Chicago Bears: Rookie Predictions for Training Camp and the 2012 Season
The Chicago Bears made a lot of their best moves in places other than the NFL Draft this offseason—signing Michael Bush to counter Matt Forte's contract noise, trading for Brandon Marshall and signing Jason Campbell to shore up the quarterback position.
That doesn't mean they ignored the draft though—in fact I believe they had as fine a draft as anyone in the league.
There are multiple players who head into camp with the potential to start right away or, at the very least, play a big role this very season.
Let's see who they are.
Shea McClellin, OLB
McClellin's stock shot up in the last month of the draft process, but like most people, I figured it would be as a linebacker.
So much for that—McClellin will line up at defensive end with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. It's not that much of a shock when you realize his versatility. He's a guy who can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up.
I'm hard pressed to guarantee that he wins the job over Idonije, who has been solid so far in his Bears career, but he could very well do it.
If he ends up starting across from Peppers, he could have a huge season. Even if he merely rotates with Idonije, he should put up some impressive numbers.
I expect to hear good reports from camp, and see quite a lot of production from McClellin during the season.
Alshon Jeffery, WR
I'm tempted to just cut and paste any of B/R Lead Draft Analyst Matt Miller's mash notes about the guy, but then again, I might be in love as well.
Jeffery took a lot of heat for some weight fluctuation during the draft process, and as a result, the Bears may have stolen him in the mid-second round.
Unlike Matt, I wasn't a big buyer of his alleged Round One stock, but thought he could have gone earlier in the second.
If the Bears were worried about the weight, they played it just right—sign him quick, get him to the facility and start working on him.
A lot has been said of what Earl Bennett and Devin Hester have done this spring, but for my money, Jeffery will beat them both out, if not right away, then by mid-season.
He's just better than either guy and we will see that both in camp and in the regular season.
Brandon Hardin, S
Hardin missed all of 2011 with a shoulder injury and then wowed scouts at the East-West Shrine game when he switched to safety.
If he can stay healthy (admittedly a struggle in college), Hardin is a highly physical player who is good in coverage but not afraid to get his hands dirty in run support.
With a good camp, he could very well supplant Chris Conte as the starting free safety. He will at least win a share of the job and get a chance to prove himself early in the 2012 season.
Evan Rodriguez, TE
Rodriguez is another guy I am super excited about, even though he is buried behind Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth.
As a versatile H-back/fullback combo in the Chris Cooley vein, there is plenty of room for him on the roster, especially if he can make some plays on special teams.
Expect a quiet camp from him, but lots of solid play this year.
He won't be a huge or noticeable factor, but he will do plenty of the little things coaches love to see.
Isaiah Frey & Greg McCoy, CBs
Neither player is terribly special, but both are hard working, driven athletes who bring a little something to the table—Frey has his athleticism and McCoy is known for his competitive streak and work ethic.
While neither is starter worthy, even to the most optimistic fan, they should definitely find a spot on special teams and see some work in sub packages.
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