New GM means new draft strategies

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New GM means new draft strategies

A leading cause of the Bears firing of general manager Jerry Angelo was failure to draft top-level talent. The decision on Angelos successor is still some time away but with whoever it is can be expected to bring with him some significant changes in draft philosophies.

This is potentially a huge factor as the Bears tilt toward building an offense around Jay Cutler rather than on Jay Cutler.

Angelo was a believer in a floor philosophy with top picks, meaning that great attention was given to establishing the worst a pick could possibly be. Maybe that stems from mistakes like Keith McCants or Eric Curry in Tampa Bay or something else, but the result logically meant few outright busts but also fewer home runs.

So there were going to be more safe, reasonable-quality picks (Marc Colombo, Chris Williams come to mind) where at the least you would have a serviceable player. The quirk here is that Angelo would have taken a Dan Bazuin in a second round; the floor there was in the basement.

But that also led to a reluctance to draft wide receivers high, for example, a true high-riskhigh-reward impact position. Angelo was right; the bust quotient is higher with wideouts than most other positions.

Receivers and offensive line changes?

The Bears first target in free agency is a wide receiver and Angelo was prepared for a major first-strike on or above the scale of his grab of Muhsin Muhammad in 2005. Assume that and cornerback will remain targets 1-2, with pass rusher and linebacker in the offseason equation.

Angelos highest draft slot for a wideout was second round and it was a bust Mark Bradley. Look for that to change with a general manager bringing a different philosophy.

Angelo drafted tackles but rarely after the first round (Colombo, Williams, Gabe Carimi). He took Terrence Metcalf in the third round of 2002 and Josh Beekman in the fourth of 2007, but both were disappointments and Angelo never took a lineman higher than the seventh round.

Lance Louis and JMarcus Webb are gems as seventh-rounders go. But pipelines are stocked with O-line hits other than first-round picks.

Green Bay example

The Packers landed tackle Chad Clifton in the second round. Guard Daryn Colledge was a 2. Guard T.J. Lang was a 4. So was guard Josh Sitton. Guard Jason Spitz was a 3. The Bears only made the Beekman and Metcalf picks in those rounds under Angelo.

Bradley was Angelos lone wide receiver pick higher than round 3. Green Bay secured Greg Jennings in the second round. And Jordy Nelson. James Jones was a 3.

Ruskell patterns

It does not work in Tim Ruskells favor that he and Angelo share both draft philosophies and history together. Ruskell was brought in by Angelo as director of player personnel and his draft patterns are near-overlays of Angelos.

He took centerguard Chris Spencer in Seattle. He was the 26th pick of the 2005 draft (Colombo and Carimi were 29s). In the next four drafts during Ruskells tenure the Seahawks took defensive players with their first picks.

Angelo and Ruskell took wide receivers in just two first rounds in all their years at Tampa Bay Reidel Anthony and Lamar Thomas. Both had decent floors and were serviceable players but neither were sustained high-impact

Ruskell will continue overseeing the Bears college scouting for the time being. And he has not been ruled out as a GM candidate. But if the Bears were not satisfied with the draft directions and results of Angelo, Ruskells resume suggests he will be a fallback candidate at best.

Early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Who would Bears take?

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Early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Who would Bears take?

It may be too early for projecting the 2017 NFL Draft, but it can't hurt to look ahead.

Rotoworld's Josh Norris released his mock draft on Thursday for next year's draft.

According to Norris, if the Bears finished in the order of their Super Bowl LI odds, Ryan Pace & Co. would hold the No. 12 pick.

Their selection? Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.

Norris gives his explanation of the pick:

"My personal favorite running back in the class. Cook’s market share of FSU’s rushing yards and percentage of 20-plus yard runs last year was ridiculous."

Also in the first round, Norris has five Big Ten players projected to land in the first 32 picks.

Click here to check out Josh Norris' full 2017 mock draft.

Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

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Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

Overshadowed in the aftershocks of the Bears’ release of veteran guard Matt Slauson (and safety Antrel Rolle) was another roster trim this offseason that went largely ignored because four days earlier, the Matt Forte non-return had gone down. That was the release of Jermon Bushrod, as much a fixture for two years at left tackle as Slauson was at left guard.

Probably because Bushrod had been replaced by Charles Leno Jr. last season as the starter, Bushrod’s exit had been expected since mid-year as he struggled with injuries. Bushrod had voiced his own farewell address late in the season.

But Bushrod, as with Slauson, was a core member of a group that arguably needs to be closer-knit than any other position group. Bushrod and Slauson were mentors to Kyle Long and to even Leno as he was replacing Bushrod, if anyone needs a character testimonial.

While coaches and GM Ryan Pace are on record stating that the best five offensive linemen will start, which points to positions for each being determined through this offseason, that also demands cohesion, which the group had with Bushrod and Slauson.

Bears history is replete with solid centers who anchored and fused lines together: Jay Hilgenberg, Jerry Fontenot, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, even Bulldog Turner and Mike Pyle, looking further back. One key was that each was the best lineman in the group, or close to the best. That makes leading easier, when you’re secure and very good.

Hroniss Grasu is neither at this point of his career. Manny Ramirez is a new guy and on a one-year deal at age 33. Meaning: Who is the linchpin of an offensive line on whom the healths of Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford and others rest? Kyle Long is the Bears’ best offensive lineman and a force in more ways that just talent-wise.

The challenge for the Bears projects to be less finding talent to replace Slauson in particular, but finding the individual and collective character to make the whole thing work. This is about more than just the 2016 season.

After Bears release Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson, question looms: Who else?

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After Bears release Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson, question looms: Who else?

Just as the draft selections of guard Cody Whitehair heralded the Chicago end for Matt Slauson, and safeties Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson brought in alternatives to Antrel Rolle – both vets let go sooner rather than later – an obvious question hanging fire right now in the wake of other draft picks and signings is, “Who else?”

One expectation this offseason is that the Bears would make a difficult decision on rush-linebacker Lamarr Houston, who’s due $6 million this year and next and $8 million for 2018. That situation won’t stand as-is.

The final year of Willie Young’s contract calls for $2.5 million this season. That’s only slightly less than the $2.9 million Slauson was due for 2016 and that was rendered expendable by the Whitehair draft selection and the signings of Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez.

In the Houston-Young cases, the Bears used a No. 1 pick on Leonard Floyd, a Young-type edge rusher. They used a No. 3 pick on Jonathan Bullard, a 290-pound defensive end with size-rush blend that Young doesn’t have. The Bears re-signed Sam Acho, who doesn’t give the Bears what Houston does as an edge rusher, but Houston doesn’t do anything on special teams, the roster entrée for non-starters.

Then there is the matter of Eddie Royal, with an injury speckled 2015 injury resume’ that defines “vulnerable” for player at age 30 and carrying a $4.5 million salary for 2016. What little the Bears did draft-wise on offense included diminutive wideout Danny Braverman in the seventh round.

Teams don’t make roster decisions based on seventh-round picks before the first minicamp. But Braverman, who led all FBS schools in receptions last year, is 5-10, around 180 pounds.

Forget the knee-jerk comparisons to Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Wes Welker just because they’re little white guys (and why is it that people grab those instant so-called comparables based on skin color? For another time.)

But NFL slot receivers in the Braverman mold include Seattle’s undrafted Doug Baldwin (5-10, 189, also a Florida native like Braverman); Randall Cobb (5-10) up in Green Bay, a No. 3 slot guy his first three NFL seasons; Jamison Crowder, a true smurf at 5-8 who caught 59 passes for Washington as a rookie.

Braverman does not make Royal roster-surplus the way Whitehair did Slauson, or Bush did Rolle, or Floyd makes Houston or Young (whom the Bears reportedly tried to trade during the draft). And Royal was banged up in part because he was thrust into a starter role by the injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White.

But numbers on depth charts and salary cap balance sheets force decisions. And the surprise of the offseason would be if the Bears were done making theirs.