One of the interesting side-effects of the lockout is that teams can not have contact with players that they did not select in the draft. Hence, there was no rush to sign the top undrafted free agents as there usually is. Some teams, like the Packers, traded down in the draft to acquire multiple 7th-round picks to , in a sense, get a leg up on signing players they had targeted as UFAs. The list is actually pretty decent, and there are some guys who could potentially come in and fill needs for the Bears. Here are a list of the players that would be good fits for the Bears, based on need and scheme (Click on the name for a video/scouting report):
1. Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina: He went undrafted due to his lack of size (5-9; 190 lbs) and mediocre showing at the combine (4.69-40 yard; 30-inch vertical). But his toughness and penchant for big plays make him almost a perfect fit for the cover-2 scheme the Bears run—he is a willing and capable tackler, and has good ball instincts. The problem here might be the Bears getting a chance at him, as Burney will probably have more than a few suitors looking to make him an immediate special teams player.
Featured Video versus Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin (1st-Rd pick of the Chiefs)
Big hit on Rutgers’ Tiquan Underwood (now on the Jaguars)
Interception and runback versus Miami (3rd INT of the game)
OTHER UFA CORNERBACK PROSPECTS:
Devon Torrence (Ohio State): Another guy who is limited in man coverage; but could be a good fit in our cover-2 scheme. has good size at 6-0; 200.
2. Mario Harvey, LB, Marshall: Its hard to figure out why this guy went undrafted; he has the ability to play inside or outside, as well as on special teams. He is a little short, I guess, at 5-11; but has good size at 250 pounds and ran a 4.46 40-yard at the Marshall Pro Day. He didn’t seem out of place when they played big teams with NFL-level talent, like Ohio State. He plays with a high motor and intensity. Harvey would be an immediate impact special teamer from Day One, and could end up being a pretty good NFL linebacker.
Harvey’s 2010 Highlights
Harvey’s 2009 Highlights
Harvey playing against Ohio State as a senior
OTHER LB PROSPECTS:
Adrian Moten (Maryland): From the same mold speed and intensity-wise as Harvey; but a bit undersized at 230 pounds.
3. Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU: The most Pro-ready of the Centers available on the UFA market; the Bears need to start thinking of a contingency plan, long-term for Olin Kreutz. PLayed in a spread-type offense in college, so has experience pass-blocking; and is adept at blocking in the open field on screens and getting to the second level. A little light in the feet, so he can get pushed around some. But he would not be a bad pickup, and can benefit from learning from one of the best for at least next season.
Kirkpatrick versus Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl
OTHER CENTER PROSPECTS:
Colin Baxter (Arizona): A good prospect like Kirkpatrick, but had injury issues toward the end of his college career.
Tim Barnes (Missouri): A good, durable player; but more limited athletically than Kirkpatrick or Baxter. Also has injury issues.
4. Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU: Has the size (6-4, 210) that the Bears are missing at the WR position; plays at his best in the red zone, and showed up last year against top-flight competition, like Alabama and Florida. Had a bad Pro Day because of a pulled hamstring; running a 4.6-40 and a 33″ vertical. But he catches everything thrown his way, and competes on every down.
Toliver against Florida
Toliver in the end zone against Texas A&M
OTHER WR PROSPECTS:
Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic): Good size, and played in a pro-style offense at FAU. In need of some coaching on how to beat press coverage and run routes; but has some tools.
Armon Binns (Cincinnati): Would have been a mid-round pick had he come out last year; but with no quarterback Tony Pike and Head Coach Brian Kelly, really fell off of the map in 2010. Binns is a big (6-3, 210) target with an ability to get deep; but lacks consistent hands.
From the outside, one might say that the Bears are in a better place at the linebacker spot than any other position on the team. MLB Brian Urlacher and OLB Lance Briggs have played together now for 8 seasons; they are both perennial Pro Bowlers, and both fit exactly what you need from a linebacker in a Cover-2 defense—fast in pursuit, solid tacklers, and always going for the ball.
