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Our friend Kevin Siefert over at ESPN. com had a couple of interesting items on Wednesday that we do not want to overlook. First, as part of a series that included one selection from each division, he named Bears' defensive tackle Tommie Harris as the veteran player on the hot seat in the NFC North.

We think it's an interesting selection and probably a pretty good one. We can't think of a veteran in a critical spot in Detroit other than maybe left tackle Jeff Backus. Seifert points out that Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton is another potential choice considering the rebuilding taking place on that line. Sticking with that theme, it's probably fair to say the Vikings need a bounce back season from left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but is he on the hot seat?

Harris makes sense for all of the reasons that are outlined. The Bears expected great things from him when they signed him to a $40 million, four-year extension last summer, one that looks more like a $34 million, four-year extension now given the requirements for the de-escalating roster bonus in 2012. Still, there are big things expected of Harris and he didn't exactly deliver in 2008 when he said offseason distractions were an issue at times. The Bears have to generate a pass rush with the front four to effectively run Lovie Smith's scheme and that starts with Harris.

The Bears need a focused Harris and just as important a healthy Harris. The fear is they might not ever get the latter even if the team says he's checked out medically. Harris was held out of the end of the team's minicamp in March. He's never going to be full go on the practice field any longer. It makes us wonder seriously about a key thing general manager Jerry Angelo said about the draft. Let's go back to April 22 and review:

"Last year we made a conscious decision and we talked about it as an organization and [college scouting director] Greg [Gabriel] and I spent a lot of time on this too, but yes, we are looking at that and we are going to be more disciplined in our approach to taking players with medical concerns, and I want to emphasize that. ... We have to do a good job of being more disciplined because we've had some issues.''

Knowing what the Bears do now about Harris and his balky left knee, we wonder if the Bears would do the contract they over again. Perhaps the approach Angelo discussed when referring to the draft carries over to contracts for current players and free agents.

We're not suggesting Harris' knee is to a point where he will not be an effective player. Everyone expects he is capable of returning to dominant Pro Bowl form. But he'll have to be monitored and he's simply not going to be on the field all of the time.

Need No. 1--WIde receiver

Players on roster

WR Devin Hester (signed through 20013)
WR Earl Bennett (2011)
WR Rashied Davis (2010)
WR Brandon Rideau (2009)
WR John Broussard (2010)
WR Devin Aromashodu (2010)

Need

Let's see if we can get this straight. Prior to the trade for quarterback Jay Cutler just more than three weeks ago, general manager Jerry Angelo said the Bears had talked themselves into drafting a wide receiver in the first round with the 18th overall selection. Angelo thought there was a good chance the Bears could land a "blue'' receiver in that spot, meaning a guy who has a chance to be an elite performer. The Bears needed to upgrade their receiver corps and Angelo was willing to take the plunge after drafting only one wideout in the first round in the combined tenures of his time with the Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kyle Orton needed the help and it was on the way. OK. What exactly has changed?

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Time to get down to projections. Mock drafts are fun and provide plenty of fodder for discussion. When it comes to projecting to No. 49 and then to No. 99, where the Bears are selecting, that's madness. But we're going to give it a shot. First, our wild guess at the top 10.

1. Detroit, Matthew Stafford. Hey, we got one right.

2. St. Louis, Jason Smith. Didn't take long to replace Orlando Pace.

3. Kansas City, Tyson Jackson. This is what you call a selection in no-man's land.

4. Seattle, Aaron Curry. The Seahawks' defense got bad in a hurry.

5. Cleveland, Mark Sanchez. As much buzz as there is with him, he has to be drafted in the top 5, right?

6. Cincinnati, Andre Smith. Bengals get the lineman scouts believe is the most talented.

7. Oakland, Jeremy Maclin. Elite ability as a return man gives him the edge over Michael Crabtree.

8. Jacksonville, Michael Crabtree. Jaguars badly need some help at this position.

9. Green Bay, Malcom Jenkins. Packers need some youth in secondary and get the draft's best defensive back.

10. San Francisco, Brian Orakpo. The Niners get a pass rusher.


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Here is a transcript from the pre-draft press conference held Tuesday at Halas Hall.

JERRY ANGELO: Good to see you guys. Lovie's not here today, he had a personal matter that came up unexpectedly. Glad that you're all here. Good attendance. We always appreciate you being here at Halas Hall in front of us.

We are anticipating a good draft. I know not having a No. 1 pick will definitely put a cloud on the draft, but that doesn't mean that we don't have good expectations for the draft. I made a statement that I potentially see, given the work that we've done, three starters from this draft class. We certainly have needs that some of you have talked about -- pretty obvious in some cases, maybe not so obvious in others. We want to go into this draft addressing those needs. We certainly feel there's the potential to do that. We also feel that we're going to be able to create some good competition at certain positions that we want to do that at, given that now we know the landscape of what this draft is going to be.

