Szwaja's Sports Blog

Friday, April 25, 2008

Okay, so it's that weekend again, and I can't believe I haven't posted here in a year. Not since I went to bed last April like an anxious six-year-old on Christmas Eve have a posted a blog on here. Surprisingly, I've had requests to get this thing back rolling, so here I go.

I figured there was no better weekend than NFL Draft weekend (note the reference to the six-year-old above) to start back on the blog. Modesty aside, I've done pretty well with my draft predictions for my hometown Bears. I won't go down the laundry list of predicitons again, just scroll down and read if you wish. Before I get going though, I have to brag a little. The Bears did chose Greg Olsen last year, and I still contend they would have traded out of that spot had Olsen not been there. He was THE pick, the only guy they wanted at 31 last year. If you watched last year, you'll remember Olsen was in his green room hugging his family in a Bears hat before the Bears were even on the clock.

This year, the Bears will have four of the first 1o0 picks, so they should get four good players in this year's draft. They have 11 picks total, and I'll take a stab at predictions for all 11 picks. Here we go....

-14th pick in the first round, 14th overall-

If Jerry Angelo goes anywhere else but offensive tackle here, it might be the begining of the end for the Bears hot and cold General Manager. So, I've searched the Net for video on the three guys who may or may not be there at 14. The possibility all three might be there has increased over the last few days because Jonathan Stewart, RB from Oregon, and CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie from Tennessee St, have seemed to move into the top 10. Here are my thoughts...

Ryan Clady, LT Boise State

I know most teams have Clady as the third ranked OLineman behind Jake Long and Branden Albert, but I see Clady destined for a move inside to guard. Watch his film, and it's a all Clady beating up on little, undersized linemen. We'll see what happens when guys like Jarred Allen, KGB, etc. line up across from Clady. If it's a tackle the Bears want, then I'm not sure it's Clady they want.

Jeff Otah, LT Pitt

I'm confused. Like I said, I searched for all the video I could find on Otah, and there really isn't much out there. That scares me. Seriously, go watch the Scout video,-Stewart-move-up . There's more of him celebrating in the endzone than knocking DEs off their blocks.

Chris Williams, LT Vandy

This, my friends, is the pick for the Bears if he's there. I've read nuggets that suggest the Broncos really love Williams at #12, which is understandable if you watch the film at the link above. This is a guy who held his own in a power conference, the SEC. And you have to love that Vandy education. I've never met Williams, but you're not going to get a headcase here. He won't come to the stadium not knowing the plays (see Cade McNown). He won't cry on Saturday because so many people doubted him (see Cedric Benson). He won't go through agents like they're rolls of toilet paper and wear a jersey number that alludes to the number of lashes Jesus received before he was cruicified (see Curtis Enis). He won't complain about not getting enough attention even though he can't play a lick of football (see David Terrell). If Angelo gets this guy, he'll finally get that elusive first round offensive stud.

First round wild cards:

Rashard Mendenhall, RB Illinois. The homegrown talent will be tempting, but you can't have a running game without a offensive line.

Devin Thomas, WR Michigan State.

Malcom Kelly, WR, Oklahoma.

The Bears have held workouts with these guys this week, but this is Angelo's backup plan. He's generating interest incase the guy he wants at 14 isn't there. In that case, Angelo will pull the same old Jerry Angelo trick and move down and pick up an extra third or second round pick. If that guy, whoever he is (maybe Williams?), isn't there, look for Jerry Jones to call and dangle one or both of his first rounders.

-13th in the Second Round, 44 overall-

Kelly has been falling fast since his pro day workout, so he might actually be there at 44. I'm thinking the Bears want Joe Flacco to fall to them at 44, and that might happen, especially if the Ravens take Matt Ryan or find a way to get Chad Henne before that. Angelo isn't stupid, he knows his team needs more options at quarterback, and he knows he can't wait around to find a good one. And anyone who thinks Andre Woodson, the Kentucky QB, is a good option in the third or fourth round, consider this: 24 teams showed up to watch him work out at his pro day. The Bears weren't one of them. If they want to find a RB to beef up their depth at the position, Ray Rice is a hard-nosed guy who doesn't go down on first contact. 44 might be a little high for him, though. I'm intrigued by James Hardy, the 6'5'' WR from Indiana with 4.5 speed. Put him in the lineup with Brandon Llyod, Marty Booker and Olsen and that's four big targets for whoever the QB might be. Throw in Devin Hester as your speed burner, and that actually doesn't look too bad. Hardy is my pick here. There will be plenty of RB options later.

