Reviewing Chicago Bears' 5 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways
Since Thursday, NFL general mangers, coaches and their staffs have made their way to Indianapolis to the spectacle known as the NFL Combine. Throughout the various stages—weigh-ins, workouts and interviews—teams get to know more about players aside from what's already on film.
New Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery spoke on Thursday, both talking about what the organization has done thus far from a coaching and personnel standpoint. Trestman addressed the fact that this is his first real chance to evaluate this draft, saying (h/t Windy City Gridiron):
So early on the excitement always to come to the Combine to get a first-look at these guys - from my standpoint, from our organization, from every organization's standpoint. So this is where it gets started. Certainly it's been ongoing relative to the personnel departments and scouting departments and things like that, but this is a first look from a coach's standpoint
Trestman admitted that he spent the majority of his time at the Senior Bowl trying to fill out his staff, but with his staff being in place now, they will use to the NFL Combine to better evaluate this year's draft talent.
With the majority of the workouts in the books, here are five of the biggest scouting takeaways the Bears got from the 2013 Combine:
Top Offensive Line Talent Might Not Be Availble with 20th Pick
Luke Joeckel was already a lock to be selected in the first few picks of the draft heading into the combine, and after his workouts it does not seem like much has changed.
Some believe he has the potential to be the first pick.
Behind Joeckel there are a bevy of talented offensive lineman that were once expected to be mid-first round picks but who have appeared to push themselves up higher in the draft.
Lane Johnson, Eric Fisher, Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper and D.J. Fluker were all expected to be available in the later stages of the first round, but after their performances over the weekend they are all likely to be selected before the Bears pick at 20.
According to NFL.com, Johnson ran the second best 40-yard dash time (4.72) among offensive lineman, behind only Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Terron Armstead's 4.71.
Fisher, Warmack and Cooper all showed off tremendous footwork and athleticism in various drills on Saturday—confirming to most that all three have the potential to be top-15 picks.
Fluker, despite his size, showed some good mobility throughout drills and while some view him as a right tackle, but he may be better suited moving inside. Even though he is not as athletic as the others he still has the potential to be a top-15 pick.
The strong performances of these five lineman mean the Bears may need to take a different route to securing some help along the offensive line.
Manti Te'o's Stock Continues to Drop
Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, media members got their first opportunity to ask questions to Manti Te'o regarding his "catfish" scandal. Te'o impressed many by his ability to field questions without ever really getting rattled, and according to NFL Network's Kimberly Jones, one NFL coach said that Te'o was a "rock star" during his interviews.
Despite his solid press conference, he disappointed in his 40-yard dash time, recording a 4.82, according to NFL.com. While 40-yard dash times are not the only thing to base future success off of, Te'o certainly did not do himself any favors.
He was once viewed as a probable top-10 pick, but he has slowly started to work his way down draft boards. Despite his poor performance against Alabama in the BCS National Championship game and the "catfishing" scandal, he still projects as a first round pick.
The Bears, even if they re-sign Brian Urlacher, still have a big need at the linebacker position, and Te'o could be available when the team picks 20th overall in April's draft.
Evaluating the tape alone should show team's that he does have the ability to play at the next level.
He became invisible when he went up against an Alabama offensive line stacked with five potential future NFL players.
It's up to Phil Emery, Marc Trestman and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to determine whether or not Te'o could be successful in the NFL and whether they would be willing to choose him in the first round.
Plenty of Project' Linemen Should Be Available in Later Rounds
The biggest thing to come out of the first day of workouts on Saturday was the stellar 40-yard dash time of Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Terron Armstead.
He was initially believed to have run a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, but it was officially changed to 4.71, according to NFL.com.
This was the best among all offensive linemen.
Armstead has been shooting up the draft boards ever since his strong showing in the East-West shrine game. For a guy once expected to be a fourth-to-fifth round pick, he could be available for the Bears in the second round if they are willing to develop him. His athleticism is his biggest strength, but he has played against lesser talent, leaving some to wonder if he can handle tougher competition at the next level.
Cal center Brian Schwenke helped his cause of trying to be the first center selected in this year's draft by running a 4.99 40-yard dash. He showed off impressive footwork throughout most of the drills and his 1.68 10-yard split showed off his ability to quickly get off the football.
Armstead and Schwenke are both talented players that play positions of need for the Bears this season. If the team looks to free agency to shore up either position, it is possible that one or both could be looked at as guys to mold for the future.
Speed Receivers Likely Available in Middle Rounds
The Bears spent the 2012 season without a legitimate downfield threat aside from Pro Bowl-wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Marshall did everything in 2012.
He could go across the middle, run slant routes and stretch the defense down the field. Despite constant double teams he was able to produce. Following the retirement of Johnny Knox, the Bears may be looking to add a constant deep threat in the 2013 draft.
Many wide receivers wowed over the weekend with their 40-yard times, most notably Texas' Marquise Goodwin, who ran a 4.27, according to NFL.com.
West Virginia's Tavon Austin, Texas A&M's Ryan Swope, TCU's Josh Boyce and Oklahoma's Kenny Stills all ran sub 4.40 40-yard dashes.
Austin is considered a fringe first-round pick while Goodwin, Swope, Boyce and Stills are all considered projects in the mid to late rounds.
Goodwin was nothing more than a fourth wide receiver for the Longhorns this past season, but his speed alone may have helped push his stock up to the third or fourth round. Swope and Boyce both exceeded expectations with their 40-yard dashes and showed decent hands throughout drills, and Stills stunned many with his 4.38 40-yard dash.
The Bears have plenty of other areas of need other than wide receiver, but the speed and potential to spread the field with their new offense may have them looking to add a wide receiver in the middle rounds.
Dropoff at Tight End After Eifert and Ertz
On Saturday it was no surprise that the two most impressive tight ends in Indianapolis were Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz.
According to NFL.com, Eifert ran a 4.68 40-yard dash and Ertz ran a slightly slower 4.76. Eifert showed off his good hands and overall athletic ability during the drills, but Ertz was solid in the pass-catching drills. However, his shorter arms could be what causes Eifert to be selected ahead of him.
Beyond Eifert and Ertz, the field is wide open, with some improving their stock on Saturday morning.
Arkansas' Chris Gragg surprised many with his 4.50 40-time and showed off an impressive 37.5-inch vertical. He never showed much of that athletic ability while at Arkansas, which could prove he is nothing more than a combine warrior, but it also shows that he has the potential as a mid-round project.
Rice's Vance McDonald showed off impressive speed, notching a 4.69 40-time and the most reps in the bench press with 31. His stock has been rising since the Senior Bowl and despite his size (6'4" 267 lbs.) he was used mostly as a slot receiver in college. He has the perfect frame and ability to catch the football but his blocking will need to improve at the next level.
If Eifert is available at 20 he could be a very hard player to pass up.
If they are unable to sign a tight end in free agency, both Gragg and McDonald showed that, despite not being first or even second round talent, they have the ability to develop into solid tight ends in the NFL.