The NFL Draft Combine is upon us. For those of you, like myself, that get into that kind of thing, this is an exciting week of wall to wall coverage.
As pointed out by Kev H, the Combine is kicking off this week, tomorrow actually. If you've never seen it on NFL Network, it's basically a giant meat market. Potential prospects getting poked and prodded. Athletes being put through tests both physically and mentally. Getting measured and checked out by team physicians, and getting the psychological once over by coaches and general managers.
The one thing I do find odd, is how one day at the combine can wash away years and years of tape for a prospect. Superior athletes that test well can increase their draft stock, even if the film show them to be inconsistent between the lines. And conversely, if you are an outstanding football player, but you don't bench enough reps or you run slower than others, you can see your draft stock plummet. Drafting prospects is an inexact science, and the best at it are able to find the right "athletes" to mold into great players, and look past the poor measurables to find a great football player.
With the Bears not picking until the 3rd round, there really is no point in looking at the big name guys. From a Bears perspective does it really matter if Ndamukong Suh puts up great numbers? Instead I'll give a few names of players that will more than likely be around for the Bears to pick. The areas of need could change depending on what the Bears do come March 5th and free agency, but as it stands now I'm thinking the Bears biggest draft day needs are free safety, offensive line, and defensive line, with a sure bet to target a linebacker and a corner back. The only way I see them looking at a running back or wide receiver is if they have a guy rated high on their board and he slips to them.
Here is the list of players that will be at the Combine, taken from NFL.com. I'll go with some popular names first. I'll also link their name to some scouting info for each player.
Kam Chancellor - Virginia Tech, Senior - Free Safety - I find it interesting that he's listed as a free safety when so many scouts are calling him a strong safety. I honestly think this is a guy that will need good times to improve his draft status, and if he runs well he may shoot out of the Bears reach.
Myron Rolle - Florida State, Senior - Safety - This is the player that took a year off from football to accept a Rhodes Scholarship, and his Senior Bowl performance has put his name back on the radar of GM's around the league. If he runs a 4.4 forty at the Combine (which is the rumor going around)he'll alleviate the fears scouts have about his straight line speed. This guy just seems like the kind of guy the Bears would draft. Most scouts have him pegged as a strong safety, but there is no questioning he has the intelligence to play either spot. If he runs as well as he seems to think he will, he could be a solid pick up in the 3rd round.
Toby Gerhart - Stanford, Senior - Running Back -Yeah I know it's not a need position, but he's a popular name here on WCG. He isn't exactly the perfect fit for a Mike Martz offense, but he'd fill a need for a chain moving power back. And for some reason I think he's the kind of player the Bears would think about if he slips to them. I've seen him rated anywhere from a 2nd through a 4th round prospect, and if his times are as slow as some think, he may be available.
LeGarrette Blount - Oregon, Senior - Running Back -Yeah, I know, another RB, but just like Gerhart, Blount has been mentioned here a bunch. The "punch", and to a greater extent his suspension, really hurt his draft status. Oregon was planning on him getting the ball a lot. His good Senior Bowl raised a few eyebrows, and if he has some good times at the combine he may see his stock rise. If he's still still on the board in the 6th round I think Jerry Angelo may take a shot. And at 6'1", he could fit the H-Back role that Martz likes.
Sam Young - Notre Dame, Senior - Offensive Tackle - Young has already had his write up in the Tribune, as brought to our attention yesterday in the Den. After not impressing much at the Senior Bowl practices, he had a pretty good game. He was asked to pass protect a lot at Notre Dame, but he doesn't have the quickness to play left tackle in the NFL, yet he doesn't have the girth (6'8" 305) most teams look for in a right tackle. So who would be interested in a slightly undersized right tackle known for pass blocking?
Now I'll list a few other players to keep tabs on that seem like players the Bears would target.
Jared Veldheer - Hillsdale, Senior - Offensive Tackle - Hillsdale College? Veldheer was at the Texas vs. The Nation game, and that's a game the Bears have heavily scouted in the past. The problem for the Bears is that his stock has been shooting up since that game. I've seen Veldheer listed from 6'7" to 6'9", and at about 320 pounds, he's very athletic. The Division 2 prospect is slated to go between the 3rd and 5th rounds, a lot will depend on his drill work at the combine. He fits the bill for an Angelo draft pick.
Jeff Byers - USC, Senior - Guard/Center -This late round prospect has a bit of an injury history that may scare off some teams. I've seen him rated from the 4th round to the 6th round, and the Bears are sure to look to find an interior lineman to mold. When scouts talk about a player as "having a mean streak", "a nasty disposition", and "plays with aggression", that's the kind of player I like to look out for.
Lindsey Witten - Connecticut, Senior, Defensive End - Here is a late round project guy I can see the Bears taking a flier on. Known as a pass rush specialist in college, he is a high motor guy that is willing to put in the work to get better. He's known more as an athlete and will hope to test well to increase his stock.
I don't put much stock into mock drafts until after the combine, as things really can change a bunch after players test. And even then some mock drafts are so far 'out there' it's hard to tell what they're thinking. But I try and do my homework at numerous mock draft sites and try and keep up to date on all the draft rumors floating around. Next week I'll get into the specific round by round need for the Bears.