With limited picks (five total) in this week’s NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears will try to add a potential contributor and some depth at positions such as linebacker, cornerback, and offensive line. Barring a trade, a premium will be placed on General Manager Phil Emery’s scouting staff to target the right mix of players to fit new coach Marc Trestman’s system.
This year’s annual talent grab bag lacks star power but makes up for it with quality depth, especially on the offensive and defenisve lines. An above average group of cornerbacks figures to attract heavy interest over the first two days, while the skill positions appear unproven.Trade discussion is always prevalent as the draft approaches, and a deal could radically affect how the first round shakes out. The Bears are willing trade partners if another club comes calling, and Emery has been open about his desire to deal for more picks if the opportunity presents itself.
Discounting a trade, here’s one observers view of the Bears selection with a thumbnail of the prospect.*
Round #1. D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama…Due to his massive size and upside, Fluker will often earn comparisons to former Alabama standout Andre Smith, who the Cincinnati Bengals made the No. 6 overall pick of the 2009 draft. In reality, a fairer comparison is to former Crimson Tide teammate James Carpenter, who also earned a first-round selection (No. 25) in 2011 by the Seattle Seahawks. Fluker has the girth, length, and respectable movement skills to become a top-notch starting right tackle. His struggles were apparent against Western Kentucky, but when Fluker can get his hands on the pass rusher in a balanced position, his opposition has no chance of winning the individual battle. If there is a concern with Fluker’s athleticism it is that he has limited initial quickness and flexibility. Speed rushers will give him problems off the edge. In the running game, however, he is a brutal assignment for defenders as he consistently is able to control the edge with his extraordinary reach (36 3/8″) and functional strength, including an explosive initial pop that simply doesn’t translate well in the bench press, the only strength drill currently used at the combine. Fluker should be selected between chosen late in the first round, between picks 20-32. Combine & pro day note: did 21 reps, ran a 5.31. Looked good in positional drills at pro day workout, and scheduled to work out two weeks prior to draft for clubs.
Round #2. Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU…He might only have one full season int he starting lineup, but Minter was easily the most consistent defender on a very talented LSU defense during the 2012 season. The junior fills lanes with force and takes great angles to work through trash while finishing tackles authoritatively. Some evaluators may have a concern with his lateral speed since Minter seemed to reach running backs with just enough time to spare, not to mention his tendency to lose ground when forced to open his hips and drop in coverage. Minter’s toughness against the run, specifically between the tackles, and reliable angles will likely land him in the top 64 picks. Combine note: ran a 4.81. had 25 reps on the bench, and didn’t jump.
Round #4. Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State…Dominating the Mid-American conference is one thing, but Williams proved at the Senior Bowl that his powerful game was too much for many of the top FCS prospects to handle, as well. While not the quick-twitch pass-rusher that his statistics might indicate, his power and surprising quickness made a positive impression on scouts and has his stock on the rise as the draft approaches. Williams is probably a two-down player in the NFL, and doesn’t offer a lot of pass rush. However, he moves well laterally and navigates through the trash well. He showed he could compete with bigger, stronger, more well-known players at the Senior Bowl. Plays with a high motor and is an aggressive competitor. Underrated. Combine/pro day note: ran a 5.37 40, 38 reps, and a 29.50″ vertical. At recent pro day, Williams weighed in at 332 pounds, but stood by his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine. Due to a slight hamstring pull and unfavorable conditions (temperatures were at 27 degrees outdoors), Williams was held out of the positional workout.
Round #5. B.W. Webb, William & Mary…Webb has been a star since picking off Virginia three times in the Tribe’s 2009 opening-weekend shocker. The four-year starter has the hands and cover skills (if average size) to be one of the top “small school” prospects in the draft. He projects as at least a reliable nickel back on defense and a regular contributor on special teams -– and possibly more (he has the athleticism and cover skills to play outside), much like recent third-round picks from smaller schools Dwight Bentley (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State). After showing he can hold his own at the Senior Bowl, his value is on the rise. Like fellow corner Robert Alford of Southeastern Louisiana, Webb helped his stock immensely with the performance he displayed during Senior Bowl week. Will be a draft day bargain in the fourth round. Combine note: ran a 4.46, put the bar up 14 times, and recorded a 40.50″ vertical.
Round #6. Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane…Griffin flew under the radar at the control of a hard-luck Tulane program. He put up big numbers in spread offense. He demonstrated nice touch and accuracy. Appears thin, and could add some muscle to his frame. Shoulder injury sidelined him for three games during mid-season, but recovered nicely and was named MVP of post-season Texas vs. Nation game. A lot of his completions were short-to-intermediate routes, but he placed ball perfectly. Deep balls tend to flutter, and he will need work on going through his progressions and reading defenses. Film review displayed a tendency to hone in on one target. For teams looking to add a developmental QB late in the draft, Griffin is worthy of consideration. Despite not being invited to NFL combine, Griffin could raise eye brows with solid pro day workout. Odds are stacked against him somewhat, but he could surprise.
*note: scouting reports courtesy of The Slant…2013 NFL Draft Guide; www.theslantdraftguide.com