O-Line gets face lift in second mock draft
The end to the 2012 season hurt. There’s no other way around it. After a 7-1 start, the Bears struggled to a 3-5 finish and find themselves on the couch watching division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota vie for a berth in the Super Bowl. Needless to say, the screeching halt to the season magnified the teams’ glaring weaknesses. Some would argue the offensive line resembled a group of grade schoolers playing Red Rover with a city bus. Others point to a complete lack of a pass-catching tight end that forced Jay Cutler to key in on Brandon Marshall entirely too much. Let’s also not forget the number of questions on defense: Brian Urlacher’s status, the uncertainty of Henry Melton’s contract, the huge number owed to Julius Peppers through 2015, to name a few.
Sure, there are a handful of teams that would die for a 10-6 season, yet the result is all too familiar for Bears fans – another winter spent rooting for somebody else to hoist the Lombardi trophy. It’s time to start looking towards the draft. With the Bears firmly planted at the 20th position for the first-round, here’s my second mock draft for the Chicago Bears.
First-round selection (20th overall)
Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
He was my selection for the Bears in my first mock draft and things don’t change the second time around. People can point all they want to the level of competition in the MAC, but that reason isn’t enough to dissuade me to think that Fisher won’t be the real deal at the next level. He has a massive frame, consistent technique and always looks to finish his blocks. The one drawback is that Fisher could use some more weight on the upper half of his body, but adding 10 to 15 pounds won’t hinder his ability to get a quick initial burst and drive defenders to the second level. His run and pass protection are equally impressive and one unsung quality is that Fisher has a true mean streak. It would hurt Bears fans for the team once again to use such a high pick on a position they’ve failed to fix over the last five years, but if the offense wants to finally get going in the right direction, they have to hit a home run here. I think Fisher is that guy. If he’s available, I’d love for Commissioner Goodell to call his name for Chicago with the twentieth pick.
Other options: Jake Matthews (OT Texas A&M), Kevin Minter (LB LSU), Zach Ertz (TE Stanford)
Second-round selection (50th overall)
Barrett Jones, OG/C Alabama
The Bears continue to prioritize the evolution of their offensive line by bringing in Crimson Tide mainstay Jones. He’s been a staple along their offensive line over the past three seasons, playing all five positions at some point during his career. Two huge things I love about Jones – his winning pedigree is something that can be contagious and after the finish to the last two seasons, I think it’d be a welcomed addition to the locker room. Second, his time in the SEC pits him against elite competition, whether it’s in practice or in a game. Regardless of where he’s stationed on the offensive line, Jones could likely start from day one. His team-first attitude and ability to make the right protection adjustments makes me think Jones would be a rock-solid option to become the Bears’ center for the next decade, picking up some Pro Bowls along the way.
Other options: Dallas Thomas (OT Tennessee), Brandon Jenkins (LB Florida St.), Alex Okafor (LB/DE Texas)
Fourth-round selection (112th overall)
Khaseem Greene, OLB Rutgers
A converted safety, Greene flashed the necessary determination, leadership ability and tackling necessary to succeed in the NFL. Most detractors point to below-average size for a linebacker (a generous 6’1” at 240 pounds), but anyone who worries about measurables clearly didn’t read the Rutgers box scores this year (125 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 2 picks). His time spent at safety makes him an asset on third down. He’s got the speed to match-up against most running backs and tight ends in coverage, while also possessing an above-average ability to shed blocks and make tackles in space. With more seasoning and the tutelage of a veteran like Lance Briggs, Greene can continue to craft his instincts and become a solid linebacker to replace the more-than-likely departed Brian Urlacher.
Other options: Tyler Bray (QB Tennessee), Joseph Fauria (TE UCLA), Kwame Geathers (DT Georiga)
Fifth-round selection (144th overall)
Travis Bond, OG North Carolina
See the trend here? The Bears add another offensive lineman with the massive Travis Bond. He excels in run protection, where his size and strength (6’6” 345lbs) overwhelm most interior linemen. His physical attributes help him get away with occasional lapses in protection, whether it be the defense changing up scheme or missing a pull assignment. While Bond isn’t a home run, selecting him so late in the draft is a welcomed risk. The physical tools are there, he just needs reps and a simplified scheme to help him maximize the talents he already has.
Other options: Will Davis (CB Utah State), Joseph Vellano (DT Maryland), John Simon (DE Ohio St.)
Sixth-round selection (176th overall)
Ben Cotton, TE Nebraska
While Cotton’s numbers may not overwhelm anyone (42 career catches, 3TDs), he’s shown a willingness to go over the middle and haul in catches, something the Bears desperately need. With the trend shifting for longer, more nimble tight ends, Cotton’s physique fits the bill. He’s also shown an ability to be an effective blocker in both zone schemes and in isolation, something that the Bears’ current collection of tight ends seems to completely ignore.
Other options: Sean Renfree (QB Duke), Rodney Smith (WR Florida St.), Margus Hunt (DE SMU)
Seventh-round selection (208th overall)
Anthony Rashad White, DT Michigan St.
White has the size to routinely command double teams, all while showing the tenacity to play throw the whistle being blown. The biggest detriment to his game is that he lacks the top end speed necessary to become a threat rushing the passer, but the Bears would most likely use him as a rotational player to fill space. His strength is underrated and he’s continually seen shedding blocks and disrupting the inside gaps. Much like the previous selection of Cotton, White would be a low-risk, high-reward selection for the Bears to round out their 2013 draft.
Other options: Ray Graham (RB Pittsburgh), James Ferentz (C Iowa), Tyrann Mathieu (CB/KR LSU)
With a draft structured like this, the Bears have the opportunity to rebuild their offensive line by not dipping into an expensive free agent market, where potential targets like Jake Long, Ryan Clady and Branden Albert should see a large guaranteed salary. This alternative gives them a chance to lock Henry Melton up to a long term deal, which should be their main priority going into free agency. A young offensive line would certainly have growing pains, but the weapons around them would certainly appreciate a breath of fresh air, especially quarterback Jay Cutler.
On the defensive side, the Bears have a chance to add rotational players. I like having the option to give these guys reps behind a veteran squad. The defense certainly wasn’t the issue this year, but as most floating heads on ESPN will tell you: you can never have enough bodies on defense. Green, in particular, could be a dark horse for an impact rookie season. There’s just something special about the way he plays.