We've come down from our draft weekend buzz. Time to take a look in the mailbag and see what we have. With rookie minicamp starting Friday at Halas Hall, we will get to our next mailbag on Monday. Get your questions in between now and the end of the weekend. Here we go.
Q: Would the Bears have drafted Ohio safety Michael Mitchell at No. 49 if the Raiders hadn't nabbed him at No. 47 and taken all kinds of heat for doing so? I am perplexed by the Bears' inability to address the free safety position in the draft, despite it being their No. 2 need. I have read the quote from Mitchell on Raiders.com, that the Bears called him and told him "to stay by the phone.'' However, the Bears seem to deny this. On the Bears' Web site, Larry Mayer was asked a question about this very subject and whether or not the Bears would have selected Mitchell at No. 49:
"Ohio safety Michael Mitchell was on the Bears' "hot list" as one of nearly 125 players they were going to consider selecting in the draft. But I can tell you with 100 percent accuracy that there's no way they would have chosen him as early as the second round."I assume that Mitchell has no reason to fabricate the story about the Bears telephone call, and I know that the Bears would never (ever) lie about a player. Do teams advise players that they are going to draft them at a certain spot on draft day if they don't intend to do so? Who's telling the truth here? P.S. Since all of the Jay Cutler jerseys are now gone, where can I be the first to get a Josh Bullocks jersey?
Chuck D., Oak Brook
A: That might have to be a custom order on the Bullocks jersey. As far as the great Mitchell debate, I don't think it's a matter of one side lying and the other side telling the truth, let me tell you that to start with. The Bears liked Mitchell an awful lot. They were one of a few teams that really had him on their radar. Secondary coach Jon Hoke went to visit with him on campus and that went really well. The Bears then brought Mitchell in for a visit and physical. He met with coach Lovie Smith for about 45 minutes. It was a good visit. The phone call you're referring to was a call that Bears Midwest scout Jeff Shiver placed to Mitchell. As it was explained to me, Shiver told him to stay by the phone. He didn't say stay by the phone because we're going to draft you today. The Bears thought they were going to get Mitchell, but not on Sunday.
The club was prepared to select him with one of its two picks in the fourth round. Mitchell went off the board at No. 47 and so really it doesn't matter where the Bears were hoping to get him, they missed. One source said the Raiders initially considered drafting him at No. 40 before trading down with New England. The Raiders wound up moving into the slot at No. 47 and they knew that the Bears had interest in Mitchell. Perhaps they didn't want to take the chance that they would miss him altogether if they didn't act then. I can say this about Mitchell, in speaking with him he seems like a sharp guy who is very motivated. If that plays a significant factor in his future, he just might be a pretty good pick for Oakland. He's got a nice combination of size and speed. Time will tell.
Q: Various scouting reports have suggested that the best NFL position for both Earl Bennett and now Juaquin Iglesias would be as a slot receiver. We have also recently learned that the Bears intend to move Rashied Davis back to a slot receiver role. The Bears must believe that one of Bennett and/or Iglesias can be a starter opposite Devin Hester, right? Even though it's very early do you have any insight as to what specific roles they have in mind for their young receivers or will we all just have to wait it out until training camp gets under way?
Shawn M., Wisconsin
A: Bennett has been getting work at the X and on the inside this offseason but right now the plan is for him to start at the X position opposite Hester. There is no one else ahead of him on the depth chart, that much was made clear during the March minicamp. Davis, obviously, has shown he can make some plays from the slot and will likely be staying there. That doesn't mean other players cannot rotate through their in certain situations. Iglesias will probably have to learn a little bit of everything like Bennett did last year. But the plan is for Iglesias to definitely be involved as a rookie. I would expect that would also mean some work at the X position. The Bears like to rotate their receivers and get everyone involved. Let's see how this one shakes out this spring and moving toward the summer.
Q: With the Bears not addressing the free safety position in the draft, can you tell us some other guys they are looking at via the free agency route? Or are they really sold on the guys that they have now? I hope the latter is not true.
Vik C., Chicago
A: Unless the Bears plan to insert sixth-round pick Al Afalava at free safety, you're right, they didn't do anything to help themselves out at the position in the draft. College scouting director Greg Gabriel said that Afalava has the ball skills and range to play free safety, but he also said he'd probably be worked first at strong safety because that is where he played primarily in college. That leaves the Bears with a couple options moving toward training camp this summer. No one seems real excited about any of them at this point. Before we kick around a couple options, let's keep in mind that a defensive backs coach is always going to tell you that the safety position can be manufactured. It might not be real pretty all of the time, but you can get a guy to make it work back there. If a defensive backs coach had a choice of using smoke and mirrors at safety or smoke and mirrors at cornerback, he'd choose safety every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Every team is going to have a question area. For the Bears, this is most definitely one of them. Josh Bullocks was signed as someone who can compete for the position. The Bears have insisted Craig Steltz could be in the mix. Then there's Glenn Earl and Zack Bowman. Steltz doesn't have the range to be a long-range solution. Like Steltz, Earl is a better fit at strong safety. Bowman was moved from cornerback for minicamp and no one has said yet whether the shift is permanent or not. Remember general manager Jerry Angelo talking about durability concerns at the position? Well, Bowman has those and we've listed them previously. If none of those options work, you're down to maybe three others--shifting Charles Tillman (highly unlikely), shifty Corey Graham (don't know on this one) or putting Danieal Manning back at free safety (highly unlikely). Smith already announced Tillman wasn't moving this season. There are concerns about his surgically repaired shoulders and leaving your best cornerback at cornerback makes sense to us. Graham needs to stay at cornerback until the Bears can sort through what they have in Nathan Vasher and newcomer D.J. Moore. Manning is unlikely to be moved because every time the Bears do switch him around, something bad happens. Smith is personally coaching the nickel position and will want to succeed there with Manning. He did so for the second half of last season and we don't see Smith signing off on a shift there with Manning. So, what's out there in free agency? Try not much. The Bears have shown no interest in Mike Doss, cut loose by Cincinnati earlier this week. After a draft that was short on talent at free safety, you're not going to find any attractive pieces in free agency. The Bears are going to have to make a go of it here with what they have. How they go about doing that, sit back and watch. We'll be doing the same thing.
Q: Why is Jerry Angelo not going to sign a veteran wide receiver? The roster is full of wanna-bes and never-beens at that position. Why not get some proven help?
Terry W., Parts Unknown
A: I don't think Angelo has ruled this out, although he did say earlier in the week that he was less likely to go that route after the Bears used three of their nine draft picks on wideouts.
``I'm counting on [Bennett's emergence],'' he said. ``I told Lovie [Smith] this morning I don't feel near the need to go out and sign a veteran [after Sunday] that I did before [Sunday]. I feel good about these three receivers.''
When you talk about proven help, yeah, there are some guys with experience on the street but it would be a stretch right now to call any of the available wideouts starting caliber. That is what the Bears need. They have proven for years they can manufacture No. 3 and No. 4 wideouts. They need to see if they have someone who can handle a No. 2 role. Let's see if they can get two starters on the field who can be dependable targets for Jay Cutler on a weekly basis. There is always going to be a guy with some experience on the street.
Thanks for all of the participation, particularly over the course of the busy draft weekend. We'll file some updates from rookie minicamp. As always, thanks for reading.