Mullin: Will Bears go with 'safe' picks in draft?


Mullin: Will Bears go with 'safe' picks in draft?

Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 10:35 a.m.

By John Mullin

Spent some very interesting studio time with former NFL safety and National Football Post analyst Matt Bowen on Thursday. We did a couple of sessions, one dealing with this draft and the other putting it in some context with respect to recent drafts and some of the strategies thatll be in play when the Bears get after it in less than two weeks.

Those will air next week and Id give it a look to get some of Matts perspectives on where the Bears go, and hell give you a name that warrants serious watching and at a position thats gotten a bit overlooked with all the focus on offensive and defensive lines and linemen.

In the meantime, though, NFPs Wes Bunting has assembled a short list of Mr. Safe Picks that has a few names of note. In particular its noteworthy with respect to the Bears because safe is not a dirty word for Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell and the Bears, who look very hard at a players floor, their expected minimum level.

Three of Wes prospects are right where the Bears are focused and any one or two of them could be a Bear by sundown Friday (day two).

Two are offensive linemen: Clint Boling, 6-4, 308 pounds, a four-year starter at Georgia at three different positions, meaning he plays well at guard and tackle; and Stefen Wisniewski, whom Wes projects as a possible early starter at either center or guard in the NFL. Wisniewskis uncle (Steve) and father (Leo) were NFLers and if you dont think that matters, ask the Packers how their Matthews thing is working out.

And the defensive lineman Wes includes as a Mr. Safe is LSU tackle Drake Nevis, who would be a surprise in the first or second round but is a shorter version of Tommie Harris. The Bears believe they struck gold in the 09 fourth round with Henry Melton, another undersized tackle, and Nevis in that range could be another one.

What about wideout?

One other noteworthy Mr. Safe that Wes cites is a wide receiver from Kentucky, Randall Cobb, whos 5-11, 186 but has run in the 4.4s for his 40s and is perhaps one of the best all-around players in this draft, having been a quarterback as well as receiver, rusher and returner. He ranks below Miamis Leonard Hankerson, the 6-2 burner that Matt Bowen is extremely high on at a position where the Bears need a potential elite talent.

But the Bears have just three receivers in place now (Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox), with Rashied Davis turning 31 and more a special-teamer at this point. Receiver was to have been a prime target in free agency, but with that on hold,

Angelo is extremely leery of high picks at wide receiver because of the bust factor and the higher value of line positions. But a safe pick in or around the third round, where the Bears got Bennett and where Terrell Owens came in, would be distinctly within the realm of possibility.

Besides, Marty Booker (3rd), Marcus Robinson (4th) and Bernard Berrian (3rd) were all in that range and all three are among the franchises career receiving-yards top 25. I have to think the Bears would be very, very good with a Mr. Safe with a Top-25 ceiling.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”