It was just a matter of time before the Bears got around to doing their due diligence with running back Rashard Mendenhall.
The Niles West product will visit Halas Hall on Thursday, joining the list of top backs the club has gotten together with in recent weeks.
Most draft observers view Mendenhall, who offensive coordinator Ron Turner recruited to Illinois, as the No. 2 back in the class behind Arkansas’ Darren McFadden. After those two, the rankings become more muddled with some prospects who provide good depth for the end of round one and into the third round.
Mendenhall has a good combination of size, power and quickness and is attractive to teams because he comes out as an underclassman with low mileage. Whether or not he will be available when the Bears select at No. 14 remains to be seen. The Bears also have pressing needs to fill on the offensive line, where John St. Clair and Terrence Metcalf are penciled in as starters right now.
The Bears have are known to have checked out McFadden and Arkansas teammate Felix Jones, Tulane’s Matt Forte and Texas’ Jamaal Charles recently.
The Carolina Panthers put Mendenhall through a private workout on March 27. They have the 13th pick, one ahead of the Bears. He also has met or will meet with the New York Jets (sixth pick), Cincinnati Bengals (ninth pick) and Dallas Cowboys (22nd and 28th picks).