Chicago Bears: 10 Draft Picks We'd Love to See in 2012
The Bears need help. Plenty of it. This season may be lost and fans are already looking ahead.
An additional receiver, a backup running back and offensive line depth (and talent) are serious concerns.
On defense, the linebackers will be another year older and another step slower.
Lance Briggs may leave via trade, or holdout, until he gets more money. Again.
And while Chris Conte flashed some ability this season, help in the secondary at cornerback or strong safety is still a need.
Chicago only has eight picks in next year's draft, but here are 10 players the Bears should be considering for 2012.
Peter Konz, Center, University of Wisconsin
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The top center in the draft, Konz is 6'5", 315 lbs and was named to Pro Football Weekly's All-American Team.
He projects as a late first-round pick and becomes easier for the Bears to snag with every subsequent loss.
A selection by Chicago gives the Bears the option to move Roberto Garza back to guard. But the truth is Konz isn't one of the best lineman, just the best center.
And Garza has been solid at center, so the Bears might select a more athletic lineman coach Mike Tice can groom to fill another role.
It's hard to see the Bears passing up an offensive lineman in the first round. They're generally safe picks that don't break the bank.
But if they don't go for an offensive lineman...
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
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The Bears might consider a wide receiver in the first round.
Lacking a tall receiver, Chicago could change that with Jeffery, listed at 6'4" and 220 lbs.
His build is slight (think Sidney Rice), but he's shown great hands, with more than a few one-handed grabs this season.
His route running may not be polished, and it would take him some time to get worked into the Martz playbook (assuming Mike is still around).
But Alshon would give Cutler the go-up-and-get-it threat he craves.
Same thing Bears fans crave, too.
Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker, Arizona State
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Several mock drafts have Burfict disappearing in the first round. And that wouldn't be a surprise.
But most draft boards also list Burfict somewhere between 50-75th in the top 100 players. That's because he plays emotionally, which is both good and bad.
Fact is, personal fouls and Vontaze Burfict are close friends.
And that means he could slip into the middle of the second round, where the Bears expect to draft.
He'd be a steal.
With a 40-yard dash time of 4.67 and a 6'3", 250-lb frame, he projects as an inside linebacker but has the speed to play outside.
The Bears are quietly pleased with rookie Tom DiCicco, but with the potential loss of Lance Briggs in the offseason, linebacker depth is an area of need.
Chicago would have trouble passing on Burfict if he was available in the second round.
Lavonte David, Outside Linebacker, University of Nebraska
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David is small for an NFL linebacker, at just 6'1" and 225 pounds.
But the Bears would probably move him to strong safety, where his exceptional pass-coverage skills can be an asset.
David is fast enough to cover the whole field but hits even harder.
His 152 tackles set the single-season record at Nebraska in 2010, his first season as the starter. He'd fit perfectly into the Bears' swarming defensive scheme.
Lavonte projects to be available in the second or third round.
And let's face it, the Bears don't know what to do at strong safety. They still can't find anyone to play 16 games.
Because if Brandon Meriweather is the answer, then the question is, "How can the Bears blow more coverages?"
David would be an instant upgrade.
Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
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Doug Martin is a long shot for the Bears' plans.
But if they decide to move past Marion Barber, running back becomes a more pressing need. Kahlil Bell would be the backup to Matt Forte, and Martin would be a strong third option.
Plus, if Forte does hold out (not likely) because of the impending franchise tag, Martin provides good depth. And capable backups offer leverage in contract negotiations.
At 5'9" and 210 pounds, Martin is barely taller than Maurice Jones-Drew. But like MJD, Martin runs low to the ground, between the tackles, with good power and burst.
He's also familiar with a spread, single-back offense that relies on runners to catch passes and block effectively.
Despite lacking breakaway speed, he'd be a good fit for the Bears if they're looking for a backup running back.
He'll be drafted before the end of the fourth round.
Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State
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Flecther Cox is 6'4", 295 pounds and runs the 40 in under five seconds.
Now that's the kind of guy Lovie Smith likes to see at the tackle position.
Chicago must generate interior pressure; it's the dynamo of the the Bears defense.
Cox can help.
And if he's still available early in the third round, when the Bears are thinking about what to do with their pick from the Greg Olsen trade, Chicago should look at Fletcher.
If they take him, they won't have to worry about whether Stephen Paea develops into a starter.
Marvin McNutt, Wide Receiver, University of Iowa
McNutt started his college career as a quarterback. But he'll leave as the best receiver in the history of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
He holds the single-season record for receiving touchdowns: 12
He holds the career record for receiving touchdowns: 28
He holds the single-season record for receiving yardage: 1,269
He holds the career record for receiving yardage: 2,815
And he did it in just three years.
McNutt = unbelievable hands, great routes and sneaky speed (4.52). And tall. 6'4".
Best part is, he can still sling it. He'll stick at WR for his career, but he could be the second coming of Antwaan Randle-El, giving offenses a few wrinkles.
He's also got a high ceiling and is smart enough to learn the Martz offense quickly. Need proof?
Did I mention he was a quarterback until three years ago?
Translation: his potential as a wideout is largely untapped. He's setting records primarily because of his raw ability. He's only begun to mature in just his third season in the position, having a breakout year. The fact he's learned a new role so effectively is evidence of his awareness and intelligence.
This kid's a stud and still a sleeper on most draft boards. Let's hope the Bears take a look at him before the fourth round ends.
He's got second-round value. At least.
It may be hard for him to fly under the radar on draft day the way he does against defenses.
But the Bears can't let him get past them.
Kendall Reyes, Defensive Tackle, University of Connecticut
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Reyes is an another player in the Bears' preferred mold: athletic, quick and strong up the middle.
He's 6'4", just under 300 lbs, and ran a 4.96 40-yard dash. And he can do a backflip.
But his specialty is making life hard on quarterbacks with pressure up the middle.
His sack numbers are not impressive, largely due to the high number of double-teams. But he disrupts plays and commands the attention of opposing linemen.
Yup. I'm saying it again. Because he's 300 pounds.
Could Julius Peppers do a backflip? Could any Bears lineman?
True, backflips won't be necessary on the field for the Bears (maybe just in contract negotiations).
But you can't do a backflip without exceptional calf and leg strength. And that's the heart of explosiveness for linemen.
Rod Marinelli could make him a star.
Reyes is a solid middle-round pick with upside.
Casey Hayward, Cornerback, Vanderbilt University
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Hayward is a slightly taller replica of Bears' nickelback, D.J. Moore. They share the same alma mater, speed and knack for the football
And though Casey is just 5'11", weighing a buck-80, he's matched up well against some of the best and most physical receivers in the SEC, including Alshon Jeffrey.
For Chicago, he could back up the nickel spot and provide competition behind Tim Jennings.
He's projected to go in the middle-late rounds. But with cornerbacks, scarcity is an issue.
Hayward is another player who could move up the board before draft day.
Markus Zusevics, Offensive Tackle, University of Iowa
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See that picture? That's a tackle picking up his running back after plowing a hole into the end zone.
The Bears don't often see that.
But Zusevics plays for Kirk Ferentz at Iowa's offensive lineman factory. And while Riley Reiff is the name near the top of everyone's tackle board, Markus is the other pillar on the Hawkeyes' offensive line.
He doesn't get the credit he deserves.
Seen as the weaker link compared to Reiff, he often faced the most intense pressure. And Zusevics was often up to the task.
Mike Tice could make him one of the best guards in the NFL if the Bears decide to run with J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi.
He may be available as late as the sixth round.