NFL Draft: 10 Prospects Every Chicago Bears Fan Should Know About
Entering just his second draft as the general manager of the Bears, it's hard to know what exactly to expect from Phil Emery.
If last year is any indication, Emery is a believer in the phrase "speed kills," as every player he drafted last season ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds or better.
That holds true if you look at his history with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was the director of college scouting from 2008 to 2011. Although Emery wasn't the GM and we have no way of knowing how much say he actually had, 13 of the 15 skill position players they drafted had 40-yard dash times better than 4.6, according to NFL Draft Scout.
Emery's background as a scout suggests he trusts tape first, but prior to his first draft with the Bears he acknowledged that if two players are equal on tape, he'd lean toward the player with better physical abilities.
With the last four drafts taken into consideration, it seems safe to say the Bears are going to target players who are big and fast.
The NFL Scouting Combine isn't set to begin until this weekend followed by individual workouts, so we don't quite yet know how each player will measure up. However, here are a few names Bears fans should know about to prepare for the upcoming draft.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
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In ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper's latest mock draft he had the Bears picking Fluker. He could be on to something.
The Bears seem unlikely to be able to get a starting-caliber left tackle with the 20th pick, but they could get a starting-caliber right tackle. At 6'6" 335 pounds, Fluker already has the size and strength to play immediately.
Fluker started 36 games at right tackle during his career, helping the Crimson Tide win the last two national championships. The line was the strength of Alabama's offense during their run and Fluker was a huge part of that.
If he were able to step in and anchor the right side of the Bears line, it would go a long way toward the team putting a productive offense on the field in 2013 and beyond.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
While top guard Chance Warmack of Alabama will almost certainly be long gone, the Bears appear to have a good shot at North Carolina's Cooper.
The weakest position on the Bears offensive line last year was a toss-up between right tackle and left guard. Cooper could be the best prospect available at either when the Bears pick.
Cooper is considered to be extremely athletic, perfect for the Bears who will be running some zone-blocking schemes with their running game this year, according to new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.
Although he isn't quite the mauler in the run game, there's no doubt Cooper would be a big upgrade to the Bears pass protection.
Cooper was compared by NFL.com to New Orleans' Saints guard Ben Grubbs, who was coached by current Kromer last season. In his first year under Kromer, Grubbs received his highest Pro Football Focus rating he's ever had since they began giving grades in 2008.
Kromer has a good track record with guards as Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks both made the Pro Bowl with him as their offensive line coach. If the Bears decide to make Cooper the pick, he could be another player helped by Kromer.
Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
Minter isn't the most famous middle linebacker on the draft board, but he was a playmaker for LSU and would fill a need for the Bears, replacing Brian Urlacher.
Although they have yet to work out for NFL teams, Minter is projected by NFL Draft Scout to run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 second range. Minter is bigger than Georgia's Alec Ogletree and faster than Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
During his junior season at LSU, Minter registered 111 tackles and led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss, including three sacks.
While the Bears likely wouldn't take Minter with the 20th pick—instead trading down—he ranks as the best inside linebacker on NFL Draft Scout. He provides the combination of size and speed that Emery looks for.
When Urlacher became the Bears starting middle linebacker, he replaced Barry Minter. It would be fitting if another Minter replaced him.
Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
While Emery may see Ogletree as small for an inside linebacker, that doesn't mean he wouldn't draft him to play on the outside.
Nick Roach wasn't bad in 2012, but should the Bears decide to upgrade their linebacker position then Ogletree is the top-rated player. They could pick him and re-sign either Roach or Urlacher. Ogletree would likely join Lance Briggs in nickel packages.
The Georgie linebacker is expected to run a 40-yard dash time in the 4.6 range according to NFL Draft Scout and showed tremendous athletic ability in his collegiate career.
Ogletree comes with some off-the-field concerns, otherwise he'd likely be a higher draft pick. Emery showed a willingness to take a chance on Evan Rodriguez last year and may decide Ogletree's talent is worth it.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
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Bears fans may never forgive Mike Martz for not using and then trading tight end Greg Olsen, but they have a chance to make right on that decision this year.
