Where can Bears find immediate impact player?

Where can Bears find immediate impact player?
February 24, 2013, 12:15 am
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Mark Strotman

Bears general manager Phil Emery spoke Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, mentioning to the media that he would like to see the Bears select a player who can have an immediate impact on his respective side of the ball.

CSNChicago.com's John "Moon" Mullin joined Matt Bowen in Indianapolis to discuss where the Bears can potentially find that type of player in this year's draft class.

The Bears have the No. 20 selection in the first round, and Mullin wondered whether an offensive linemen -- a position the Bears are sure to address in free agency or in the NFL Draft -- could have a true impact in his freshman season.

"I think they can realistically start, but you have to have realistic expectations," Bowen said. "You're not getting a 10-year veteran who's been to five Pro Bowls. You're getting a rookie who's gonna have the ups and downs, he might get tired toward the end of the year, has to learn new techniques, can't always rely on the same old thing."

Bowen noted that most players see their biggest jumps from Year 1 to Year 2, not from their final collegiate seasons to their rookie seasons in the NFL. As an offensive lineman, Bowen said that means learning points early and potentially injuries later in the season.

"You can insert him and say, 'Yeah, he's our left tackle, maybe he's our right tackle.' But you have to understand there's gonna be some times when you say, 'Man, he looks like a rookie,'" he said. "Because that's what they are, they're rookies."

Notable offensive linemen expected to go in the first round include Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel (OT), Central Michigan's Eric Fisher (OT),  Alabama's Chance Warmack (OG) and D.J. Fluker (OT) and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson (OT).

[RELATED: Emery's offseason goal: Create more competition]

Bowen did note, however, that is a player slips on Draft Day -- he specifically mentioned Johnson -- the Bears shouldn't hesitate to grab him.

"We'll go through the ups and downs because we know this guy might be, 10 years from now, the guy we thought he was: Five Pro Bowls, consistent football player, and a guy you can build an entire offensive line around," he said.

The Bears have spent two of their last three first-round selections on offensive linemen, drafting Chris Williams with the No. 14 pick in 2008 and Gabe Carimi with the No. 29 pick in 2011. Williams played nine games (zero) starts his rookie season, and Carimi made two starts the year he was drafted. Last year he made all 16 starts at right tackle. Last year the Bears selected defensive end/outside linebacker Shea McClellin, who finished the season with 2.5 sacks.

And while the Bears are not likely to address the position early in the draft, Bowen suggested the Bears look into a deep-ball threat at wide receiver. With possession receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett -- the first two of whom Bowen likened to LeBron James working in the post when the receivers work inside -- Bowen thinks a speedster in the slot could open up the rest of the field. That, he said, would be considered an "impact player," even if the box score didn't show it.

"You have that one guy who, you're a safety going to bed Saturday night in the hotel and you can't get to bed because you're thinking, 'You know what? If that guy gets in my cushion, because I'm playing Cover-2, and I look in the backfield or don't open my hips quick enough, hey, it's time to strike up the band and play the fight song because it's six points.'

So I always value those speed guys. I'm not talking about a guy who has 40, 50, 60 catches as a rookie. I'm talking about a guy that scares he heck out of defensive secondaries, impacts defensive game-plans," he added.

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