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On The Clock: Who Do You Select With The 14th Pick?

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Commissioner Roger Goodell: “With the 14th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft The Chicago Bears select…”

Place Yourself In GM Jerry Angelo’s Shoes…

Unless a flat-out “miracle” happens with Ryan Clady (Boise St, OT), Jake Long (Michigan, OT), or Darren McFadden (Arkansas, RB) falling down to us at 14, we will be looking at these three legitimate candidates in the 1st round. Consider it a “theft” if we somehow get McFadden, Clady, or Long, and realize that are greatest “need” areas that we have to address are at OL (Chris Williams) and the RB position (Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart out 4-6 months, toe surgery).

We love to trade down (G/T Branden Albert, VA), that’s no secret (ex. 2003, 2006, 2007) because of the benefits and success there is when getting extra draft choices to slide down, and I doubt we’ll trade up, so consider a move come April 26th.

It’s difficult to predict who we will select because of our past/recent woes in drafting a RB (90s: Enis – Penn State, Salaam – Colorado, 2000s: Thomas -Michigan, and Benson – Texas) and GM Jerry Angelo’s history of not going after an OL early (Only 1st rounder, Colombo in ’02), as he rather tends to attend the “maulers” in Free Agency, where he beefs up one of the most vital, key positions in football because without the “big uglies” you cannot protect the QB and pave the way for the ballcarrier.

The Real Question Is: Who Do You Select With The 14th Overall Pick? Who cares what all the so-called Mock Draft “Experts” say, we want to hear from you and read your projections! Give us some feedback here @ Bearsgab.com and comment because we’d love to find out who you’d like to take and which route you think Mr. Angelo and the Chicago Bears will travel on the last Saturday in April (Draft Day). We’ll post the best articles right here on the main site! So come with your “A-Game” and bring your Bears insight and Draft knowledge to Bearsgab.com – The Definitive Chicago Bears Blog!

Looking Back @ Draft History: For every Earl Campbell there is a Cedric Benson, and so goes the saying with the two Texas standouts providing an example as it’s proven to be more fact than fiction, especially if you are the proud franchise of the Chicago Bears when truth is, you have had just as many busts drafted in the 1st round (Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Benson) than stars (Walter Payton) at RB in the Windy City. So who would you select with the 14th pick if you were in the shoes of GM Jerry Angelo in the “war room” April 26th?

Trade Down “Frenzy” Is Successful: Consider you’ve had tremendous success in previous drafts trading down, acquiring extra picks that turned out to be pro bowlers, as you sought out those value picks (reaches at the time, picking for upside) that made you look like a genius (Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Nathan Vasher, Alex Brown, Mark Anderson, Devin Hester, the list goes on…) On the flip side, your team is in disarray on the offensive side of the ball, having pressing needs to fill with the OL, where you’re looking for 2 starters and a left tackle and at RB, where you have the “other” Adrian Peterson (3rd down back), a 5-foot 7 scatback, and an injury-prone bust who is neither reliable nor durable.

2 Kings & 1 Joker: You’ve already been dealt a pair of “kings” with a championship defense and the #1 special teams unit in one hand, though you look over at the other “card” and see a “joker”, a card that exemplifies a “punchless” offense lacking the weaponry needed to become a legitimate championship contender. With this upcoming Draft showing itself more and more like a “Make or Break” seven rounds for the Bears ‘08 season and future plans, you are dealt the difficult question of what to do with your 1st round selection when you have so many options and routes to choose from, with one wrong move being the difference between winning the division title and returning to the cellar, having the opportunity to play further into Janaury or watching the postseason at home for the second consecutive year.

On The Spot: So do you trade down passing up a potential featured back or a franchise left tackle, or do you stay put by making a considerable risk, taking a shot at the best player available, realizing that player may end up being a total bust? Either way your back is up against the wall and you need to have a “hit”, not a miss Draft. So you are banking on a draft that you may be exalted for the next 5 years or criticized about for the next decade.

Your Opinion: You are now on the clock Bears fans! Read Site Editor Russ Loede’s draft prospects, diving into deep, in-depth scouting reports and the strengths and weaknesses displaying the outlook of the three players Chicago is most likely to target come Draft day.