-7th pick in the third round, 70th overall-

Mark my words. Angelo will pick a Defensive Tackle with one of these first four picks, and I think one of the third round picks will be where Angelo makes his signature move. That said, we'll talk about the DT when pick 90 comes up. At this pick, back to offense for Angelo. If Jamaal Charles, the RB from Texas is still there, he's the pick. Angelo knows he needs more skill in the backfield and Charles has that skill, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. I don't think he'll be there, so I'm going to go with Matt Forte, RB from Tulane. Angelo and the rest of the Bears' personnel evaluators had a private workout with Forte in Batton Rouge a couple weeks ago, and the reports were they liked his combination of size and speed. And with that pick the Bears fill their three biggest needs on offense, aside from the QB. The only worry about this pick is that the strength of Forte's workouts might have moved him up into the second round.

-27th in the third round, 90 overall-

This is the DT pick. Red Bryant from Texas A&M. Lovie Smith needs to admit to himself the Bears need a guy who can stay at home and stuff the run. That's Bryant for you. He's a little bigger and a little slower than the Lovie Smith DT prototype, but Bryant is a run stopper, which the Bears really need. Bryant got into it during Senior Bowl practice with Chris Williams. Wouldn't that be something? Having them line up at rookie camp next weekend across from one another? Nastiness isn't a bad thing. That Bears line needed a little last season.

Other third round possibilities:

Chilo Rachal OG, Jacksonville - Probably the best available guard in the third round
John Greco OT, Toledo - Tackle who went up against small competition, which hurt his stock
Kirk Barton OT, Ohio State - A project. Slow footwork. But a big body.
DaJuan Morgan S, NC State - A true run-stopping safety, which the Bears need. Ball skills need work.
Quinton Demps, S, UTEP - Hard hitting safety with ball hawk skills, versatile: can play CB too
Tom Zibikowski S, Notre Dame - The Bears worked him out privately. Strong. Big. Not a Cover 2 corner though
NOTE: Despite what us Bears fans might think, they NEED help at safety. They are calling this the worst safety draft since the merger, so there are few to be had.

-11th pick in the fourth round, 110 overall-

This is where it gets a little more shady. Hopefully by this point the Bears will have addressed all their needs. For this reason, it's tougher to predict. I'll give it a shot anyway. Nobody's reading, I know, but this is fun.

If they don't get Falcco in the second round, this might be where Angelo snatches his quarterback. The guy that might be there at 110 is San Diego State QB Kevin O'Connell. He's got the kind of frame you look for in a quarterback: 6'4" 225 pounds. And he runs a 4.6, which is damn good. Usually, I'm not huge on 40 times, but it's nice to know O'Connell won't just pack it in and give up in the pocket. He's got that speed and quickness in his back pocket if he needs it. The only thing about drafting a QB in the middle rounds is that teams usually like to use a luxury pick they've obtained via a trade. Otherwise, these picks are way too valuable. Take O'Connell and he probably does nothing for you next year. Other guys can be more valuable. Even though Peanut Tillman and Nate Vasher are engrained as the starting corners, and 07 seventh round pick Trumane McBride showed he belongs on an NFL field, I think Angelo will take a corner somewhere along the way. He loves small school corners with huge upsides. The guy who fits the bill here? Kent State corner Jack Williams, who hoped his 40 time at the combine would help him move up everyone's board, but he didn't perform well. Still, he's got good ball skills despite his lack of size. Two bigger corners with better NFL bodies from BCS schools will be there in the fourth round for the taking. Patrick Lee of Auburn, who had a terrible week at the Senior Bowl, which probably dropped him out of the third round. Central Florida corner Trae Williams would be a 2nd or 3rd round guy if he was only an inch taller. He's a ball hawk who proved his coverage skills at the East West shrine game. Small but stout, he could be a special teams guy as well. Then there are the LBs, who Angelo also loves and has a knack for picking. Keep an eye on Jonathan Goff, LB from Vandy. He impressed the hell out of the scouts at the combine, finishing in the top five of the important LB categories: the 40 and the bench press. Goff is my prediction. If he's there, it's too much talent for Angelo to pass up. Goff is a Lovie Smith linebacker: quick, strong, pensive. Sure, the linebacker depth is okay with Jamar Williams and Michael Okwo returning from injury. But I think Angelo make Goff his most recent mid round linebacker pick. Plus, a guy like Goff would look good on a somewhat dessimated special teams unit that will be without Pro Bowler Brenden Ayanbadeyjo next year, who has moved onto Baltimore. If it's not Goff, it's O'Connell.

