I’ve promised an occasional update on who various mock drafts around the Internet say the Bears will be taking. Today seemed like a good day for it.
There are lots of names to consider as the experts are all over the board with this pick. Most rightly have the Bears looking at offensive and defensive linemen. But as I’ve said before, general manager Jerry Angelo is most likely to take the best player available at any one of a variety of positions. The Bears have two linebackers on the entire roster. Its unlikely that there are any safeties worthy of the pick but cornerback and even wide receiver are not out of the realm of possibility in the first round if the right guy falls.
What matters most is that this pick be an impact player if at all possible.
Rodney Hudson, G/C, Florida State: The Bears have needs across the offensive line and would be more than pleased to snag Hudson, a fast-rising prospect who impressed during his workouts and interviews at the Combine. Though he played guard in college, Hudson — who weighed in at 299 pounds in Indy — could be a center in the NFL. Versatile, smart and sound, Hudson would be an immediate upgrade for Chicago’s shaky front five.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: The release of [Tommie] Harris means three-technique tackle just shot up the list of priorities, and Paea can do more than just bench 225 pounds 49 times.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: The Bears offensive line needs attention and Sherrod is the highest-rated remaining tackle available. Though his play has drawn some comparisons to underachieving 2008 Bears first-round pick Chris Williams — not what Chicago fans want to hear — Sherrod is considered NFL-ready and would offer the Bears immediate help.
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado:
Chicago should be thrilled if Solder is available here. He has added bulk to a 6-foot-8 frame, making him a guy who could help in a run game that really fell off in 2010. All the questions about his toughness aside, Chicago let Jay Cutler take far too many hits over the last two seasons and Mike Martz isn’t reluctant to run the ball if he has an offensive line he can run behind with consistency.
[Author’s note: Kiper often seems to have a good handle on what the Bears are thinking. I’m expecting him to update this mock draft any day and I’ll probably do a separate post on it.]
Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: The Bears know there is some depth late in the first round at corner and get a shot at a smooth athlete. Williams ran a slow 40 at the combine and needs to run faster at some point. He’ll have a chance at Texas’ pro day on March 28.
Sherrod: This is a tough spot for the Bears and I struggled with who to project here. Chicago won’t find a solid answer when it comes to upgrading at left offensive tackle or 3-technique on defense, and Sherrod is a bit of a reach here but he is the best available tackle and does offer the versatility to move inside to guard if needed. I can see the Bears sensing problems at No. 29 and trading up in an effort to get [Mike] Pouncey, or they could offer this pick to a team targeting a specific player and looking to trade back into the end of the first round. If they’re stuck, though, needs could go out the window and Chicago could simply take the top player on its board.
Pouncey, C/OG, Florida: I think the Bears would like to add a tackle here, but with a value like Pouncey still on the board — who can come in and fill a number of holes inside early in his NFL career — he might be too good to pass up.
Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: Liuget has the talent to warrant consideration in the top 20, but could see a slip on draft day through no fault of his own. The 6-2, 298-pounder is a classic three-technique defensive tackle for the 4-3 alignment and with only half of the teams operating out of this scheme, he could take a tumble as clubs focus on bigger needs. His strength, surprising quickness and low center of gravity could make him an ideal fit for the Bears, especially with Chicago’s recent release of Tommie Harris.
Liuget: Tommie Harris is gone and Anthony Adams is a free agent.
Liuget: They let Tommie Harris go, which means they need help inside. They take the local kid to take a step in that direction.
Sherrod: For whatever reason, Sherrod isn’t highly valued amongst the draftniks out there. He’s an instant starter at left tackle in Chicago.
Liuget: The general consensus is that the Bears most glaring need is along the offensive line and that they are a mortal lock to go in that direction with this pick. There is no denying that Chicago has issues up front and they might very well opt for a blocker in round one. However, USC’s Tyron Smith, Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Colorado’s Nate Solder could all be gone by this point and the next best option would be Derek Sherrod of Mississippi St, who is considered to be a borderline first round talent. If that’s the case the Bears may choose to look elsewhere. One alternative may be defensive tackle, where Tommie Harris was recently sent packing and they lack the type of disruptive playmaker at the position that is so crucial in Lovie Smith’s system. Local product Corey Liuget of Illinois is an athletic, quick, penetrating three-technique who’d be an ideal replacement for Harris. Liuget still doesn’t get much ink but make no mistake about it, he’s a legit (pun intended) first rounder who could even be selected much earlier than this. It probably wouldn’t hurt to add a top-flight cornerback such as Jimmy Smith of Colorado or Aaron Williams of Texas either since there isn’t much to speak of beyond Charles Tillman.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DT,Temple: By releasing Tommie Harris the Bears opened up a gaping hole on their defensive line. If the season started today they would probably be forced to start Matt Toeaina and Henry Melton at tackle. The Bears defense has been great for a number of years now, but the system only works if the defensive line does its job. Wilkerson didn’t get attention playing at Temple, but he’s established himself as a legitimate 1st-round pick in his offseason workouts.
Liuget: The poor Bears can’t upgrade their offensive front because all the first-round prospects are off the board. They could reach for Ben Ijalana or Stefen Wisniewski, but they might as well just wait until Round 2 to upgrade the line.
Corey Liuget is the best player available, and he makes a ton of sense for Chicago. Tommie Harris lost his starting job due to performance and was ultimately released. The Bears will be seeking an upgrade at defensive tackle.
Other 2011 NFL Draft Possibilities:
1. Derek Sherrod, OT or Mike Pouncey, G – The Bears have to improve Jay Cutler’s protection.
2. Brandon Harris, CB – The Bears will look to upgrade the cornerback position this offseason. Brandon Harris is the top cornerback on the board.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pitt: Jay Cutler has had some good games this year and of late has had some really really bad games. I think he has some good receiving weapons but he doesn’t have any big targets. So I have them taking a top tier WR in Jonathan Baldwin from Pitt. Baldwin showed that he has very good physical skills at the combine but I am still not sure that he is a first round prospect….
Liuget: Julius Peppers worked wonders for Chicago’s defensive line last season, and if Rod Marinelli could find an interior rusher capable of upgrading the inside, the Bears would be in business. Liuget has the initial quickness to thrive in gaps and could help replace Tommie Harris, who was cut.
Liuget: Despite a 1st-round offensive line talent remaining, the Bears address a secondary need along the interior d-line, especially after the departure of Tommie Harris. Ending what could be a very undeserving slide, I have the Bears staying in-state with Liuget…
Roemer Recommendation – Allen Bailey, DT, University of Miami: With Liuget rightly off the board in the top 10 of my recommended mock, Allen Bailey should sneak into the back of the 1st round. He quietly had two very productive upper-class campaigns to close out his college career, including impact penetration plays.