Szwaja's Sports Blog

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Well, here I am again. Every year about this time I realize how much I miss spilling my passionate sports guts out into this blog, and every year for the last couple years I manage to completely neglect it ... until NFL draft weekend of course. I've had several people tell me they've been waiting for me to post my annual Bears draft prognastication, so it must be fairly entertaining. All I can say about that is I'm glad there are other people out there who like the draft almost as much as I do.

Before I get into the juicy predictions let me remind you that my annual excitement for this event has been tempered this year by the big Jay Cutler trade, which leaves the Bears without a first round pick. In addition to that the NFL is starting the first round at 3 pm Central this year, which by my calculations means the Bears won't make their first pick (No. 49) until about 11:20 pm on Saturday. That's no joke.

Okay, here we go....

-2nd Round, No. 49 Overall-

Never has there been so much talk about a Bears 2nd Round draft pick, mostly because of the lack of a first round pick, but one thing is clear: Jerry Angelo and the Bears need help at the receiver position. They've done nothing in free agency to help their lack of receiving depth and skill, while they've done so at every other position of need. See Glen Earl and Josh Bullocks at Safety and Orlando Pace and Frank Omiyale on the offensive line. They still need help at safety (their safeties are bad), even after switching physical corner Zachary Bowman to safety in the off season, but Angelo has found starting safeties in this league in the later rounds: see Chris Harris and Kevin Payne. Besides, I'm excited to see how Bowman's size, ball-hawking abilities and speed will transfer over to the safety position. No need for a safety this high, especially when receiver is such a position of need.

Angelo hasn't been subtle in waxing praise on Georgia receiver Mohammed Massaquoi. The thought of another receiver named Mohamed in a Bears uniform makes me cringe, but Muhsin Massaquoi is not, mostly because he'll have something to prove after not being chosen in the first round. Two reasons Massaquoi won't be a first round pick: 1) He's had problems with drops and 2) The draft is receiver deep this year. Massaquoi, a four-year starter with good size (6'2", 215 lbs), simply would be a first round pick in most drafts, but there are just too many first round talents at the position this year. The Bears worked out Massaquoi on more than one occasion, and Angelo seems to love the guy, so you have to think he's the pick here.

Two things to consider: 1) What if he's gone? 2) What if Percy Harvin is there? Harvin didn't help his cause by appearing on the NFL Combine failed drug test list by testing positive for marijuana. All things considered, Harvin will probably fall out of the top 15, but will he fall all the way to 49? Probably not, but if he does, Angelo can't pass on a play-maker like Harvin at that position in the draft, even if he's similar to Devin Hester as a player.

If Massaquoi's gone, Brian Robiskie (WR) out of Ohio State will most likely be there, and Angelo would probably look his way, considering there were early reports before the Cutler trade went down that Angelo was looking to move up in the draft to get him. Robiskie isn't a flashy athlete, but he catches everything, has good size, has a great attitude and has a father who's a receivers coach in Atlanta. He's one of those guys who doesn't look the part but will get it done, a la guys like Marques Colston and, let me go a little old school on you, Ricky Proehl.

Other possibilities:

Should they chose to go with a safety, look to Sherrod Martin of Troy. He's a first round athlete but doesn't posses first round size (5'9'' 193 lbs). Picture a slightly smaller Bob Sanders. But, again, Angelo loves the guy, can't stop talking about how much he loves the guy. Makes sense considering his adoration of small school DBs (Harris, Payne, Charles Tillman, Danieal Manning, Corey Graham).

The ultimate dark horse here is Oklahoma guard Phil Loadholt. The Bears have worked him out extensively, and they could use one more guard on the roster to back up Roberto Garza and his veteran legs. And he won't last past the second round, especially to the Bears at No. 99. Which brings me to my crazy theory this year (I always have one):

It's not like Angelo to be so candid about his potential draft picks, so why has he not held back in his praise of Massaquoi and Martin? Here's something to ponder: He's trading out of No. 49. Angelo values draft picks like Tony Romo values blondes. I know he wants more action, and maybe he knows something we don't. Maybe there are other teams salivating at the mouth for these guys. The Cowboys (No. 51), for instance, have showed as much interest in Massaquoi as the Bears have. If Angelo has a good chance to pick up more picks later by moving from 49 to 51, he'll strongly consider it. Then he can take Loadholt and take the receiver with the extra pick he gets later. Or he can go for one of the other second round receivers: Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias or North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks, who's been sliding since he put on about 20 lbs. since the end of the college season. Keep an eye on safeties Rashad Johnson (Alabama), Michael Hamlin (Clemson) and Brandon Underwood (Cincinnati).

All that said .... whew .... I'm going Massaquoi here.

-3rd Round, 99th Overall-

I'll be a little less detailed from here on out. Sorry I got so carried away. I just love thinking about the scenarios.

