Chicago Bears : 4 Mid-Round Offensive Line Prospects
In a draft that is top-heavy with offensive line talent like Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff, David DeCastro, and Peter Konz, it is plausible that, when the Bears go to draft a player with their 19th overall selection, none of these guys will be available.
Despite the projected dominance of these players at the next level, there are many suitable options to be found at all positions on the offensive line in the later rounds.
It's no secret that the Bears main concern is to help Jay Cutler. While bringing in a top wide receiver may be a primary objective, adding an offensive lineman that could help protect Cutler is a close second.
Here is a look at the four mid-round offensive line prospects for the Chicago Bears.
No. 4 Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California
As a four-year starter at Cal, 6'5" 318lbs redshirt senior Mitchell Schwartz saw plenty of playing time at both tackle positions, with 33 starts at left tackle and 16 at right tackle. Schwartz's versatility, as well as experience, has scouts projecting him to go somewhere in the late fourth to early fifth round in this April's draft.
The biggest strength in Schwartz's game is his fundamentals, and despite sometimes being beaten off the line of scrimmage, he is able to rely on his technique and knowledge to get himself in a good position.
The benefit the Bears would have in drafting a guy like Schwartz would be his ability to be a swing tackle, or possibly move inside as a guard if he improves his footwork.
No. 3 Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
After starting every game for the last two seasons at Boise State, Nate Potter hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Bronco offensive tackle Ryan Clady.
Standing in at 6'6'', Potter has the required height for the position, but at just over 300lbs, many scouts feel Potter needs to put on some weight to be considered a good NFL left tackle.
While playing very well in the passing game, Potter has struggled at times in the running game, often lacking the physicality needed. Potter is at his best when players come to him instead of being asked to engage first.
Potter's track record and good technique should get him drafted somewhere in the fifth round and, much like Mitchell Schwartz, could be seen as a developmental swing-tackle prospect who could easily become a starter in a just a few seasons.
No. 2 Ben Jones, C, Georgia
With an influx of centers being taking earlier and earlier in the NFL draft, guys like Georgia's Ben Jones are no longer "a dime a dozen."
A four-year starter and undeniable leader of the Bulldogs, Jones combines strength and determination to cover his assignments. Having played against dominate SEC interior offensive lineman, Jones understands the type of dominant forces he may face in the NFL.
Jones' best skills are displayed in the running game, as he has good quickness off the ball and does a great job at sealing off his defender. He will need to improve his footwork in the passing game, but offers good lateral quickness that can make up for his mistakes.
With the Bears releasing Olin Kreutz before the start of last season, and moving Roberto Garza to center, they have the ability to add a developmental project like Jones in the mid to late rounds for the upcoming season.
If all goes well, Jones could be a starter by the 2013 season.
No 1. Luke Nix, OG, Pittsburgh
This past season, a glaring weaknesses on the Bears offensive line was a lack of aggression and toughness.
With offensive line coach Mike Tice moving to offensive coordinator, the Bears would like to add a player that can accommodate Tice's desire for a hard-nosed, aggressive interior offensive lineman.
Enter Luke Nix.
As a three-year starter at Pittsburgh, Nix saw playing time at both guard and tackle, but projects to be a guard in the NFL. At 6'5" and 317 lbs, Nix has the perfect frame for a bruising guard.
Nix is quick out of his stance, is great at getting to the linebacker when pulling, and does a great job of getting to the second level in the running game. However, he does struggle at times in pass blocking and is better suited in a run-heavy offense.
Despite the Bears feeling set at the guard position, if Nix is available with one of their third-round selections, look for new general manager Phil Emery to give his offensive coordinator a player he will love.