Mullin: With the 29th pick the Bears select...

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Mullin: With the 29th pick the Bears select...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:02 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Every draft takes on its own unique character and 2011 should do exactly that, given the precarious state of NFL personnel management right now with free agency on hold. Rarely do drafts play out entirely as envisioned because one pick, one trade, can blow up the best-laid plans of teams, and mock-drafters.

But from a variety of personnel sources and evaluations, View from the Moon has established exactly how the first round of the 2011 draft will unfold.

More or less

1. Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, QB, Auburn.

Comment: The Panthers want to trade down and could throw the draft into early chaos with a big move. But the first pick of the Ron Rivera Era needs to be a franchise-turner. Jimmy Clausen was a No. 2 last year but the chance to get THE guy is rare and Newton is that, even with the questions and lack of extensive track record. The variable is Marcell Dareus as a franchise interior force
2. Denver Broncos Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Comment: New coach John Fox is a defense guy, knows what a dominant D-lineman means to a franchise, and he has a chance to get one now to anchor a 4-3 scheme.

3. Buffalo Bills Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Comment: Considered by some to be the best single player in the 011 draft, and is there a better 3-4 pass rusher than this?

4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Comment: The Carson Palmer situation is an organizational crisis and the Bengals could surprise and grab Gabbert ahead of Arizona. But the fourth-best player in this draft is Green and that may turn Palmers head back in the right direction.

5. Arizona Cardinals Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Comment: The temptation will be to snag LSU CB Patrick Peterson but a franchise refitting starts at one position: QB. Matt Leinart didnt work out. Neither did Derek Anderson. Kurt Warner is gone. This franchise still has the taste of a Super Bowl in its mouth and thats not going to happen without settling the quarterback issue.

6. Cleveland Browns Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Comment: Colt McCoy settled some questions at QB and Mike Holmgren knows what a physical receiver can mean to any offense, West Coast or other.
7. San Francisco 49ers Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Comment: New coach Jim Harbaugh wouldve preferred another position but hes a former QB and knows this is an elite-value position and Peterson is a gem by all accounts.

8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Comment: Probably one of the bigger boom-or-bust figures in the draft and could be something special. But hes a one-year wonder and Tennessee will be pleasantly surprised if this kind of talent falls to them, even with the question marks.

9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith, T. USC.

Comment: Dallas knows the value of being strong up front and also knows Tony Romos limits if they dont protect him. Smith has major upside and could supplant Marc Columbo whos winding down at RT, but he projects as a franchise LT.

10 Washington Redskins Aldon Smith, LBDE, Missouri
Comment: This is a draft pivot point. Smith is a hybrid at 6-4, 263 pounds and gives the Redskins a disruptor who can be moved around to create mismatches and still play with power at the point. But Mike Shanahan is used to having a quarterback situation better than what hes got now and either Jake Locker or Andy Dalton would not be a complete surprise here.

11. Houston Texans Robert Quinn, LBDE North Carolina

Comment: Wade Phillips lives with his 3-4 scheme and 3-4s live or die with pass-rushing outside backers. If Aldon Smith isnt snapped up by now, the Texans will take him and be grateful. But Quinn, one of the Tarheels suspended for 010, is an elite pass rusher and can fit in two places.

12. Minnesota Vikings Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Comment: A year ago Locker might have gone No. 1 overall. But this is a franchise-grade need and brings another potential elite young QB into a division that already has Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Do not rule out Donovan McNabb in Minnesota either.

13. Detroit Lions Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Comment: Detroit has its QB (Stafford), RB (Jahvid Best), and WR (Calvin Johnson) in place. OT Anthony Castonzo fits a need on the OL but does not carry this high a grade. Detroit needs to keep pace with a division that is staffing up at QB and Amukamara is a 6-foot corner with 4.4 speed. Jimmy Smith may be a surprise instead but a DB behind Ndamukong Suh is a natural.

14 St. Louis Rams Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Comment: The Bears would have loved a shot at this Tommie Harris replacement but the Rams will get there ahead of them with an inside force that will make their entire defense better.