Angelo needs help at defensive end, and perhaps the most interesting mid-round prospect in this draft is Lawrence Sidbury out of Richmond. At 6'3'' 270 lbs. he might be a little undersized, but he's a dominating player, even if it came against mediocre competition. He's one of those guys who might be a higher pick if he went to, say, Texas. Speaking of Texas, Brian Orakpo, who might be the first DE taken, is 6'3" 263 lbs., so how much undersized is Sidbury? But can Angelo justify spending another pick on an undersized DE after the Dan Bauzin experiment? In this case, probably because Sidbury would be good value here.

The Bears did not work out Sidbury privately, or at least I couldn't find any evidence of it in my research. Actually, the only three DEs I found that they did work out privately are late round to undrafted projected prospects. You only get 30 private workouts on your turf, so a lot of the workouts are late round guys they haven't gotten a good look at because these guys weren't at the college all star games or didn't have pro days, so it's really not that odd.

Because the draft is not deep at the safety position, Hamlin might still be available, and that would entice Angelo.

If Angelo doesn't go receiver in the second round, he has to take one eventually, and he likes third round receivers. Lawrence Murphy of Florida was overshadowed by Harvin but has NFL size and hands, not to mention track speed. Can you say 4.32 40 time? Don't forget Angelo loves Florida guys. Why is Murphy a third round guy? Again, depth in the draft this year. Any other year and he's a second round player. (Maybe a first round guy if he doesn't share the field with Harvin in college.) Perhaps Angelo targets Murphy if he gets an extra third round pick somewhere, or maybe he's there at 99 and Angelo pounces.

As for the pick, I'll go out on a limb and say Lawrence Sidbury. Wale Ogunleye isn't getting younger, and the Bears simply need more out of the position. Sidbury can be that guy to give them more.

-Round 4, 119 Overall-

What a weird choice for the Bears. I've scoured the draft rankings. There isn't a strong side linebacker, which the Bears have a need for, that fits here when looking at the rankings. The only guy I see who could really fit here is a safety (they really need help there people). I like David Bruton out of Notre Dame. He's got better than average size for a safety at 6'2'' 210. He's fast with 4.4 speed. Everything I've read about the guy says he'll be an immediate contributer on special teams, where the Bears did struggle last year. That's what you look for in the mid-rounds. He's my pick.

-Round 5, 140 Overall-

This is the pick the Bears received from Denver in the Cutler trade. Why not give Cutler another potential weapon here? With the Garrett Wolfe project just about expired, I think the Bears look to, yes, running back here. I've only found evidence of the Bears showing strong interest in one running back in this year's draft, James Davis out of Clemson. Davis was projected to be a second round pick in last year's draft had he come out after his junior year, but he returned for his senior season and struggled with a shoulder injury. Not your typical change of pace back because he can be a bit of a bruiser, but the Bears need another guy who can carry the load when Forte needs a spell. Get these numbers from Davis, a four year contributer in college: just under 4,000 yards rushing, 47 touchdowns . You're not going to find those numbers in the fifth round out of an SEC running back that often. Davis told numerous media outlets that he "kept on hearing from the Bears." Hmmm....He's my choice here.

-5th Round, 154 Overall-

Let's go with the guard here. I've found numerous reports that Angelo and the Bears are high on Rich Ohrnberger from Penn State. Sounds like he would fit right about here.

-6th Round, 190 Overall-

In an NFL that seems to be drifting away from traditional, stout, stand-up strong-side linebackers, mostly because of the 3-4 defense, guys like Deandre Levy from Wisconsin are somewhat lost in the shuffle. The Bears, however, play a more traditional front seven defense, so Levy makes sense. He did work out privately for the Bears recently. He's the pick.

-7th Round, 246 Overall-

Al Afalava, a strong safety out of Oregon State, worked out for the Bears and seems to be a Lovie Smith type of safety. He's big, strong and good in the box but gets lost sometimes in coverage. In the Tampa 2 defense, your safeties don't have to be great in coverage, they just have to be disciplined enough to know their zones well and stay there when they're needed. Again, he can turn into a nice special teams player. He's my pick.

-7th Round, 251 Overall-

I'm going strictly off the Bears' number one need in receiver and who they worked out at the position who might be available here. That leads me to one guy: Jason Chery out of Louisana-Lafayette. Chery runs his 40s in the low 4.3s and, suprisingly for a speedster, is known for his great hands. Again, here's another guy you wonder would be a higher pick if he played at a bigger program. I'm going with Chery as my pick here.

One thing to note, the Bears did work out QB Todd Boeckman, so don't be surprised if he joins the team as an undrafted free agent either Sunday night or Monday morning. He's got NFL size and mobility, but does he have the arm? I don't think so, but hopefully the Bears have the quarterback position locked up for a while.

Well, now that I bored you to death, I hope it was at least informative. The third round begins Sunday morning at 9 am. The fast pace of rounds 3-7 makes day two pretty fun. Enjoy.