With the pro day circuit winding down at schools across the country--most of the big ones are out of the way(USC will hold its pro day Wednesday)--the Bears are nearing one of the next big steps in draft preparation. Soon, the club's six area scouts will gather at Halas Hall for at least a week. The team will begin to shape its draft board and at this point it's more removing players from the list than adding them. Twenty-seven days away from the first day of the draft, the team already has a pretty good idea what the board is going to look like.
In talking with a number of league sources last week, the same thing kept coming up over and over again--offensive tackle and wide receiver. Those are the two positions the team appears most focused on for the very top of the draft. Could it change now after Kevin Shaffer was signed this week? Maybe. But the Bears didn't come out and trumpet the signing of a starter, and certainly he's no longterm fix at the position. If general manager Jerry Angelo wants to ensure Frank Omiyale can compete at guard right away, he probably needs to go out and get a quality tackle early in the draft.
A couple tidbits we picked up along the way:
*** At this point, the Bears have not shown extra interest in UConn tackle William Beatty. Nothing is in the works in terms of a private workout or visit. That doesn't mean they are not interested in him, often times teams will stay as far away as possible from prospects to not tip their hand. But the Bears sent Lovie Smith to Vanderbilt last year and drafted Chris Williams. They had extra get-togethers with Matt Forte and drafted him.
*** The club put Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton through a private workout. Britton probably projects as a right tackle but one evaluator said he might not have the feet to handle the edge. He suggested Britton ultimately could wind up inside at guard. However, most are comfortable with Britton, who played left tackle in school, becoming a successful right tackle.
*** What type of tackle are the Bears going to target? Some suggest they are going to look for a big body, someone with a major frame that they can plug in at right tackle as a road grader. Get someone with a Fred Miller- or Big Cat Williams-type frame and go. That might suggest a player like Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt, who they have worked out. Loadholt is probably a second-round pick, but there's no telling if he will make it to No. 49 where the Bears are selecting. Beatty might not be that person, although he has a frame that he could grown into.
*** Another Oklahoma player that might be appealing is wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias. He fits the mold of the second-round receiver that the team has been exploring. Nothing is in the works with Iglesias, that we know of, but the Minnesota Vikings are putting a full-court press on him. Personnel boss Rick Spielman and coach Brad Childress were at the OU pro day and Iglesias has a visit to Minnesota scheduled. The Bears like going after Sooners.
*** Don't be surprised if the Bears start showing interest in Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller. The club is expected to host Longhorns defensive end Henry Melton for a private visit, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and Miller is a guy who is emerging as a potential mid- to late-round selection. Miller is a little undersized at 6-1, 310 pounds, but he fits the mold of what the Bears look for as he is very quick off the ball and has a relentless motor. He's also strong, bench pressing more than 500 pounds. Miller is from Killeen, Texas, and has a good relationship with Tommie Harris.
*** Here is another linebacker to keep a close eye on--TCU's Stephen Hodge. He played safety for the Horned Frogs, and after a solid showing at the combine some teams might still be considering him at that position, but many project him as a linebacker at the next level. Hodge was an under-the-radar guy but is beginning to generate a little buzz, and the Bears have a keen eye on him. One reason why? Hodge is a distant relative of coach Lovie Smith. Hodge is physical and could be a contributor on special teams immediately.
*** Reports out of the pro day for Northern Illinois' Larry English were poisitive. English is receiving a lot of buzz for teams that play the 3-4 defense. Green Bay was well represented in DeKalb, and the Packers are making the move to the 3-4 this season. What's interesting is how the expansion of teams playing that defense is going to affect the draft. It used to be that Pittsburgh and a select few other teams could find bargains waiting and looking for players who fit their scheme. Now, with the proliferation of teams using the 3-4, it's going to put players like English, who can project as an outside linebacker, in more demand.