The Bears' needs on the offensive line are well known. They need help at all positions—whether it’s someone to start or someone to come in and add some depth. As we saw last year, the lack of talent on the line haunted the Bears all season long.
Chicago will not have any success if its not able to successfully draft and develop some offensive linemen during the offseason. The Bears need to spend some time evaluating prospects and choose them wisely so that they grow and prosper in the lineup and eventually contribute.
Chicago cannot “miss” on any offensive linemen that they choose to draft, and they cannot rely on a glut of undrafted free agent possibilities to fill their roster and take care of their problems. They have to hit the nail on the head in this draft, or things could get ugly next year and beyond.
The Bears' first three picks should address needs on the offensive line at a higher level in addition to the defensive line and quite possibly a wide receiver or a cornerback.
That leaves the middle rounds to search for some additional depth on the offensive line.
Let’s take a look at three prospects—one at the center, one at the guard and one at the offensive tackle position—that are considered middle-round prospects (rounds three to five) that may be of some interest to the Bears in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Bears need a center, and Kirkpatrick could be a good fit for them. This former Horned Frog starter had a very nice career at TCU and is the kind of guy that could step in and start and remain a starter for a long time. He works well blocking for the run and has good blocking mechanics. He’s pretty aggressive and works hard all of the time.
What he lacks, however, are refined mechanics, and he can't (yet) do some of the finer things that will eventually make him a good starting NFL center. He’s a little slow at times and will often stop and try to hold when he starts his block.
Chicago needs a center, there is no doubt about that, and unless they can get someone like Florida’s Mike Pouncey (in the first round), they will probably wait to select a center until the middle rounds of the draft. Kirkpatrick could be just the kind of guy Chicago needs for the long term.
Carpenter may be appealing to the Bears because he can play both offensive guard and tackle, although at 6'4" he may be better suited to play guard. Carpenter is a good athlete and moves effectively around the line. He gets good position when making his blocks and can block the run well.
What Carpenter struggles in is that his initial punch isn’t that strong; he’s not going to knock defenders backwards at the line of scrimmage. While he gets good power for the most part, he isn’t an explosive player. Like Kirkpatrick, he will quit moving his feet when he contacts the defender and isn’t that quick to catch rushers coming from the outside.
Carpenter is probably better suited at the guard position than he is at the tackle position, so we will consider him a guard prospect for the Bears. His combine was decent (even though he didn’t participate in a lot of drills), and his draft position is going to depend a lot on his post-combine workouts. The Bears should attend those workouts and take a serious look at this prospect as someone that could help them out in the long run.
If the Bears don’t take an offensive tackle early on in the draft, they may want to consider looking at Pinkston. Pinkston works well when blocking in the passing game and moves his feet in an excellent fashion. He’s got good hands and keeps in front of the defender controlling him and moving him where he wants him to go. He gets up and down the line well and moves up the field quickly.
The biggest problem with Pinkston is that he isn’t consistent. In one series he can shine and look like the best offensive tackle in college football, but in another series he appears to struggle. He would probably struggle playing the left tackle position in the league and would be relegated to right tackle. This could effect whether or not the Bears would be interested in him.
Pinkston is a promising player with a lot of upside but with some things that need to be corrected. The problem here is that the Bears really don’t need another right tackle right now; however, Pinkston might be of some interest for depth overall. He would need to have some successful workouts for the Bears, and if he did then they could show a lot of interest in him.