The problem for the Bears is that when you look at the depth chart, the only other player with NFL game-experience is Brian Iwuh, who played a couple games in relief of Briggs. The other LBs currently on the roster? Chris Johnson from South Dakota State, and Patrick Trahan from Mississippi. Have you ever heard of either of those guys? ME EITHER. In addition, Briggs will be 30 and Urlacher 33 at the start of the season; and while they have been relatively-speaking pretty durable, they will not play forever. While we might re-sign Nick Roach, Pisa Tinoisamoa, or Rod Wilson to fill the void at SLB next season, we desperately need an infusion of depth at LB.
One thing that does worry me about the idea of drafting LBs is that Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith have not been very good at it. Since stealing Briggs in the third round in 2003, here are the LBs that Angelo and Smith have picked: Joe Odom (Purdue); Leon Joe (Maryland); Jamar Williams (Arizona State); Michael Okwo (Stanford); Joey Larocque (Oregon State); Marcus Freeman (Ohio State). Two problems I see with the philosophy here are that a) the Bears have usually been unwilling to invest anything higher than a 4th round pick on a linebacker; and b) when they do—Okwo and Williams—they seem to pass over the better overall LB prospect to take a guy who might fit the Cover-2 better. Keep in mind that when you look at Urlacher, he is not a guy who would have EVER been drafted to play in thid defense—but he has done okay for himself, right?
MY POINT—A GOOD LINEBACKER CAN PLAY IN ANY SYSTEM.
Anyway, on with the prospects. We will leave out the college DEs who are switching to 3-4 OLBs. Click on the player name to link to his draft scouting report:
1st Round: Von Miller (Texas A&M); Akeem Ayers (UCLA).
2nd Round: Bruce Carter (North Carolina).
3rd Round: Mason Foster (Washington); Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut);
4th Round: KJ Wright (Mississippi State); Ross Homan (Ohio State).
5th Round: Brian Rolle (Ohio State); Adrian Moten (Maryland); Doug Hogue (Syracuse).
6th-7th Rounds: Mark Herzlich (Boston College); Scott Lutrus (Connecticut); JT Thomas (West Virginia); Jabara Williams (Stephen F Austin); Eric Gordon (Michigan State); Michael Morgan (USC); Malcolm Smith (USC); Jacquain Williams (USF).
1st Round: Martez Wilson (Illinois).
2nd Round: Quan Sturdivant (North Carolina).
3rd Round: Greg Jones (Michigan State).
4th Round: Colin McCarthy (Miami); Kelvin Sheppard (LSU); Nate Irving (North Carolina State).
5th Round: Casey Matthews (Oregon); Josh Bynes (Auburn).
6th-7th Round: Mike Mohamed (California); Chris White (Mississippi State); Mario Harvey (Marshall); Jeff Tarpinian (Iowa); Kendall Smith (Florida State); Cobrani MIxon (Kent State).
The Bears typically look for linebackers who can a)fly to the ball; b)tackle well; and c) play on special teams. Unless the unthinkable happens, and Von Miller or Martez Wilson fall to us at the end of the first round, do not expect the Bears to address the strongside linebacker position or depth at linebacker in general until the 4th round or later.
At OLB, guys who intrigue me for the third day of the draft are Adrian Moten & Doug Hogue as 4th or 5th rounders; and Malcolm Smith and Jacquain Williams in the 6th or 7th rounds. At MLB, I do expect the Bears to draft a ‘measurables’ guy to perhaps groom as Urlacher’s replacement on the third day—Colin McCarthy in the 4th round, or Mario Harvey and Cobrani MIxon in the 6th or 7th rounds. All of these guys could be special teams dynamos from day one; and in the case of Martez Wilson, Adrian Moten, and Colin McCarthy, they could even have a chance to win the strongside LB job as a rookie.