Five weeks and counting to the NFL draft, arguably the most important selection weekend in the tenure of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.
The Bears have holes to fill and will need to produce some players from this class that can make an immediate impact, similar to what the team had in 2006 when safety Danieal Manning, defensive end Mark Anderson and returner Devin Hester all made major contributions. There hasn’t been a lot of activity at Halas Hall of late, and we took a few days off to visit Florida but returned just in time for a lovely spring snow.
Here are some bits and pieces picked up Friday:
*** The Bears are showing a great amount of interest in Tulane running back Matt Forte. Southwest scout Chris Ballard is expected to meet with Forte over dinner Wednesday in New Orleans, and coach Lovie Smith and running backs coach Tim Spencer will travel there to meet with him April 3 and put him through a private workout the following day.
Forte is considered a high-character guy who emerged with a strong senior season to shoot up draft boards. Forte led the Green Wave with 2,127 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns last season, although the bulk of it came against inferior Conference USA competition. Some questioned his speed and he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine, good enough to convince him he could skip re-running at his school’s pro day earlier this month.
Originally considered a third- or fourth-round selection, Forte could be moving into the back half of the second round. He’s in Detroit this weekend for a visit with the Lions, and has drawn interest from Atlanta and Houston as well.
*** East Coast scout Rex Hogan attended Vanderbilt’s pro day on Friday. That’s nothing out of the ordinary though. Hogan lives in Nashville, Tenn., where the school is. Still, the Bears are keeping tabs on offensive tackle Chris Williams. They interviewed Williams at the Senior Bowl.
*** Southern Illinois quarterback Nick Hill made a pre-draft visit to Halas Hall earlier this week. Hill is a potential late-round selection or a free agent. He was not invited to the combine.
*** Cincinnati safety Haruki Nakamura also made a pre-draft visit to Halas Hall this week. Nakamura is undersized at 5-10, but he weighed in at 203 pounds at his school’s pro day on March 12 and had a sub-4.6 40 time. He’s got a nose for the ball and projects as a solid special teams performer.
*** Western Kentucky wide receiver Curtis Hamilton also visited Halas Hall. Each team is permitted to bring in 20 players for pre-draft visits. The purpose of most is to get medical information on a player and give them a physical. You can’t draft a player you don’t have a physical on, and there’s no other way to get the medical goods on players you don’t see at he combine. Hamilton, 6-foot, 195 pounds, made 66 catches for 873 yards and four touchdowns last season. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch and scored 10 touchdowns as a junior.
Western Kentucky happens to be where receivers coach Darryl Drake went to school and began his coaching career.
*** The Bears put Maine H-back Anthony Cotrone through a private workout earlier this month at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y. Cotrone, 6-2, 253, went to Maine as a quarterback before converting to a tight end/fullback. The team is also believed to be keeping an eye on Black Bears tight end Matthew Mulligan, a potential undrafted free agent.
*** Bears scout Teddy Monago spent some time visiting with Missouri defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams following a pro day in Columbia, Mo.
*** The Bears met with Maryland tight end Joey Haynos at the combine and college scouting director Greg Gabriel was at the Terrapins’ pro day on March 12.