A lot of it is contingent on the medicals, what they do at the combine. We've been able to digest all that information and feel real good that the numbers of players that we're going to have on our hot list will facilitate the things that we would like to get accomplished this weekend.

COULD YOU BE INVOLVED IN FREE AGENCY AGAIN?

JA: Well, free agency will still be an option in all likelihood. Most assuredly it won't happen until after the draft obviously. There will be an after-market. I think it will probably be a little bit better this year. It's my intuition, nothing I can present facts and substantiate, but I do feel given the quality at certain positions, what the landscape is in terms of what I perceive of how teams work, there possibly could be some fallout players at positions that we're looking at. Are we counting on that to happen? No, we're not, we're planning on this weekend to address the things we need to address.

WHY ARE YOU NOT TARGETING A RECEIVER FOR SURE? is it MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT?

JA: It is complicated for this reason: We do like other players at other positions. The receiver position is certainly something that we're looking at strongly for the obvious reasons, but I don't want to rule out other players at other positions that we feel will be better players in all honesty that could help our football team as well. We're never going to rule out defensive linemen. That's always kind of been our mantra since I've been here, and we'll always continue to look at defensive linemen. There's other positions that we feel potentially you would classify them as a need as well. I don't want to get focused on one position and then miss these other players. We've done a pretty good job I feel over our tenure of going into the draft open-minded, understanding that needs are important and they have to be filled -- if not in free agency, it has to come through the draft. That's why you'll see a lot of prognosticators after the draft tell us that we picked players too high or whatever. But in all cases, when you go into a draft and you have to have players [at positions] of need, you have to take them where you can get them and in all likelihood it's going to be in those first three picks.

DO YOU EXPECT THREE STARTERS FOR THIS YEAR, OR THREE STARTERS DOWN THE ROAD?

JA: Three starters down the road. I probably didn't do a good job of clarifying this because I've said that every year. When we put a final grade on a player, that grade reflects what that player's going to be, in all likelihood in year two and three. I remember when I was with the Cowboys, Coach Landry always would say if a player hasn't reached what we graded him at in year three, then obviously that in all likelihood was not going to happen. When we get a player graded, I want to take the onus off the scouts, to say: When you give that player that final grade, don't think that player has to come in and do that his rookie year. That's what is going to happen over a period of time and we really are looking at the second year, but the third year is when it has to happen.

CAN THE RECEIVING CORPS BE BETTER AS IS?

JA: Well, I think it will be better just given the fact that our quarterback is going to play better. I feel that will be something that is going to help that position and really the whole offense overall. If we stay status quo and nobody gets hurt, with our present receiver corps -- and when I say "receiver corps," you guys have to bring in the tight ends, too. I think Greg Olsen had an outstanding year, as did Dez in terms of their receiving ability -- I feel we'll be OK. Now saying that, it's not realistic to go into a season and think that you're not going to incur injuries. And part of why the receiver position is a need is because we want to create some depth there for that reason. But I feel that we're going to be better as a whole given the quarterback and given the continuity of Hester going into his second year. Rashied Davis being slotted as the slot receiver. We do like Earl Bennett quite a bit -- the familiarity, and it was a caveat with the Cutler trade, that he has the familiarity with the quarterback and the quarterback with the receiver. So we feel good going forward. Is it to say that even if we didn't come out of this draft -- and we always have to prepare for the downside -- without a receiver, that we couldn't do something post-draft? We certainly could and we will have a contingency plan for that as well.

WHAT RECEIVERS COULD FALL TO YOU AT NO. 49?

JA: Potentially good, but we're not going to manufacture a receiver. We're not going to do that. If there's another player that we feel may not address a position as needed as a receiver, we're still not going to rule that player out. Potentially there could be a player that we really like. It depends on who's going to start the second round. Give you an example, you're talking about Britt from Rutgers, you're talking about Nicks from North Carolina, you've got Harvin in the mix. When does that start? Do those players go in the first round, at the end of the first round, or are they the start of the second round? If they're the start of the second round, that might push a guy down that we like. But we won't know that obviously until the weekend.

WOULD YOU TRADE UP TO GET RIGHT GUY?

JA: Would we do that? We would do that, but I don't feel like we have enough ammunition to do that to be realistic. As you know the compensatory third pick can't be traded, so I'm not anticipating that happening. Would we rule it out? No, but I doubt it. That player that we like in all likelihood is going to have to be there at pick 49.

IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RECEIVERS AT 49 AND 99?

