worth the potential reward.
And that doesn't even get into the fact Harvin is projected as a top-flight return man, something the Vikings sorely lacked last season.
In taking Harvin, the Vikings passed up a chance to select Mississippi offensive tackle Michael Oher, who had been projected to go much higher. The Vikings were in need of an upgrade at right tackle and Oher would have provided it.
However, the Vikings were extremely pleased when they were able to scoop up Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt with the 54th pick in the second round. Loadholt will be given every chance to win the job at right tackle and the fact he was available capped a successful first day.
"I don't think we could have asked for a better scenario," said Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel.
There were some who believed the Vikings might use a first-day pick on a cornerback but that did not happen until early on the second day. The Vikings selected Georgia's Asher Allen, who figures to compete for a job in the nickel and could at some point be a candidate for a starting role.
The Vikings then traded up in the fifth round with Washington — swapping fifth-rounders with the Redskins and also giving up a seventh-round pick — so they could take middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley out of South Carolina.
While the Vikings, like all teams, have said they always will take the best available player, for a team that was 10-6 last season and has a limited window of opportunity, they seemed to make some immediate upgrades.
With Brad Childress heading into the fourth year of a five-year contract, that probably wasn't a bad idea. If Harvin can live up to expectations, Childress' offense could be one of the NFL's most dangerous.
Best pick: It's certainly a risky pick, but Harvin adds a dynamic to a Vikings offense that has enough potential to make it one of the most dangerous in the NFL. That's especially true if either Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels can put together a good season at quarterback. In addition to being a very dangerous catch-and-run receiver out of the slot, Harvin also could line up in the Wildcat and will be used on returns. His presence means that it isn't going to be as easy for opposing defenses to put eight men in the box in order to try and stop Adrian Peterson.
Could surprise: Third-round pick Asher Allen figures to compete for a cornerback job in the nickel defense and long-term could be eyed as the replacement for veteran Antoine Winfield. Allen suffered a broken hand last season that limited his effectiveness but he continued to play and, while he's not overly quick, he does figure to fit in well in the Vikings' defensive scheme.
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