Thursday, April 21, 2011
Posted: 8:57 a.m.
By John Mullin
Questions may persist in some quarters about Jay Cutlers knee injury but not about the Bears quarterback situation. Theyre set at the top, even if coordinator Mike Martz isnt exactly sold on Caleb Hanie.
The Bears invested heavy draft capital in the trade for Cutler and because they did, they are potentially in a position to watch from a comfortable vantage point an interesting scramble for quarterbacks that a number of analysts see forming with the 2011 draft.
For some months the debate over whether Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton was the better of the top two quarterbacks, and they were the consensus only two expected to go in the first round.
Now the projected number of quarterbacks going in the first round is up to four and even six.
I think theres panic among teams that are looking for a quarterback, said NFL Networks Mike Mayock.
The Bears sit at No. 29 and couldnt be happier if that many teams are chasing quarterbacks.
It means that trade discussions may be more lucrative as with teams willing to spend more to move up into the first round to address the franchise position. It also means another cluster of players that teams take before No. 29, leaving more of the players that the Bears hoped would be within their reach.
The fastest-rising quarterback this week has been Jake Locker from Washington, considered by some to have been the potential No. 1 overall pick of last years draft but for his decision to honor his word to stay in school. For teams looking at character, that makes a good impression.
He said he was coming back for his senior year, said former coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. He said he wanted to take Washington to a bowl game, and I admire that about him. He could have walked away from the Husky program and potentially been the number one pick a year ago according to a lot of analysts. But he wanted to do what he said he was going to do, and that is a trait that I really admire.
Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki, who sees Locker going No. 12 to the Minnesota Vikings, projects the Seattle Seahawks taking TCU quarterback Andy Dalton at No. 25. Nolan also likes the Miami Dolphins looking past maturity concerns and taking Ryan Mallett of Arkansas at No. 15.
The Bears have 28 slots ahead of them. Nolans projection would take care of five. Lets put lines through defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley as being likely top-10ers, along with linebacker Von Miller, cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara, and wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones. The Bears wouldnt be taking a wideout in the first round, nor a linebacker, and those two cornerbacks wont last past No. 15.
Thats 12 of the 28 down. Figure USC tackle Tyron Smith to Dallas at No. 9, where most draft projections place him, and lets say three other offensive linemen from the group that includes Anthony Castonzo, Mike Pouncey, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod and Nate Solder.
Now were up to 15, probably more, and thats not folding in defensive ends like DaQuan Bowers, Robert Quinn and Adrian Clayborn. Take those three off the board and were at roughly No. 18.
The Bears rarely trade up (just once under GM Jerry Angelo and that in a later round) so they need chunks of players to go at positions not on their must-have list. Offensive line is one of those positions but even taking off a few still leaves a starter-grade talent or three for them.
All of which gets exponentially more interesting with the possibility of as many as six quarterbacks going in the first round. Notably here, the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints all got some private time with Dalton. All are set right now but with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning deep into their careers, adding those teams to any quarterback discussion works to the Bears favor, particularly since two of the three are in the other conference.
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.