Rookie, Undrafted Free-Agent Watch for Chicago Bears Training Camp
The Chicago Bears didn't have a lot of draft picks, but they managed to come away with a bunch of players who have the potential to be starters down the road.
The team surprised many by drafting Kyle Long in the first round. The Oregon alum will play guard but could also see time at tackle in the future for the team.
With their second and third picks they went after linebackers to get more youth on their defense. Florida's Jon Bostic and Rutgers' Khaseem Greene figure to play big roles in the future of the Bears defense.
With their last three picks, the Bears got players who could emerge as starters by 2014 and possibly play roles this year.
Tackle Jordan Mills has played quite a few downs in college the last two years. Defensive end Cornelius Washington has impressive physical measurements but didn't produce at nearly the level many thought he should have. Receiver Marquess Wilson had production and good workouts, but he quit the team at Washington St. last year, causing him to fall in the draft.
It's hard to say what the Bears will get out of this year's rookie crop. They're certainly hoping to get much more than they got last year, when none of the players became big-impact players. However, this year's draft picks were all extremely raw. It might be unrealistic to expect any of them to start when they open the regular season.
Draft Status: Round 1
College Production: After transferring from Saddleback Junior College, Long played 11 games with four starts in his one season at Oregon. He played guard and tackle.
Analysis: Long is big and athletic but extremely raw. Although Long didn't play a lot at Oregon, it was mostly due to the caliber of talent it had. He came to the Ducks as a tackle before asking to move to guard after injuries.
Originally thought of as a third-round player, Long worked out very well for teams. Bears general manager Phil Emery noted that Long had the highest "athletic index score" of any guard over the last 12 years, when he announced the pick to the media.
For another team, Long might be an awful pick. But the Bears seem to have an advantage over those teams with Aaron Kromer as their offensive coordinator/line coach.
Kromer has an impressive resume when it comes to developing offensive linemen, and Long has all the tools he could ask for.
Draft Status: Round 2
College Production: Bostic's most productive year came as a junior when he led the team with 94 tackles, including 10 behind the line of scrimmage. As a senior he finished with 68 tackles and three sacks. He also intercepted two passes as a senior and picked off three as a sophomore.
Analysis: Bostic is as athletic of a linebacker as there was in the draft and comes to the Bears as a key player on a great defense in the SEC.
Bostic's statistics may not be as impressive as some of the other linebackers, but he played unselfishly and with great talent around him at Florida. When he needed to make a stop, he usually did so, as over 66 percent of his tackles were solo stops.
He has the mobility to make the deep drops in the Bears' Cover 2 defense but can also run up and stop the running game.
Bostic should compete with D.J. Williams for the job as the Bears' starting middle linebacker this year.
Draft Status: Round 4
College Production: Greene had over 135 tackles each of the last two years at Rutgers. He also forced 12 fumbles and picked off six passes in his career.
Analysis: Although the competition wasn't great, the former college safety showed a knack for getting to the ball at Rutgers. Players who show a nose for the ball and have the athleticism to play in the NFL usually translate well.
Greene will compete with James Anderson for the starting job on the strong side this year, but will likely mostly play special teams. The Bears are hoping he can take over as a starter next year and eventually replace Lance Briggs as their weak-side linebacker.
College: Louisiana Tech
Draft Status: Round 5
College Production: Mills started all 25 games at right tackle for Louisiana Tech the last two years. He also started four of the five games he played as a sophomore in 2010.
Analysis: Mills should be ready for Marc Trestman's fast-paced game plans, coming from a similar setting in Louisiana Tech's spread offense.
Mills has good size and strength to be a right tackle, but the Bears will also work him in at guard. With three of their starting offensive linemen in the last year of their contracts, he'll likely get to redshirt this year. His position next year will likely depend on who the Bears bring back, but don't be surprised if he's the starting right tackle in 2014.
Draft Status: Round 6
College Production: Washington registered 10.5 sacks in his career, including four as a freshman, one as a sophomore, five as a junior and a half-sack as a senior. He also finished with 76 total tackles, 46 of which were solo.
Analysis: Washington is a freak of nature physically, but it never really translated onto the field at Georgia.
His lack of production could have been due to the number of quality players he was with at Georgia, the scheme, or where they played him.
He was never able to settle into one position in college. The Bears are going to line him up as a defensive end and hope he can work on his technique and reach his physical potential.
Washington will be able to help on special teams this year but could work his way into the defensive line rotation by the end of the season.
College: Washington St.
Draft Status: Round 7
College Production: Wilson caught 52 passes for 813 yards and five touchdowns in seven starts before leaving the team last year. That came after catching 82 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, and 55 passes for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2010.
Analysis: Wilson has everything a team would want in an early round wide receiver, but his draft stock plummeted when he quit the team and accused the coaching staff of abuse.
Scouts Inc. (subscription required) graded Wilson as "above average" in every category except competitiveness, where he rated as average.
At just 20 years old, he might not yet be ready to play at the NFL level, but he showed very good speed and agility.
It's rare to get a player with his physical skills and collegiate production so late in the draft. The Bears coaches are likely going to try to find out about his competitiveness right away.
He should battle for the Bears' fourth wide receiver job. If he shows the strength to consistently beat press coverage, he could find quite a bit of playing time this season.
Undrafted Free Agents
Bears Undrafted Free-agent List (Courtesy of NFL.com):
LSU RB Michael Ford; Oklahoma CB Demontre Hurst; Iowa State WR Josh Lenz; LSU C P.J. Lonergan; Montana State DT Zach Minter; Memphis WR Marcus Rucker; Georgia Southern DT Brent Russell; Oklahoma P Tress Way; N.C. State CB C.J. Wilson
Analysis: Like most of their draft picks, the Bears' undrafted free agents have a lot of physical skill.
In most cases, the players have outside shots to battle for roster spots. A few, such as Ford, Hurst and Wilson, could battle for reserve roles and see the field beyond special teams action this year.
Ford figures to battle Armando Allen for the third-string running back job with a lot of playing time on special teams coming to the winner. He has the strength and speed to be an NFL player but never saw consistent time at LSU.
Wilson was a three-year starter at N.C. State but fell off the radar last year. Hurst has the size to be a nickelback but not much more.
Lonergan is an interesting prospect as a center. He comes to the Bears after starting three years at LSU. There is no chance he'll beat out Roberto Garza as the starter—at least not in camp. However, he could challenge Eddie Williams as the backup.
Defensive tackles Minter and Russell seem like long shots with the Bears' depth at that position. If either were particularly impressive in camp, they wouldn't have seen the need to sign Sedrick Ellis.
The same goes for Rucker and Lenz, as the Bears have three receivers who are locks, three more who have either been with the team or who were draft picks, and two who will play primarily special teams. It seems highly unlikely that they'd keep more than six receivers.
Way figures to be just an extra camp leg. Although he has potential, he'll likely need to fine tune his accuracy before sticking with an NFL team for good.