15. Miami Dolphins Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Comment: Chad Pennington is not the solution and there are other options here, like Ryan Mallett. But Mallett has some maturity questions and Dalton is a career winner, a leader, and showed character with offseason work to master skills of an under-center QB after being a shotgunner til now.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Comment: Jack DelRio is in jeopardy and needs an impact pass rusher to make his defense work, which it hasnt always.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) Muhammed Wilkerson, DE, Temple

Comment: The run on D-linemen in Round One continues. Wilkerson on one side of Vince Wolfork is an athletic 310-pounder in the Richard Seymour mold physically and is a perfect edge presence in Bill Belichicks 3-4.

18 San Diego Chargers J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Comment: Watt may go to New England the pick before this, in which case Wilkerson becomes a fit in San Diego. Watt projects to bookend with Luis Castillo on a Charger front three that needs to take a next step in dominance.

19. New York Giants Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Comment: Thisll be a pick from the group of Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Pouncey, but the bloodlines here and the Giants need in the middle is critical.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Comment: Finally, after so many defensive linemen, the dam starts to burst for the run on offensive linemen. The Bucs have something in QB Josh Freeman and a move on Alabama RB Mark Ingram, a surprise drop in the draft, is there for them but a potential franchise LT is harder to find.

21. Kansas City Chiefs Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Comment: The debate in the draft room will be between Carimi and UCLA rush-linebacker Akeem Ayers. But Carimi is starter-grade at either right or left tackle and the Chiefs were pedestrian in pass protection for Matt Cassel.

22. Indianapolis Colts Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Comment: Bill Polian doesnt panic on draft day but his offense was No. 1 in sack percentage only because of Peyton Mannings savvy. The Colts were 27th in rushing average and Polian went defense last year. He finds quality character players and has chosen defensive players with two straight first picks just once since 1992. He wont this year either.

23. Philadelphia Eagles Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Comment: Another turning-point pick. Michael Vick was hoping for help up front but the run on tackles drained a lot of depth from the talent pool. This pick will come down to help on the OL with either Danny Watkins or Derek Sherrod, or on defense with an edge player, likely one of the Camerons (Heyward or Jordan). Adrian Clayborn fits the Hugh DouglassTrent Cole mold but Jordan is bigger and as fast.
24. New Orleans Saints Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Comment: The Saints have some force up front but ranked 32nd in interception percentage and posted an NFL-low 9 INTs. Help in the secondary is a major priority.

25. Seattle Seahawks Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina

Comment: Another surprise pick but a reasonable one for a team that needs a disruptor up front, particularly with under-tackle Brandon Mebane a possible loss through free agency. QB looms as a need but the Seahawks need to stop people and Austin was a first-round talent before his 010 suspension.

26. Baltimore Ravens Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Comment: Ozzie Newsome has built a premier franchise drafting linemen in his first rounds and Sherrod is a quality individual who will be a rookie starter at one OT spot. QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice behind an elite line makes for a Super Bowl threat.

27. Atlanta Falcons Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Comment: DaQuan Bowers is still on the board and may be too good to pass up even with his knee questions. But Heyward is a power player who fits either inside or outside and rates a physical edge over Adrian Clayborn.
28. New England Patriots Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Comment: The Pats took care of their defensive front at No. 17 and Ingram is a solid pick for an offense that knows how to use running backs to augment No. 12.

SEE SIDEBAR FOR BEARS 29TH PICK

30. New York Jets Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

Comment: Ayers was high on a number of draft boards but did not help himself at the Combine. The proliferation of 3-4s, however, have boosted the stock of hybrid LBDE types like Ayers, who has played showed flashes of stardom but not consistently enough. Rex Ryan is looking for someone to be what Vernon Gholston was supposed to be.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Comment: The Steelers havent taken a DB in the first round since Troy Polamalu and Mike Tomlin wants to keep a Pittsburgh defensive tradition at the highest level.

32 Green Bay Packers Justin Houston, LB, Georgia

Comment: With Green Bays record of landing quality LBs well beyond drafts early picks (Nick Barnett, Desmond Bishop, Clay Matthews), this is always a pick of note. Dom Capers gets another bit of ammunition for his attack 3-4. Houston may be gone a couple picks ago (Jets) but if hes there, he fits a number of roles in the Green Bay version of the 3-4.

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.

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.