Mullin: Mock drafts differ on Bears selection

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Mullin: Mock drafts differ on Bears selection

Sunday, March 20, 2011
Posted: 7:31 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The thinking on the Bears first-round pick in next months draft is still in its formative stages at Halas Hall but its never too early to play what-if.

CSNChicago.com last week detailed three mock drafts for the Bears, all different: Wes Bunting at the National Football Post giving them Florida center Mike Pouncey; Don Banks of Sports Illustrateds SI.com projecting Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod as a Bear; and Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly predicting Miami tackle Orlando Franklin to be a Bear.

To give you an idea how difficult it is to accurately project what a team at No. 29 will do, here are three more reputable mock Bears: Peter Schrager of FOXSports projects the pick to be Florida State guardcenter Rodney Hudson; Scout.coms John Crist has the Bears going defense with Oregon State strongboy Stephen Paea, a tackle who can bench press a Buick; and WalterFootball.com likes Illinois defensive tackle Corey Lieget for the Bears, after previously leaning toward Pouncey.

So, to sum up: six mock drafts, six different Bears picks and four predicting the Bears go for an offensive lineman with the other two staying on defense.

And the mock draft pick of CSNChicago.coms View From The Moon? Offense. But thats all well say at this point. More on why later this week.

The case for OL

Were there free agency right now, expect the Bears to be pursuing Green Bay endtackle Cullen Jenkins first and possibly Seattles Brandon Mebane second. And the fact that a resolution is all but assured says the Bears can keep their powder dry, go offensive line at the top of their draft and address DT in due course, relying on the avalanche of free agents to keep prices at least reasonable.

A concern with Jenkins is that, while he missed only two games in his first four seasons, he has played all 16 in just one of his last three seasons, although his 7 sacks in 11 games in 2010 jumps out.

But Jenkins also just turned 30 in January and would give the Bears a starting front four composed entirely of 30-somethings: Jenkins, 30; Anthony Adams, 31; Israel Idonije, 30; and Julius Peppers, 31.

Mebanes production fell off the past two seasons but the Seahawks drafted him when Tim Ruskell was running things and Ruskell is now the No. 1 assistant to Jerry Angelo.

Feeling a draft II
I looked last week at how some of the proposed rules changes on kickoffs would likely hurt the Bears and other teams with top special units, which the Bears have starting with Devin Hesters returns. The changes also hit certain teams, including the Bears, in other ways.

The Bears invested a second-round draft choice (2006) in Hester, not as a cornerback, not as a receiver, but as a returner. The Seattle Seahawks recently gave returner Leon Washington, who returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns, a four-year deal worth 12.5 million. Washington has been a solid running back but the Seahawks were locking up a returner more than a backup for Marshawn Lynch.

So, if youre running your teams draft, how much do you factor in the return abilities of a prospect? For that matter, if Hester were coming out of Miami this year, would the Bears even have taken him? Certainly not in the second round.

On the other hand, you have a kicker like Robbie Gould who put in all the work needed to add length to his kickoffs, which were coming from 30-yard line. Now the league is giving him the five yards he worked so hard to add. The league couldve saved him a whooole lot of work.

Non-talk talks

Sorting through wheat and chaff these days with respect to meaningful information on the NFL and NFLPA (were still going to call the decertified players union that, for purposes of brevity) isnt easy. Kudos to Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com for staying on that horse as it bucks and lurches.

Mike has a fast look at the latest comments from John Mara of the New York Giants but he also has a quick jump to the letter from Kevin Mawae, Drew Brees and multiple players to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell which fires back at some of the things the Commish intimated in a letter to players (http:tinyurl.com4nukcyz). Hint: Theyre not happy with Roger.

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.