-8th in the Fifth round, 192 Overall-

I'm telling you people, Jerry Angelo loves small school defensive backs, and Corey Lynch from Appalachian State fits the bill here. Lynch, who was snubbed with no invite to the combine (he ran the short shuttle faster at his pro day than any other safety at the combine), is the NCAA all time leader in pass breakups. That alone should tell you he's ready for the Cover 2. He's got the size to play in the NFL and has an average 40 time of 4.52. And he's got a knack for causing fumbles, which Lovie Smith drools over. Again, this is a guy who could be groomed as a special teamer then eventually work his way into the rotation. Lynch is my pick here, but I'll give you some other possibilities. Thomas Brown, RB from Georgia. Breno Giacomini, T from Louisville. Drew Radovich is the other real possibility here for me. He played guard on touted USC offensive line but nevery really received the props he deserved for his solid play. The Bears need help on that line, and Radovich can probably become a starter at some point. That said, I still think the Bears safety situation is overlooked. They need more talented safeties, and Lynch is the kind of wild card pick that makes sense here, because like I said, worst case, he's a special teams contributor.

-9th in the Sixth Round, 175th Overall-

The predictions get even tougher here because the draft turns more into a roll of the dice situation more than anything. These are guys who teams like but may or may not make rosters. Good teams will find guys who make that final roster here. And Angelo has been pretty good at that, aside from the JD Runnels pick in the 06 sixth round. What the hell was that? Keenan Burton, WR from Kentucky has good value here. He almost came out after a stellar JR season, but decided to return. Nagging knee and ankle injuries during his SR season will move him to the later rounds. But, again, the Bears didn't see him at his pro day because he worked out the same day as his QB, the aforementioned Andre Woodson. That QB could be out there in the sixth round. Colt Brennan, the Hawaii gunslinger will most likely go in the sixth round, as should Erik Ainge from Tennessee. Brennan will be an interception machine in the NFL. And Ainge, who has a great NFL QB frame, his biggest concerns should be presence in and NFL pocket and keeping himself healthy. A broken pinkey limited him as a senior, and he's already had his knee scoped once. Ainge might be worth the gamble in the sixth round. Cory Boyd, the RB from S. Carolina with size and speed would be a steal here, but I say he's gone. In the end, when all else fails, bank on Angelo going on the defensive line. That's why I'm taking a shot in the dark at Lionel Dotson, DT from Arizona. The undersized, quick, strong, defensive tackle would probably be a middle round guy if he played for ... say USC or Oregon. Plus, he fits the quick, strong Lovie Smith DT bill.

-The Bears have four picks in the seventh round: 222, 243, 247 and 248-

I can't analyze these picks that much, mostly because odds are these guys will be practice squad guys, but you never know, which is why with one of these picks, if the Bears still haven't taken a QB up to this point, Dennis Dixon, the flashy QB from Oregon makes you wonder, "Why not?" Sure, the ACL rehab is a concern, but who cares when it's one of your three seventh round picks, right? Dixon has size, agility and experience. And if he doesn't tear his ACL, he's probably a late-third, early-fourth round pick. Taking a chance is what it's all about in the seventh round, and why not take one in Kregg Lumpkin, RB from Georgia. Again, here's a guy who is supposed to have a huge season, is a truck of a 'back, yet is bugged by injuries all season. Call me a homer, but you have to take another chance on linebacker J Leman of Illinois. I guarantee this guy will be a special teams contributor somewhere in this league. And who knows what he can do as a linebacker? Ankle surgery basically ruined his NFL Draft showcase season. He'll work his ass off no matter what his role may be, which is what you want with a 7th round guy. I did say earlier I think Angelo will take a corner. That guy might be Marcus Walker from Oklahoma. The Bears seem to love the Oklahoma guys, and Walker falls this far because of his poor hands, but he's physical. Again, another special teams option perhaps. Pierre Garcon, a D III guy with blazing speed is a guy nobody really knows anything about, so there's another gamble that might have its rewards. Call me crazy, but seventh round picks are guys who you take chances on. These should be guys you take who you know will work hard but you may not know what they'll give you physically. That said, I'll go with Lumpkin, Leman, Walker and Garcon as my seventh round predictions. Enjoy, everyone. And if you've made it this far into this blog, I appreciate your time and love of the NFL Draft. Now get busy doing nothing watching it all unfold.


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