Draft odds and end zones: Good news, bad news for Bears

Draft odds and end zones: Good news, bad news for Bears
February 18, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Going into a draft at, say, No. 20 in the first round, you want two things: a deep pool of elite players at positions you’ve targeted, and at least a reasonable number of talented selections at one or two positions you have no intention of addressing at that point.

For the Bears, and their needs on the offensive line, with age at center in Roberto Garza and issues at guard (Lance Louis, James Brown) and tackle, they could not have set this draft up a whole lot better. Add in the possibility of picking up a lineman through free agency prior to the draft, and the Bears may be looking at one of the better draft situations for them in recent years.

“The deepest positions will be offensive line: center, guard and tackle,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

“I’ve never seen two guards [Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina; Chance Warmack, Alabama] at the top end, this good and who could be Top 10. Love ‘em.

“I’ve got six tackles that I’ve given first-round grades to.”

Doing the math: Based on Mayock’s assessments, there is enough talent, including centers, for more than half of the 19 teams picking ahead of the Bears to take linemen -- meaning a true first-round talent would be a legitimate “best available” when the Bears pick.

One other plus: The Bears are not expected to be looking hard at the defensive line in the first round. So it is very good news that Mayock says “the defensive tackle depth is outstanding.”

Apply the same to safety, where the Bears have Chris Conte and Major Wright in place and Brandon Hardin, last year’s No. 3 who was “red-shirted” because of a preseason neck injury. “The safety depth is outstanding,” per Mayock. If a safety or two go before No. 20, it just pushes those elite offensive linemen closer to the Bears.

A caveat: A deep pool is useless if the organization picks the wrong guy. The 2008 draft was deep in first-round tackle talent. Jake Long (No. 1).  Ryan Clady (12). Brandon Albert (15). Gosder Cherilus (17). Duane Brown (26). Jeff Otah (19). The Bears ended up with Chris Williams at No. 14.

Now the (sort of) bad news:

It didn’t hurt the Bears last draft that they wanted a pass rusher at No. 19 and three teams ahead of them (Indianapolis, Washington, Miami) jumped at quarterbacks within the first 18 picks.

But the 2013 quarterback class could have zero quarterbacks going in the first round, based on experts’ grades at this point.

That is bad news and potentially long-term good news for the Bears.

Expanding on a previous CSNChicago.com note, the draft class is lining up to facilitate the Bears doing what successful teams do: address their quarterback depth chart with a possible mid-round nugget for development.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay was enthusiastic about the depth of the quarterback class but not its top end. That works well for the Bears, who would rather look to myriad other positions first for more immediate help.

McShay cited more than half-dozen quarterbacks that arguably belonged somewhere in the second round (they won’t all go there), but “I will not give a first-round grade to any of these.”

Bears drafting a QB (cont’d.)

The Bears don’t have a third-round pick and a scenario involving a No. 2 is nearly impossible to conjure up. But as I mentioned in the earlier item, the Washington Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III second overall, took Kirk Cousins in the fourth round, and were in the playoffs because of a victory Cousins saved and another he won as a starter.

The Bears drafted Kyle Orton in the 2005 fourth round, lost Rex Grossman most of the season with a broken ankle in preseason, and were in the playoffs with their rookie and without resorting to veteran Jeff Blake.

The New England Patriots with Tom Brady and the Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning invested second-round draft choices in their succession plans: Ryan Mallett behind Brady, Brock Osweiler as Manning’s understudy. The Bears are younger at quarterback than either of those teams, but, at least at this point, are less settled on their “franchise” quarterback, who also has not played 16 games since 2009.

If Cutler does not work for coach Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, the Bears would avoid going into the 2014 draft forced to draft a quarterback out of need, the absolute worst position-draft scenario.

The Bears missed with Dan LeFevour (6th, 2010) and Mike Martz’s pick, Nathan Enderle (5th, 2011). Unless they are prepared to continue backing Cutler with aging veterans, the pipeline will likely need attention closer to Orton’s round.

And this draft may break that way for them.