The Bears are going to hold their annual pre-draft media session on Tuesday at Halas Hall.
General manager Jerry Angelo and college scouting director Greg Gabriel are going to do their best to convince everyone listening--and then everyone reading and listening to the reports after the press conference--that the Bears will have a world of opportunities when they go on the clock Saturday night with the 49th overall pick in the draft.
Best available player.
The Bears have preached it forever but it's hard to find a time when they have come out and practiced it, at least with their first pick. Look no further than last year's draft when they selected offensive tackle Chris Williams with the 14th pick. It wasn't a need selection, it was a dire need selection.
Angelo and Gabriel want everyone, including the teams picking in the vicinity of their selection, to believe they can go with anything other than a wide receiver at No. 49. Sure, there could be an intriguing safety on the board. Maybe even an offensive lineman or defensive lineman that is interesting. Then all you have to do is take a gander at the depth chart at wide receiver and see what real need looks like. You can't clamor for a safety or some other position in the second round now and then cry about the receiver situation come September. Remember, Angelo has had success finding safeties later in the draft.
He's had very little success drafting wide receivers. It's why he needs to attack the position with numbers. The only Bears' wide receiver to have real success has been Bernard Berrian, a third-round pick in 2004. Angelo followed up in the next draft by selecting a wideout in the second round, Mark Bradley. Only one of them panned out. The Bears are hopeful Earl Bennett will break out this season but it takes a lot of faith right now to see him going from zero catches to something very productive. Yes, Jay Cutler helped him have one impressive freshman season at Vanderbilt. But Kyle Orton wasn't the reason Bennett didn't see the field last season. If Bennett doesn't work out, then the Bears are back to where they were starting Rashied Davis. Angelo traded his draft future for Cutler so he's going to do all he can to develop the quarterback, including outfitting him with some wide receivers.
Berrian didn't exactly light it up his rookie season in '04, but he did do a lot more than Bennett in catching 15 passes for 225 yards (15.0 average) along with two touchdowns, one of them a 49-yarder. Berrian's 2005 season wasn't very spectacular and he didn't really catch on until the end of that season. If the Bears miss with Bennett and don't draft a receiver high here--remember their next pick isn't until No. 99 overall (two picks from the start of the fourth round), where are they a year from now?
So, prepare yourself for a full 45 minutes or so of ``best available'' chatter on Tuesday. When it comes right down to it, what else are the Bears going to do to improve themselves at wide receiver? The position needed work if Orton was going to be the quarterback. After the signing of Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer, the continued need at offensive tackle can wait a year. Josh Bullocks is, at worst, a stop-gap measure at free safety. What's the fallback plan at wide receiver? Where did Angelo say he was going to find help at receiver? In the draft.
Could the Bears go away from receiver on Saturday? You can't rule it out. After all, who thought they would be in play for Cutler? Our bet is the Bears grab the best available wide receiver with the 49th overall selection.