The Bears got one of the most productive rookies in the league last year when they selected Matt Forte in the second round with the 44th overall pick.
Lovie Smith is expecting big production again this year from the player the team is going to get in the same area. The Bears will be picking 49th overall to start in the NFL draft, which begins Saturday and runs through Sunday. General manager Jerry Angelo warned earlier this week not to beat him up if he doesn't fill the most glaring need by selecting a wide receiver. The Bears could be looking at just about any position, but of course you can rule out running back.
Forte was honored this morning in the Halas Hall auditorium as the 2008 rookie recipient of the Brian Piccolo Award. He was not present as he is finishing classes toward his degree in finance at Tulane University. Forte did speak in a recorded video and offensive coordinator Ron Turner talked about his value and how it is so difficult to get him off the field. Forte set franchise records in rushing yards (1,238), scrimmage yards (1,715) and receptions (63). He was the league's seventh-leading rusher and became one of just eight rookie backs in league history to have more than 1,000 yards rushing and 50 receptions.
Expecting that much production from their second-round pick this year might be setting the bar too high, but Smith has plans to get the pick involved immediately. He's not settled on one guy.
"At [No.] 49, there are going to be a lot of good players,'' Smith said. "We're going to get a good football player right there. We got Forte and we had high hopes last year. We have high hopes this year. Our track record says you don't have to only pick a guy in the first round for him to contribute. We expect a few of these guys to contribute this year. I feel good about the picks we have.''
Kyle Orton, Tommie Harris, Chris Harris, Danieal Manning, Devin Hester and Greg Olsen are just a few examples of rookies who have contributed quickly under Smith.
With all of the work that has been done on offense this offseason--the club acquired a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler and rebuilt the offensive line with three additions--it could be time to turn to defense in the draft. Smith has taken over as defensive coordinator and by all accounts has been going above and beyond in that capacity the entire offseason. It could be he calls for a player to help his side of the ball.
"Sure,'' he replied when asked if it was time for a defensive addition. "We could get an offensive guy, too. We have done some things on the offensive side but as you know they were easy decisions to make on what we brought in. We feel good about that.
"You look where we are right now and we're still in a position where offensively we could use a little bit more. Our wish list isn't completed on the offensive side. Defensively, we are always trying to add some guys."