Mullin: Don't dismiss NFL mock drafts


Mullin: Don't dismiss NFL mock drafts

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Posted: 11:47 a.m.

By John Mullin

With the two sides idling in the matter of the NFL vs. group-formerly-known-as-the-NFLPA, the draft is still percolating and is now a little more than a month away.

What that means is the mock drafts are starting in earnest. Dont dismiss them entirely, because NFL teams are doing exactly the same thing, many times over. So its worth looking at a handful, and Ill do this from time to time as the draft approaches.

The Pouncey Pounce

Wes Bunting at National Football Post lays out a scenario that the Bears would dearly hope plays out.

Wes, who discussed some intriguing possibilities to watch for the Bears in some later rounds, particularly at wide receiver, projects Florida center-guard Mike Pouncey becoming a Bear at No. 29, with Baylor guard Danny Watkins being selected by New England at No. 28.

The qualifier, if you want to call it that, is that Mike is not as good as his brother Markice was as a rookie starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Wes thought here is that while the Bears would probably like to go tackle first, Pouncey is too good to pass up. A very possible scenario is for the Bears to move JMarcus Webb from right to left tackle and Chris Williams, who was barely adequate at left tackle, from left guard to right tackle, where he was better in 09.

The Bears are prepared to move forward without Olin Kreutz and Roberto Garza could move back from right guard to his original NFL position. But Garza has years on him and Edwin Williams could not hold the starting job at right guard when he had his 010 chance. If Pouncey is there, hes a Bear.
The Sherrod Scenario

Sports Illustrateds Don Banks on has Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod. Don also has two quarterbacks going in the first three picks, with Blaine Gabbert to Ron Rivera and Cam Newton headed to Buffalo at No. 3 (wonder how Cams father feels about that).

Part of Dons thinking is that Sherrod would be the best tackle remaining, which the Bears would not mind in the least. In DonsWorld, Mike Pouncey goes one pick ahead of the Bears at No. 28 to New England. The problem I see with that is that if the Florida center-guard lasts that long, the Bears would have vaulted a team or three and gone up to grab the guy that line coach Mike Tice loves and would project as the franchise center in the post-Olin era.

Same with Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, another Bears favorite. Don has the Eagles taking Carimi, the self-proclaimed best OT in the draft, and if Carimi were lasting that long, which could well happen, would the Bears wait and hope, or trade up? Because trading up is a far greater possibility with personnel man Tim Ruskell alongside GM Jerry Angelo. Colorado tackle Nate Solder was gone at No. 22 (Indianapolis) and Anthony Castonzo from Boston College went at No. 19 to the New York Giants.

Behold the Run

What I do like particularly about Dons assessment is the run on tackles, which I see as absolutely the scenario. Tackles are at a premium anyway, and Angelo believes they go anywhere from one to two rounds above their grade simply because offensive linemen are difficult to find in sufficient quantities.

Mel Kiper said a week ago that teams like the Bears will be unlikely to find a premium OL product late in the second round. They and other teams know this, so when the first one or two go, the rush will be on to take one from a small but high-quality assortment.
The Cane Mutiny

The Bears definitely will go offensive line, according to the scenario of Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki, and they will come out of day one with Miami tackle Orlando Franklin, Nolan projects.

This is one of the first times Franklins name has come up at this level of the first round and Nolan has Franklin going to the Bears even with Sherrod on the board. But as much as Angelo likes Florida players, he is every bit as sold on Miami products, given the success of Devin Hester and Greg Olsen on the current roster.

Nolans projections include Carimi No. 13 to the Lions; Tyron Smith No. 20 to Tampa Bay; Pouncey No. 21 to Kansas City; Castonzo at No. 22 to the Colts; Solder No. 24 to the Saints. Theres that run thing again.
Just worth noting.

Some things to remember through all of this and the draft-info blizzard coming over the next month:

One is that there isnt much real NFL news happening right now. A break could come before the anticipated Apr. 6 court date regarding decertification and the lockout matters. But the draft, always an interesting, absorbing diversion in the lull before NBA and NHL playoffs and semi-meaningful baseball, is the best game in town right now.

The other is that this is seriously difficult forecasting. Not just the Bears pick at No. 29, which is in the cluster range where your best bet is a pool of 3-5 players who should be on the board then. Its also a dicey year at the top:

Wes sees Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley going No. 1 overall to Carolina. Dons call is Blaine Gabbert. And Nolan has the Panthers selecting Alabama defensive tackle Marcel Dareus.

There. Glad we cleared all that up.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

No hard feelings between John Fox and Jay Cutler, but no clear future, either

No hard feelings between John Fox and Jay Cutler, but no clear future, either

Jay Cutler returned to practice as he left it before the Week 2 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he suffered a thumb injury that sidelined him for the past five games. He was back as the No. 1 quarterback.

But the landscape changed over those five weeks, at least outwardly, with Brian Hoyer filling in with a succession of 300-yard passing games and coach John Fox indicating that as long as Hoyer was performing well, he could hold onto the job.

Now Hoyer is gone to IR with a broken left arm suffered in a Week 7 loss to the Green Bay Packers and Cutler returns to a situation where his head coach’s endorsement and support has appeared conditional.

“He doesn’t have a choice, I guess, at this point,” Cutler said on Tuesday. “Brian is out, so I’ve got to go. I’ve had good conversations with Foxy this week, last week, the week before. There’s never been any strain in our relationship. We’re both very open and honest, and we’re on the same page. We just want to win football games.”

