Bears Chances of Finding an Inside Linebacker at the 11th Spot in the Draft May Not Be Good

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times comments on the upcoming NFL draft:

“ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the Bears taking Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland with the No. 11 pick in the first round of his first mock draft.

“‘[He’s a] guy who can really, [really] handle the run and be a great leader,’ Kiper said. ‘He’s a run-stuffer. He’s got good range. Coverage ability is OK. It’s not great — you saw that exposed in the National Championship Game. Tremendous, tremendous intangibles. All the physical qualifications you want. Overall, he would fill a void there [and] can step right in.'”

I caught an interview with former Bears personnel man Greg Gabriel on WSCR Wednesday and he was considerably less optimistic about the Bears chances of taking an inside linebacker in the first round.  Gabriel is currently preparing the annual draft guide publication for Hub Arkush.

Gabriel doesn’t see Ragland as a first rounder saying “He’ll run 4.7 [seconds in the 40 yard dash] at the combine.” He also believes that Myles Jack out of UCLA, who Kiper has going at the 10 spot to the New York Giants, as more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive back guy who excels in coverage. Gabriel doesn’t believe that Jack would fit the profile the Bears are looking for.

If Gabriel is right, it might not be great year to find a playmaker at the inside linebacker spot and the Bears will likely be looking in another direction with their first round pick.

Special Problem

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times makes a good point about the Bears special teams:

“The Bears have obvious priorities in signing their own free agents this offseason: wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, cornerback Tracy Porter, running back Matt Forte, linebacker Shea McClellin and tight end Zach Miller— probably in that order. But they can’t ignore special teams. And their top four special-teams tacklers from last season are free agents: Sherrick McManis (17), Joshua Bellamy (10), Chris Prosinski (9) and Sam Acho (8). Their two main kick returners — [Marc] Mariani and Deonte Thompson (29.2 yards per kickoff return) also are free agents.”

I don’t expect that any of these guys would be too tough to resign. And given that Prosinski, Acho and Mariani all contributed in good ways on the field at various times during the season is a good indicaiton that the Bears will want them back. Even Bellamy, who has a bad habit of dropping  passes, showed his value at times when called upon as the wide receiver position was devastated with injuries at certain times. But I’m not too sure about McManis, who struggled to cover slot receivers at the nickel back position when given a chance to play.

Special teamers ideally have to be decent backups as well. I’m not too sure the Bears will decide that they can afford to carry McManis if they feel that he can’t be relied upon when needed.