Chicago Bears: 5 Off-the-Radar First-Round Prospects
One of the biggest moves in the early stages of the Bears' offseason has been to let go of long-time general manager, Jerry Angelo. Many have applauded the move by the organization, as Angelo's track record, particularly in regards to the draft, has been terrible.
With the Bears conducting interviews for a new general manager, it appears that the organization is looking for someone with strong ties to scouting and player development.
The Bears will be in the middle of the pack of this year's draft with the 19th selection. There has been much speculation so far to suggest that the Bears should take a wide receiver like Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd with their first pick, but, personally, I feel there are just as capable wide receivers that will be available in later rounds.
Here is a list of the five off-the-radar prospects I think the Bears could take with the 19th overall pick.
No. 5 Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Kuechly is primarily a middle linebacker, and with Brian Urlacher getting older, there is a need to find his eventual replacement.
The Bears could start Kuechly as the strong side linebacker for the next few seasons, and once Urlacher decides to retire, they can shift him back inside to the middle linebacker position. Because of his good tackling ability as well as above average coverage skills, Kuechly would be a perfect fit in the Bears' cover-2 defense.
No. 4 Mark Barron, S, Alabama
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It is no secret that in the Lovie Smith-era, the one position with the most turnover has been the safety position. Names like Mike Brown, Mike Green, Chris Harris, Adam Archuleta, Kevin Payne and Daniel Manning are just a few.
Rookie free safety Chris Conte came on strongly towards the end of the season before an injury limited him for the last few weeks. Conte more than likely has the strong hold on the free safety spot coming in to next season.
But the strong safety position is wide open after another struggle of a season for Major Wright. Despite Craig Steltz having a decent run to finish the season, look for the Bears to address the safety position.
Mark Barron is the hands-down best available safety in this draft, having learned from one of the best in Nick Saban at Alabama. Barron is a prototypical ball-hawking safety who plays well in zone coverage and can make plays in the box.
Barron can play either safety position, but strong safety, particularly in the Bears' system, will allow him to best utilize his run support abilities.
No. 3 Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
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The first thing most football fans think of in regards to Janoris Jenkins is his off-the-field issues. His arrests in 2009 for his involvement in a fight and in 2010 for marijuana possession ultimately led to his removal from the Florida Gators football, and prompted his transfer to North Alabama.
If you can throw aside his checkered past, Jenkins has potential to be one of the best picks of this year's entire draft. With good size (5'10", 180lbs) and speed, Jenkins can match up with many of the best wide receivers in the league.
It is hard to find a weakness in Jenkins' game, as he plays both man and zone coverages extremely well, and when relied upon to stop the run, Jenkins rarely disappoints.
With an aging secondary and a lack of playmakers, Jenkins would make a great compliment to Charles Tillman.
No. 2 Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
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One of the most valuable assets that the Chicago Bears have is their quarterback, Jay Cutler. Throughout his time in Chicago, Cutler has been the most sacked quarterback in the league, and all of that starts up front.
Despite a major need for left tackle, there are very few, outside of sure top-five pick Matt Kalil, that could step in from day one and contribute. The next best available offensive lineman in the draft is center Peter Konz.
Last season, the Bears decided not to resign former Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz and moved right guard Roberto Garza inside to center. Garza performed well, but if the Bears had been able to draft Konz, they could have moved Garza back to right guard and have both Chris Spencer and Chris Williams compete for the left guard position.
Konz is an athletic center, who can push past double teams to get to the second level in the running game, and plays very tough on the inside in pass-blocking situations. With new offensive coordinator Mike Tice's love for young athletic offensive lineman, do not be surprised if Tice can sway the new general manager in Konz' direction.
No. 1 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
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Before his injury last season, the Bears' Matt Forte was having the best season of his career, and was on his way to competing for the league rushing title. So why would the Bears consider a running back in the first round?
During the offseason and through part of training camp, Forte and his agent were lobbying for a new contract for Forte before his current rookie contract expired. Forte and his agent felt that his value was at an all-time high, and needed to cash in on the opportunity with a new contract.
The two sides could not eventually come to an agreement, and Forte was left to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end.
Many around football feel that if a new agreement cannot be made, the Bears will likely place the franchise tag on Forte. If, for some reason, the new general manager decides to let Forte walk, Miller could be a great replacement.
Although Miller does not posses the same pass-catching abilities Forte does, Miller has a combination of speed, patience and toughness that all the great running backs have had. Even if the Bears franchise Forte, it has proven effective in the NFL to carry a two-running back system.
Miller's speed and toughness, combined with Forte's elusiveness and pass-catching ability, could make them one of the most dynamic running back duos in the league.