Fox has been ripped in some quarters for what was taken as creating a quarterback controversy. In fact, consistent with a competition mantra that has applied to every position since the end of last season, Fox supported each quarterback when their time was at hand: Hoyer when Hoyer was performing well, and Cutler now that he is back.

Bill Belichick made it clear that, regardless of how well Jimmy Garappolo played for his New England Patriots, Tom Brady would be back as the starter when his four-game suspension was over. Cutler has not established a Brady lock on the position.

Speaking about the running back situation, where one-time starter Jeremy Langford is returning from injury to find Ka’Deem Carey and Jordan Howard in front of him, Fox laid out the NFL reality, which applies to the Cutler-Howard situation.

“Earlier in the season I mentioned that way back in the day, if you were the starter, when you got hurt, it was yours when you came back,” Fox said. “Well, that’s not really the case as much anymore. It can be; you’re going to play the best guy and there’s competition to be involved in that.”

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The broader issue overhanging Cutler is whether the Bears plan to bring him back in 2017. This season has been bluntly described as a prove-it year for Cutler, who has no guaranteed contract money after this year, and Cutler has not proven a great deal in seven quarters of football, with a 75.7 passer rating, one TD pass and two interceptions.

Whether that is regressing from last year to levels closer to his career standards is what the next several weeks will reveal. At this level, the Bears would be unlikely to pay Cutler $15 million in 2017.

“I think those are conversations for the end of the year,” Cutler said. “Right now I’m working with Dowell [Loggains, offensive coordinator] and ‘Rags’ [QB coach Dave Ragone] and we’re just trying to find first downs and get our third-down conversion rate back up, score more points. That’s all we’re really trying to do and that’s all my focus is.

“Whatever happens at the end of the year, it’s supposed to happen, and we’ll go accordingly. But right now it’s not something that I worry about. It’s my 11th year, my eighth year here. I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, and it’s how it goes. At the end of the year, we can have those conversations. Whatever happens, happens.”

As far as the best way to handle the inevitable questions about the future, “I think ignoring it is,” Cutler said. “I think it's going to be there; you can't completely ignore it.”

Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II

Bears In-Foe: Vikings defense is Purple People Eaters, Part II

It's bad enough that Jay Cutler will be rusty and he may not have Kyle Long and Josh Sitton protecting him. But even if all the Bears' offensive hands were on deck, Monday night's challenge would've been formidable anyway.

The Vikings' defense leads the league in fewest yards allowed (279.5 per game), is tied for the league-lead in allowing fewest points (14.0), third in rushing defense (81.7), fourth in pass defense (197.8), and sixth in third-down defense (34.2 percent). And oh yeah, they lead the league in turnover ratio (plus-11), courtesy of their nine interceptions (tied for second), seven fumble recoveries and 19 sacks (seventh-most in the NFL).

It's nice to have quality and depth up front. That's where that push comes from, especially off the edges, with ends Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and sophomore Danielle Hunter supplying four sacks apiece. That trio combined for 21.5 sacks a year ago (when the Bears totaled 35 as a team). And while injury-prone Sharrif Floyd finds himself sidelined again since the opener, tackle Linval Joseph (three sacks) is back playing at the All-Pro level he was at a year ago before an ankle injury slowed him. And Tom Johnson contributed 6.5 sacks a year ago rotating in with Floyd at three-technique.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Purple a fitting color for Vikings' battered, bruised offense]

Reunited UCLA linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are in their second year together in a run the Bears will likely have to deal with for another decade. This is the 11th and final year they'll see Chad Greenway, who's more leader than playmaker now in the middle of that defense.

Ryan Pace, Vic Fangio and position coach Ed Donatell must also be jealous of the Vikings' deep defensive backfield. Top cover man Xavier Rhodes, last year's top pick Trae Waynes and Andrew Sendejo have two picks each. Waynes still hasn't taken a job away from ageless 37-year-old Terence Newman. The Vikes were trying to upgrade on Sendejo, who answered the challenge and should be able to play Monday after departing the Eagles game with an ankle injury he suffered almost taking an interception to the house. It's almost unfair that second-round rookie Mackensie Alexander can't even surpass fourth cornerback Captain Munnerlyn for playing time.

But we must not forget Harrison Smith. The humble Golden Domer, humorously nicknamed "Gangsta White Boy" by Adrian Peterson, became the NFL's richest safety by inking a five-year, $51 million deal this summer, is coming off a first Pro Bowl that probably would've come sooner if not for a couple injuries. Two of his four career pick-sixes have come against the Bears, and Pro Football Focus has him as the only safety to grade positively in coverage, run support, and pass rush over each of the last two seasons.

Special teams

Just as Robbie Gould fell under the microscope of the current Bears brass with last season's rough finish, the strong-legged Blair Walsh probably feels a few more eyes on him after missing the 27-yard game-winning attempt in the frigid playoff loss to Seattle. He's 10-of-13 on field goals this season, 11-of-13 on extra points.

But while the Vikings' kickoff coverage was burned by Josh Huff's return Sunday in Philadelphia, the Bears coverage units have to be disciplined and smart against Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels. Both have burned the Bears more than once before. With more than his seven kick returns, Patterson's 29.9 average would lead the league. Sherels' 14.6-yard return average on punts ranks third in the NFL. He's already returned two for touchdowns this season after burning the Bears at Soldier Field a year to the day short of Monday's contest.