'Pre-drafting': What Senior Bowl revealed about OL, prospects

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'Pre-drafting': What Senior Bowl revealed about OL, prospects

Exactly what player, what position or even what side of the ball the Bears will address in the first two rounds of the 2013 draft (they dont currently have a third-rounder) wont truly be set until they send a card with a players name up to be read by Commissioner Roger Goodell beginning Thursday, April 25.

But several players have made impressions on veteran observers and if the draft breaks the Bears way, the possibilities at No. 20 of the first round becoming intriguing:

OT Eric Fisher, Central Michgan -- Fisher has wowed observers all week, coming in at 6-7, 305 pounds and performing well enough for NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock to remark that Fisher reminded him of 49ers Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, also from CMU, but the more I see of him, I think hes a better skill set than Staley was coming out of college. Mayock would not be surprised to see Fisher go in the first 10 picks.

OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma -- Fellow NFL Network analyst Charles Davis termed Johnson a little more of a potential pick but and projected that Johnson, like Fisher, could put on 20 more pounds of muscle and slip into the first round as well. Johnson has agility a former quarterback and was a Sooner teammate of current Bear OT Corey Brandon, and Johnson was a tight end as a sophomore when Brandon was a senior.

But the draft scenarios can and often do change based on what happens in free agency. If the Bears land a starter-grade OT, or if they decide theyre OK with Brandon, Gabe Carimi, Jonathan Scott and JMarcus Webb as a group, the focus could be on guard, tight end or a best-available defensive player. The fate of Henry Melton also projects to affect Bears draft targets:

DE Alex Okafor, Texas -- If coaches decide that Shea McClellins future is not confined to hand-on-the-ground defensive end, the need will be for a pass rusher. And no team can have too many of those. Okafor impressed Mayock specifically with his work against Fisher, whod handled Okafor early but the power-rushing ability netted Okafor 12.5 sacks in 2012.

DE Datone Jones, UCLA -- Jones had 19 tackles for loss last season and Davis alluded to Jones suddenness as well as his ability to work at different spots in sub-packages. Mayock added the variable of the juniors, who are not working in the bowl practices but who have first-round quality as pass rushers and outside linebackers.

Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

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Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

The Bears announced on Wednesday they have signed former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace.

Grace attended Bears rookie minicamp earlier this month as a tryout player. 

Grace appeared in 32 games with the Fighting Irish and notched 78 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Grace was named to the Butkus Award Watch List prior to the 2014 season, but ultimately missed the whole year while recovering from a broken leg he suffered against Arizona State in 2013.

Following the 2015 season Grace expressed interest in applying for a sixth year waiver from the NCAA, but didn't fit the league's requirements, as CSNChicago.com Notre Dame Insider JJ Stankevitz highlighted.

To make room for Grace on the 90-man roster the Bears waived linebacker Danny Mason.

Mason spent parts of the 2015 season on both the Bears and Denver Broncos practice squads, but never appeared in a regular season game.

Return of No. 1 pick Kevin White a focal point as Bears begin OTA's

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Return of No. 1 pick Kevin White a focal point as Bears begin OTA's

It was sometime around a year ago that Kevin White’s season started coming off the rails as the rookie wide receiver began experiencing pain in his left leg that ultimately turned out to be a season-ending stress fracture. This week White and the Bears will reset with the startup of organized team activities (OTA’s) that run a handful of days per week, culminating in a mid-June mandatory minicamp before the Bears break until the July 27 opening of training camp in Bourbonnais.

Fewer storylines around the Bears to this point carry the individual significance as that of White, the team’s No. 1 draft choice last year with the intent of his becoming a linchpin of the offense for quite a few years.

Insiders said that White, in the closed portions of practice late last season prior to his being placed on IR, displayed jaw-dropping speed and burst, to the point of Jay Cutler joking that he couldn’t overthrow the kid. The decision to leave White shut down for the balance of the season had more to do with the Bears’ 5-8 record than health concerns; had the Bears beaten San Francisco and Washington and were within reach of the playoffs, White likely is put on the roster with an eye toward the postseason.

But none of that really matters in hindsight. What does matter is what White now does in an offense headed by a new coordinator (Dowell Loggains) and with presumed fellow receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, each of whom had their own 2015 lost playing time due to health issues.

“It’s hard,” Loggains said during rookie minicamp earlier this month of any early impressions of White. “But I can tell you about his character, and he’s everything that we expected.

“He’s a hard worker. His attitude is contagious because he is very positive; he doesn’t have bad days. I think that between him and Eddie and some of the other receivers, they’re bringing out the best of each other, and competition does that. We feel good about the receiver room. It’s a deep room and they’re making each other better.”

Rotoworld: Where the Bears QB situation ranks in the NFL

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Rotoworld: Where the Bears QB situation ranks in the NFL

Jay Cutler enters his eighth season with the Bears with expectations of bouncing back from the team's dismal 6-10 record a year ago.

And while Alshon Jeffery returns as Cutler's top target, general manager Ryan Pace continued to clean house by releasing running back Matt Forte and trading tight end Martellus Bennett to the Patriots.

The Bears will get wide receiver Kevin White back after he missed his entire rookie season with a stress fracture in his left leg. The Bears also spent three draft picks on offensive players, including guard Cody Whitehair in the second round.

Cutler will use those weapons with new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains after Adam Gase took the head coaching job in Miami.

So where do Cutler and the Bears' quarterback situation stand in the NFL? Rotoworld's Patrick Daugherty ranked all 32 teams based on current production, as well as age and injury history, and though the Bears improved it wasn't by much.

21. Bears, Jay Cutler
Last Year’s Ranking: 22

Jay Cutler is coming off the cleanest season of his career, but the man responsible, OC Adam Gase, has packed up and left for South Beach. Security blankets Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett are gone, as well, stripping Cutler of much of the armor that fortified him against his disastrous 2014. Now 33, Cutler hasn’t appeared in all 16 games since 2009. On the bright side, 2015 first-rounder Kevin White is healthy after missing his entire rookie campaign, and Cutler’s coaching buddy Dowell Loggains is replacing Gase. Cutler showed last season that he still has good football left in the tank, but with his guaranteed money out after 2016, he is very much a year-to-year proposition for a team in rebuilding mode.

The Seahawks and Russell Wilson ranked first on the list, followed by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, the Panthers, the Colts and the Steelers.

Surprisingly, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford ranked 11th on the list following a 7-9 season. Just as surprising, Teddy Bridgewater and the NFC champion Vikings ranked 24th, behind Cutler and the Bears. Bridgewater didn't explode in his second pro season but still managed to throw for 3,200 yards and 14 touchdowns while leading the Vikings to an 11-5 record.

You can check out the rest of the list from Daugherty here.