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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.

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When the Bears go looking for a free safety in this draft--and it's not a matter of if--history indicates there is a good chance they will look to the South.

General manager Jerry Angelo has relied on Southwest regional scout Chris Ballard to uncover many of the team's defensive backs, including its best, cornerback Charles Tillman. Ballard also did extra work before the selection of Nathan Vasher, the only Angelo-drafted defensive back to be named to a Pro Bowl.

Some quick research shows that of the 14 defensive backs drafted by Angelo since 2002 (that counts 2006 second-round pick Devin Hester, who was chosen as a cornerback), eight have come from Ballard's territory. Ballard has expertise in the area. He coached defensive backs at Texas A&M-Kingsville before he was hired. Not coincidentally, that is a school Angelo scouted heavily when he was with Tampa Bay. At one time, the Buccaneers had six players on their roster from the school.

Furthermore, of the seven defensive backs Angelo has drafted in the first four rounds, five have come from Ballard's territory. Hester and former safety Todd Johnson (2003, Round 4) are the exceptions. Ballard also was responsible for the selection of Chris Harris in the sixth round in 2005 and Kevin Payne in the fifth round in 2007. The Bears trust Ballard to find defensive backs.

If the Bears do not draft a safety in the second round with the 49th overall pick--wide receiver is the club's greatest need no matter how you analyze the roster--the Dallas Cowboys could grab one right behind them.

Dallas, which traded itself out of the first round when Jerry Jones paid a steep price for wide receiver Roy Williams, doesn't pick until No. 51 overall. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Clemson's Mike Hamlin, Western Michigan's Louis Delmas and Texas Tech's Darcel McBath are all scheduled to visit the team this week. The Cowboys did the same thing as the Bears to address this position by signing a veteran--Gerald Sensabaugh--to a one-year contract. That is what general manager Jerry Angelo did with Josh Bullocks. Both clubs are eyeing lonterm solutions and the Bears are known to have interest in McBath too.

Nolan Nawrocki over at Pro Football Weekly, the guy who puts together one of the finest draft guides there is, has a terrific draft value chart that is worth looking at.

It provides a good glimpse at where some of the players the Bears have been scouting the last few weeks are forecasted to go, as well as some other information. Nawrocki updated it today and it reflects some of the sentiment around the league that North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks could be falling. One source we spoke to Monday said he didn't expect Nicks to be on the board when the Bears select at No. 49 in the second round, but he wouldn't rule it out after concerns about Nicks multiplied when he showed up out of shape on his pro day.

Nawrocki's chart has three levels for each round--A, B and C. A is for players in the top-third of the round, B is for players in the middle of the round and C is for players in the bottom third of the round. He has Nicks at 2B with the arrow pointing down. The Bears' pick is the 17th of the round, so that indicates Nawrocki believes he will be coming off the board right around where the Bears are at.

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Busy day of football activity, and we're going to tidy up action from the day in another post here shortly with a few interesting things, so be sure to check back. Right now, let's jump into the mailbag and Four Down Territory.

Q: What did you think of the signing of Josh Bullocks? Is he more likely to start at free safety than Craig Steltz or a rookie? Is he not that highly regarded to sign an inexpensive one-year deal at age 26 or was he just caught on a bad Saints defense? If he was a quality player, would he have been a priority for New Orleans? Does this signing make it more likely the top picks will be at offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive end, especially because (as you pointed out) the team has had success drafting defensive backs on the second day?

Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

A: We've got a lot to chew on here. My best guess right now is that Bullocks eventually finds himself in a three-man competition for the starting job with Steltz and a yet to be drafted rookie. What round the rookie comes in and how Steltz fares will obviously dictate to a degree Bullocks' chances, but right now he's got the best skill set to play the position. The Bears didn't have a free safety until he was brought on board. And, who knows, perhaps Steltz winds up in a situation where he competes with Kevin Payne for the starting gig at strong safety. Don't discount that possibility either.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Darcel McBath category.

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