Draft Scouting Reports Via: NFLDraftCountdown.com and FFToolBox.com

1. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois (My Choice):

  • Rashard Mendenhall had a breakout season in 2007. No one game showcased his talent better than the Rose Bowl versus USC, where he rushed for 155 yards (9.1 yards per carry) and 1 TD. Mendenhall also caught 5 passes for 59 yards in that game. The junior running back from Illinois was a top recruit out of high school, but had shown only flashes of his potential before this year. Mendenhall’s 262 carries for 1681 yards this season helped Illinois control the clock and chew up yardage on opposing defenses. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry this season, behind an inexperienced offensive line. He scored 17 rushing touchdowns in 2007 and also caught 2 touchdown passes. At 5’11” and 225 lbs., Mendenhall has the build of an NFL back. He runs compact and with a good pad level. Mendenhall produces plenty of power when hitting the hole, as evident by his career average of 6.4 yards per carry. He runs with great patience, picking his way behind the line until he finds the hole and bursts through. Mendenhall also possesses good speed for a powerfully built back. He can outrun defenders in the open field and make tacklers miss him in space. Mendenhall catches the ball well out of the back field, having caught 34 passes this year for 318 yards. Mendenhall’s decision to declare for the draft leaves him as one of the top 3 running backs available. He should be selected in the first round. Rashard Mendenhall’s performance at the NFL Combine was overshadowed by a few other players, but was spectacular none the less. Mendenhall ran the 40 yard dash in 4.45 seconds and did 26 reps on the bench press, displaying the combination of speed and power that have scouts drooling over him. Mendenhall’s outstanding combine solidified him as a mid first round pick.
  • Strengths:
    Terrific size and bulk…Excellent timed speed…A natural runner with great instincts and vision….Strong and powerfulKeeps his legs moving on contact and picks up extra yards…Has pretty good hands and can be a weapon catching the ball out of the backfield..More than holds his own as a blocker…Does not have much mileage on his tiresTough and durableSmooth and a very good athlete…A hard worker and team player with top-notch intangibles….Still improving and has some upside.Weaknesses:
    Only carried the load for one season…Has some issues with ball security…Is not overly elusive…More quick than fast…Doesn’t always play to his timed speed….A between-the-tackles-type who could have trouble turning the corner in the pros.

2. Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt (Eric Cook’s Choice)

  • Strengths:
    An outstanding athlete…Quick and agileHas nimble feet…Great size (6’6”, 320) with a large frame and room to get bigger..Does a fantastic job in pass protection…Mobile and can get to the second level…Very smart with good awarenessVersatile and has played both guard and tackleTeam leader…Durable and has a lot of experience. Weaknesses:
    Questionable intensity and motor…Must get stronger…Needs to be more physical and aggressiveDoesn’t get a great push…Technique needs polishing…May lack a killer instinct…Not a finished product and will need development…Not dominant.
  • Williams leaves Vanderbilt as one of the best offensive linemen in the history of the program. Granted, the Commodores haven’t exactly been a football factory through the years, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of work Williams has done during his tenure. He was voted second-team All-Southeastern Conference by coaches in 2006, when he allowed just one sack — none the last 11 games. He followed that performance with an equally strong 2007 campaign, when he again only allowed one sack and was an AP and coaches first-team all-conference selection. Quarterbacks love Williams, as they do all left tackles who don’t have breakdowns in pass protection. He’s able to counter any type of pass rusher with his size and quickness. He still has the potential to get stronger. He’s a solid run blocker — the Commodores rushed for 150 yards per game this past season — but he has room to improve. He doesn’t have the speed of some of the other top offensive line prospects. Williams may not have as big an upside as a couple linemen in this draft. But there is no question he’s an elite prospect and there won’t be a shortage of teams interested in acquiring his services for the next decade. The only problem for Williams is this is an exceptionally talented group of offensive linemen at the top, with up to seven grading as potential first-round picks.

3. Branden Albert, G/T, Virginia (Great Value Late 1st Round/Early 2nd, Likely Choice – Trade Down Option)

  • Strengths:
    Excellent size (6’7″, 315) with a big frame and long arms…Fantastic athleteGood quickness and agility…Strong and physical…Is nasty with a killer instinct…Mobile with decent range to pull and get to the second level…Smart with good awareness…Excellent pass blocker and also gets a decent push in the run gameReal versatile..Leader with great intangibles…Tough and durable..Still improving and has a lot of upside.Weaknesses:
    Still has some work to do in the technique department…Can be inconsistent with his leverage…Motor runs hot and cold at times..Not a dominant run blocker…Has to work on holding his blocks and finishing….He is still relatively new to the game.
  • With the lack of premier offensive guards in this year’s class, it was probably a good move for Branden Albert to fore go his senior year at Virginia and enter the NFL Draft. Albert was named to the first-team All-ACC squad this year and earned honorable mention honors as a sophomore. He even earned a handful of All-Freshmen accolades during the 2005 campaign. But the best award was being named a Third-Team All-American by the Associated Press. It is that steadiness that makes the former Cavalier captain such an attractive player. Albert will be consistent play after play and game after game. Injuries have not been a big problem and he has 36 career starts under his belt at UVA, which is an impressive number for a junior. Albert has only been playing football since his junior year in high school, so he still has some room to grow. Prior to that he was using his 6-7 frame on the basketball court, which has helped develop his footwork.
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