Angelo, Bears entering final stretch before draft


Angelo, Bears entering final stretch before draft

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 1:05 PM

By John Mullin

As Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent said of his accomplishments and body of work, The hay is in the barn.

So it is with the Bears now as well. Coaches, scouts and personnel heads have have finished their draft meetings and most of their evaluation process on players and now matters swing onto final approach for the 2011 draft that begins next Thursday night.

From the general pool of up to 75 players making the cut list as draftable, the Bears have targeted a cluster of 4-6 players they consider quality gets at No. 29 as the draft still stands. They also have narrowed their list to four target positions they would like to address in the draft.

And their goal from the weekends selections ultimately, as it is with every draft, is to add four starters.

Theres four, five, six guys that based on our projections and grades would be in the running for the pick, said player personnel director Tim Ruskell. The number isimportant because when you think about trading down, you want to have at least half as many guys you would like as the number of picks you go down.

The Bears are among a handful of teams, including Carolina drafting No. 1 overall, that would prefer to deal down and add picks if the offer and available pool of players remaining are right.

But the Bears have their first six picks available, not a case where they are short some selections and need to rebuild numbers. They also do not appear locked in on any individual player and have no intention of getting to that point.

You dont really want to fall in love with any player, said general manager Jerry Angelo. To me thats a trap. Weve been pretty sober and focused about our approach. We do like a handful of players. Theyre not perfect but theyre guys that we like and feel could help our football team.
Target selection

Angelo, Ruskell and the coaching staff have identified four positions they are willing to draft to fill, including offensive line, defensive line and cornerback. A wide receiver or linebacker would be a welcome addition but neither spot is viewed as must-have.

Having four positions worth draft picks gives you the flexibility where you could take the best player, Angelo said. And I think in this years draft, you could probably say best player available, were going to get.

Narrowing the field

One intriguing prospect on the defensive line, both for the Bears and others in the 20-32 draft range, is tackle Marvin Austin. A talented disruptor in the Tommie Harris mold, Austin was dropped from the team and sat out all of 2010 for illegal dealings with an agent, and there are issues of maturity that have turned some teams off.

The Bears have scrutinized Austins background and whether they would risk another high pick on a character question, after some difficulties with Harris and Tank Johnson, is an issue.

Obviously, hes got documented concerns, Angelo said. Weve delved into those. Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli went down there and spent a good amount of time with him. Mark Sadowski, our scout, has spent a goodly amount of time.

So we feel real good about how we feel about him and knowing him. I always say this, and I use this term: We just dont want any surprises on draft day when we bring a player in here. Were not looking for halo players. Were in the business to win football games, but we have to know whats underneath the hood.

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick. 

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