Kiper has Te'o, Eifert projected as first-round picks

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Kiper has Te'o, Eifert projected as first-round picks

In the sense of competing for a National Championship, getting their degrees and being captains on the team that brought Notre Dame back, the decisions of Manti Teo and Tyler Eifert to return to South Bend for their senior seasons look like pretty good ones.

Id be kicking myself if I couldnt be a part of this team, Eifert said in November.

But for the pairs next step, the move to return certainly improved each players draft stock.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., has Teo ranked No. 2 on his early big board and Eifert as the best tight end in Aprils NFL Draft, although theres obviously plenty of potential for movement over the next four months.

For Eifert, Kipers comments were essentially what coach Brian Kelly has been getting at all year -- the seniors production may be down, but hes a much better tight end than he was a year ago. With one game left, Eifert has 19 fewer catches and 179 fewer yards than he did in 2011, when he led all FBS tight ends in receptions and yards.

But Eifert won the Mackey Award -- given to the nations top tight end -- in 2012, signaling there are plenty outside South Bend who see him as more than just a pass-catcher.

He has great ability to adjust, he has great ball skills, go up and get it, Kiper explained. And his blocking has significantly improved. He's a complete tight end. blocking was the big thing he answered very positively and definitively this year.

John Mullin: 2013 draft could see 5 OTs taken in first round

Eiferts a guy who some Bears fans have keyed on as the solution for the teams tight end woes, understandable given his success and Kellen Davis shortcomings. Others have looked to Teo as Brian Urlachers successor, although having No. 5 suit up for Chicago is far more of a pipe dream.

Kiper expects Teo to be selected in the first five picks, a rarity for an inside linebacker. But he explained Teo made strides in his pass-coverage ability, helping ease concerns about his ability to be a three-down linebacker.

But with such a high projection comes added scrutiny -- and despite Teos seven interceptions (most by an FBS linebacker since 2000) there are questions about his ability to be a three-down linebacker.

There's still going to be some concern about (pass coverage), because at the pro level there's a little different from playing at Notre Dame and the kind of opponents, college players you're seeing, Kiper explained. There still are concerns, what his 40 time ends up being, there are people that will say what's his 40 time going to be, how fast will he prove out to be?

In a normal year, Kiper would project Teo somewhere in the No. 10-12 pick range, but without an elite skill player entering the 2013 draft hes likely to be among the first few to come off the board.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."