Despite having inconsistent quarterback play, Eifert caught 113 passes and nine touchdowns the last two seasons. As a freshman, he played behind 2012 Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings, but still caught 27 passes for 352 yards.
Eifert's big flaw is that he isn't considered a great blocker. But he has the size to improve on that. He has great hands and at 6'6" could be the kind of productive red-zone threat Emery thought Kellen Davis would be.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
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It took Ertz a while to get on the field, but when he did he made a big impact, leading the team with 69 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns last season, earning All-Pac-12 and All-American horns.
While 2011 second-round pick Coby Fleener was considered by many to be Andrew Luck's favorite target, Ertz caught just seven fewer passes despite missing four games.
It's hard to say which Emery would prefer, so Bears fans should make sure to keep an eye on both. His decision could come down to which one puts up better numbers at the combine.
Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
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If it's measurables Emery wants, the Bearcats tight end is bigger and faster (according to NFL Draft Scout) than both Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert, but could be had much later.
Emery made it clear that the Bears need to improve their production in the middle of the field and Kelce should be able to help there while holding his own as a blocker, something that is a question mark for both Ertz and Eifert.
The Cincinnati senior has always been considered a good run-blocker, but he also showed the ability to make big plays in the passing game last year. After catching just 14 passes in his collegiate career, he broke out, catching 45 passes for 722 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Because of his size and speed, some have compared Kelse to Rob Gronkowski. While that may be extreme, it seems almost certain that he could upgrade the Bears tight end position next season.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
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Wheaton may not be ideal size for the West Coast offense, but he might be what the Bears need to add to their group of wide receivers.
Jay Cutler threw deep on 15.9 percent of his passes last year—the fourth-highest rate in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus—but the Bears didn't have a good deep receiver. The Bears missed Johnny Knox, who caught 53.3 percent of passes thrown his way over 20 yards in 2011, according to PFF, good for seventh in the league. Last season, the Bears didn't have anyone rank in the top 25 in that category.
Wheaton is considered to be what the Bears need as the Bleacher Report's own Wes Stueve considers Wheaton to be the best deep threat to enter the NFL in years.
He was productive last season, catching 91 passes and 11 touchdowns for the Beavers. He also reportedly had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, running good routes and showing his speed.
In his introductory press conference, new coach Marc Trestman said the Bears need to be able to use the entire field. If Wheaton is able to stretch the field, he could help the team right away while developing his other skills.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
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Like Wheaton, Goodwin would add something different to the Bears receiving core.
While Wheaton is most known for using his speed to get deep, Goodwin could be used more like the Vikings use Percy Harvin, the Packers use Randall Cobb, the Saints use Darren Sproles or the Bears use Devin…never mind.
Goodwin has a chance to be what the Bears were hoping Devin Hester would be as a receiver. He is an Olympic-level sprinter who is expected to run the 40-yard dash in the low 4.3s.
Although he never caught more than 33 passes, Goodwin was also a threat as a runner, averaging over 10 yards per carry each of the past two seasons. He also ran for three touchdowns this year.
If the Bears are going to rid themselves of Hester as many expect, Goodwin also has experience returning kicks, as he returned one for a touchdown as a freshman in 2009. He only returned 13 kicks last season, but averaged over 25 yards per return.
Goodwin is never going to be an elite-level wide receiver, which is why he shouldn't be taken in the first round, but he is the kind of player that could take advantage of matchups and create big plays for the Bears.
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
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The experiment of playing Roberto Garza at center has failed. He has ranked as one of the 10 worst in the league the last two seasons according to Pro Football Focus.
Enter Jones, the Alabama All-American who switched to center this past season after winning the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman in 2011. Despite changing positions, Jones was a finalist for the Outland Trophy again, just missing out to Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel.
Jones' college coach Nick Saban has compared him to NFL Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, a lofty comparison, but Jones certainly has the physical skills to help a team right away.
He may not be the most physically imposing player, but Jones has intangibles that can't be taught. Leadership is an important quality at the center position and one the Bears have been lacking since letting Olin Kreutz go after the 2010 season.
Jones probably isn't worth the 20th pick in the draft because few centers are, but should the Bears decide to trade down, he could be a starter and upgrade at center or guard, if that's where the Bears see him.