The Bears raised a few eyebrows, especially among skeptics, when they did not take an offensive lineman in the draft last week.
But for what it's worth, it was a top priority after the draft. The Bears signed Troy's James Brown, a 6-3 1/2, 306-pound offensive tackle who was considered a third- or fourth-round pick but went undrafted, apparently because he didn't convince NFL scouts he could make the transition to guard.
The Bears are betting low stakes that he can. Brown was the highest-rated player on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.'s draft board. Kiper had Brown rated as the 54th best player overall. Last year, the Bears also signed the top undrafted player on Kiper's board -- wide receiver Dan Sanzenbacher, who led all Bears wide receivers in touchdown receptions as a rookie in 2011 (three).
''I think people were leery -- at 6-3 1/2 at left tackle, there aren't many of those out there,'' Kiper said. ''And then you have to move him to guard and he didn't test out well athletically at the [scouting] combine. He had only 25 1/2-inch vertical.''
At Amite County High School in Magnolia, Miss., Brown played offensive and defensive line and also was a kicker and punter and fullback. Scouting reports indicate he can play at a higher weight He has played at 350 pounds in college.
''Athletically, can he play guard is the question,'' Kiper said. ''Is he a left tackle, where he held up pretty well at Troy? I know I thought he did pretty good at the Senior Bowl practices. But at 6-3 1/2 -- outside of Brad Hopkins and a couple of others there haven't been very many of them.
''We talk about 'tweeners -- it's very rare you get a tweener on the offensive line. Is he a guard? Is he a tackle? I think he's a guard. And I think he'll show well. I think this a very, very good signing for the Bears.''