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

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

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

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

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 CSNChicago.com'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.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. deserves a lot of credit. After starting his career as a seventh-round pick and something of a longshot to ever earn a starting job, he's become an irreplaceable fixture at the most important position along the offensive line.

The four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed last offseason is evidence of that.

Despite his value to the Bears, Leno is still somewhat underrated across league circles. That may be about to change.

Leno was recently named Chicago's best-kept secret.

Leno has consistently improved as a pass protector since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 and is now one of the team's top 10 players. If he hit the open market, Leno might be a $60 million player with the way the offensive line market is exploding. Over the next four years, the Bears should save about $20 million on the market price for their starting-caliber left tackle.

Leno has enjoyed steady improvement since his rookie season. His grades from Pro Football Focus reflect that: 53.6 (2014), 56.3 (2015), 71.2 (2016) and 80.4 (2017). 

The Bears' offensive line is poised for a big season in 2018. Leno and Bobby Massie are back as starters at tackle. Rookie second-round pick James Daniels will pair with Kyle Long at guard and third-year pro, Cody Whitehair, will get back to focusing on being the team's starting center.

If Leno's trend of improved play continues, he's a great candidate to go from best-kept secret to league star in 2018.