Q: Wide receiver is the Bears' biggest need in the draft but count me among the crowd that is concerned they will be looking at the 8th or 9th wide receiver by the time their pick comes up. If that is the case, why draft a receiver that not only might not make much impact this season, but might not be anything down the road? Really what I want to know is what else Jerry Angelo could look at if he doesn't take a receiver?
Evan E., Chicago
A: You make a valid point and I believe it's the same thing the Bears have been mulling over for a couple weeks now. Do they pick a receiver to fill a glaring need for depth just to have one, or do they consider a player with a far better grade at a different position? It is all going to depend on how the draft board falls. I think it is safe to say that if they don't pull the trigger on a receiver that they will most assuredly being going with defense.
Maybe you wonder why Angelo would not consider an offensive lineman. Well, he laid out a pretty good reason earlier this week. The Bears already have eight veteran offensive linemen they will carry. Adding a ninth will force them to trim from elsewhere on the 53-man roster. Angelo feels better about his line than he has in some time. They believe line coach Harry Hiestand does a terrific job, particularly after last season, and they will not look at the line early in the draft. Quarterback, running back and tight end are not need areas, so we turn to the defense.
The Bears are set at linebacker for this season and the history of Angelo and coach Lovie Smith is for them to draft defensive linemen and defensive backs in quantity.
At defensive end, which is where the Bears have a need with three players heading into the final year of their contract, I don't know if there is a player who will fit their scheme that will be on the board. Northern Illinois' Larry English could slide into the second round, but won't go that far and he doesn't match what the Bears are seeking. There are a couple of nice players at the top of the list but they will be gone.
At defensive tackle, Missouri's Ziggy Hood would be ideal but he also could be off the board before the Bears select. Again, the top tier players are going to be gone and those that will remain don't look to be great fits for the scheme or good value for the round.
So that takes us to the secondary. First, we want to lean on something Angelo talked about on Tuesday when asked about the safety position. He said the club has a profile and they're looking for a player with good size. They've had more than their share of injuries at the position and want to minimize the chance for that by going with bigger players who theoretically will be more durable. For my money, that eliminates someone like Alabama's Rashad Johnson, at least with this pick. You can poke a hole in virtually all of these guys and size is an issue. Western Michigan's Louis Delmas has durability issues. He's not big either. The guy that could be a match here is Missouri's William Moore, a 6-foot, 221-pounder. It's too early at this pick for Texas Tech's Darcel McBath. Oregon's Patrick Chung could also be a fit and he had a durable career to have confidence in when considering him.
At cornerback, Troy Sherrod Martin is interesting and the Bears sent defensive backs coach Jon Hoke in to work him out. Some teams see Martin as a free safety, but he has durability concerns in his past and sometimes these workouts are fancy smokescreens. This position isn't nearly as needed and the Bears are not going to move Charles Tillman to free safety and are not inclined to shift Corey Graham at this point.
Q: I don't remember where I saw this, but I read a report somewhere that the Bears had quietly promoted Greg Olsen to starter prior to minicamp this off-season. Can you substantiate or refute that, or is that really impossible to determine?
Michael L., Parts Unknown
A: Veteran Desmond Clark made 16 starts last season while Olsen got seven as the Bears did so much work in double tight-end formations, a product of their strength at the position and the ineffective play they got from their wide receivers. Clark has been remarkably durable at one of the most statistically injured positions in the league. He's played in all 16 games for four straight seasons and has missed a total of two games in six seasons with the Bears. Clark is considered a much better blocker in the run game than Olsen and that right there will be the biggest obstacle to Olsen getting on the field more. While Clark had nine more starts, there wasn't a big difference in their playing time. For a little more on this, I asked Lovie Smith about the possibility of Olsen carving out a more consistent starting role.
"Who starts doesn't really matter,'' Smith said. "Both guys played last year. Last year, we considered Greg a starter. It's like you have a third receiver who is a starter. I feel like we had 13 starters on the offense. Defense, the nickel is like a starter. Greg is one of the guys."
And, to finish up, yes it's a little too early to discern something like this unless you've seen a guy go straight to the doghouse. The depth chart is going to be fluid until training camp. I'd expect a similar situation this year.
Q: Is Brandon Rideau going to get a look this year? I seem to remember him being a star of last year's preseason. He has decent size and speed and great hands, traits which are well-suited for a West Coast offense. Does he get a chance to play this year, or is he destined to be a star on someone else's team? I think he can be a starter on the Bears if given a chance next to Devin Hester, and certainly the Bears need some height in the receiver corps. What do you think?
John S., Schaumburg
A: Rideau was a star of the preseason if you count leading the league in touchdowns with three. Problem is most of his action came in garbage time when it's difficult to evaluate play. The bottom line was he was on the field making plays. It was confusing to me why he didn't get a better look last season when you consider what little production the team was getting from its receivers. One of the obstacles Rideau faced, and will continue to face is that he didn't have a role on special teams. Backup receivers have to be active in that phase and he wasn't able to earn a spot there. He's got terrific size at 6-3, 198 pounds, and his speed is adequate. I don't know enough about his hands right now to evaluate them. I wouldn't classify him as a sure star in the making for someone else. Remember, he was cut at the end of preseason before he was re-signed to the practice squad and 31 other teams had a chance to make him a star right then and there. Rideau will have a chance. It will be a bigger chance if the Bears wait past the second round to draft a receiver.
Q: Just saw some speculation that the Bengals might be willing to trade Chad Ochocinco for a second-round pick. Do you think this would be a move the Bears would consider? It seems to fit their win-now philosophy, and would bring a proven receiver into the fold rather than a youngster who may or may not pan out.
A: It looks to be a moot point because the Bengals say Ochocinco is staying put whether he likes it or not. Angelo has been pretty clear, he'll be drafting talent at wide receiver. I don't expect any more blockbuster trades.
We'll check in with our final Four Down Territory before the draft on Friday. We'll also deliver some projected combinations of players for the Bears with the first two picks as well as a complete roster breakdown and more. Make sure you check in with us often on Saturday and Sunday. We'll be blogging constantly from Halas Hall and will do our best to have instant analysis on the action. Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading and making this two months or so of pre-draft buildup exciting.