INDIANAPOLIS--In perhaps another sign that the Bears will look at an offensive tackle or a wide receiver in the first round of the draft, general manager Jerry Angelo said it's unlikely the club will be able to find an elite pass rusher with the 18th pick in the first round.
"If he's elite there is a reason why he is there at 18 so I can't say he's elite,'' he said Saturday afternoon. "He might have elite traits but to say he is going to be an elite pass rusher, there is going to be probably one flaw is the reason why he is there.
"There are only probably in any draft maybe eight elite players, in any given draft, sometimes you might get to 10, sometimes it might be as few as three. That's a strong word. You might get a player with some strong traits that has some potential but there is going to be some real areas of concern too and one thing I have learned in my experience with pass rushers as there have probably been as many gotten on the second day, meaning rounds four through free agency as gotten on the first day. That is one good thing about pass rushers. You can get them really in any round. There are certain traits that they have to have, very difficult position to project as well."
Angelo makes a valid point. Jared Allen was a fourth-round pick in 2004. Jason Taylor was a third-round pick in 1997. Adewale Ogunleye was an undrafted free agent in 2000. Heck, the Bears' best pass rusher of all-time, Richard Dent, was an eighth-round pick in 1983. The draft is only seven rounds now.
With new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli expected to reshape some of the players up front, it could be the Bears count on him to make the difference there and use their resources elsewhere.
"Of course that will help whenever you can add a top-flight defensive lineman who's a rusher,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "But the first thing you do is what we did. We brought in the best defensive line coach in the game. He'll help a lot. From there, we'll always try to keep our defensive line as one of our strengths, so you'll always look to that."
Just maybe not at No. 18. Marinelli is expected to overhaul Mark Anderson's game after two disappointing seasons and all are confident Ogunleye will be in top form in a contract year. Guess what? When you combine Alex Brown's 13 tackles for loss with his six sacks, he was in the top five in the league in tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a lineman. That bolsters his personal theory that sacks are overrated.