JA: If the player that we like is there, it will be vastly different. In all likelihood that player could be gone. Obviously that's why I say you always have to prepare for the worst, not live it. We still like the next tier of player at the receiver position. We want to take the players compensatory to the value of the pick. That's very, very important. At the end of the day, the team that has the best players on Sunday wins. We've always believed that and even if you get these need picks on draft day, players get hurt and you're right back into that handbasket. We've all been there before.

WHY IS THE TRANSITION FOR WR'S TO THE NFL SO TOUGH?

GREG GABRIEL: I think the receiver position's one of the hardest positions for a rookie to come in and play. We've done a study on it, we did it a few years ago. Generally speaking, it's the third year when the light comes on with the receivers. There are a few guys that come in and play and contribute right away, but for the most part they have a small contribution the first couple of years and it's in their third year that they break out.

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The last thing Jerry Angelo wants to go through again is a recurrence of the Chris Williams' situation. The Bears' general manager says the team will take a "more disciplined'' approach to considering players this weekend with medical issues or red flags.

The organization drafted Williams 14th overall last year knowing that he had a "stabile herniation'' in his back. Putting Angelo and the team at ease in the decision process was Williams' history at Vanderbilt. He hadn't missed games and his practice history was nearly spotless. The back wasn't an issue ... until training camp began. Williams looked like a hobbled old man arriving and leaving practice for two weeks. The club said the issue was muscular at first, that he had spasms. It didn't get better. Then, it was announced he'd had surgery. Turns out the surgery was on the same disc that had a "stabile herniation." As Angelo and trainer Tim Bream explained, you can have an injury to a different part of the disc and it can be completely unrelated to the previous "stabile herniation."

A firestorm erupted and the bottom line was Williams' rookie season was essentially wiped out. He played on special teams and in garbage time in the second half of the year. The team believes he'll be no worse for the wear moving forward.

"Last year we made a conscious decision and we talked about it as an organization and [college scouting director] Greg [Gabriel] and I spent a lot of time on this too, but yes, we are looking at that and we are going to be more disciplined in our approach to taking players with medical concerns, and I want to emphasize that,'' Angelo said Tuesday. "There are in my opinion more players and it was asked about what makes the draft more difficult, that's one of them, there just seems to be more wear and tear on players. Maybe it's the way we evaluate them, we're so finite at the combine.

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Busy day of football with the pre-draft media session at Halas Hall this afternoon. Plenty of good information came out of the 45 minutes with general manager Jerry Angelo and college scouting director Greg Gabriel and we'll be getting to more of it soon. First, we'll get to Four Down Territory and at the same time touch on some of the issues covered earlier today. Here we go.

Q: If the Bears don't take a wide receiver in the second round, or maybe even if they do, who are some free-agent options that would fit their scheme? I think Plaxico Burress is a longshot as he might not even be allowed to play next year. Also, I don't see Jerry Angelo bringing in another rotten apple.
 
Tom N, Wisconsin

A: Angelo ruled out Burress as an option for the Bears, even if he manages to stay out of jail in New York for carrying an unlicensed weapon.

"I know New York has pretty strict laws up there and what he did is looked at pretty seriously,'' Angelo said earlier today. "So I can't really answer that right now in terms of how we view him but I am not looking at him as an option.''

So, no bad apple even if Burress doesn't do time in the Big Apple. Who are some other options? Well, it's slim pickings out there. Angelo did acknowledge that the Bears could begin considering some players from the open market after the draft. They're not going to make a move at this point until they know how their roster is going to look come Monday. Keep in mind, no stars are going to be found now. You're probably not going to come up with a starter either. Not anyone you would want to project as a starter from the get go, any way. But here we'll take a look at five possibilities if the Bears decide to venture into free agency for some help at a position that is in definite need of some more depth four days from the start of the draft.

Drew Bennett: Complete bust for the St. Louis Rams after signing a $30 million contract. He missed last season with a broken bone in his foot. Bennett is interesting because he is 6-5, 198 pounds. He projects as a big, possession receiver. The Bears might already have that in tight end Greg Olsen, but Bennett might be worth considering.

D.J. Hackett: He's got good size at 6-2, 208 pounds, and long arms and could be an interesting option after spending one season in Carolina.

Darrell Jackson: Maybe the one productive Florida wide receiver in the last 10 years, Jackson hasn't been quite as productive since leaving Seattle after the 2006 season. He has experience with Jay Cutler having played 12 games in Denver last season catching 12 balls for 190 yards.

Ashley Lelie: The best vertical threat of the bunch. Lelie could be useful if he was in a specific role. He's been durable but hasn't been real productive since forcing his way out of Denver after 2005. He's made three stops since, most recently in Oakland.

Justin McCareins (pictured):
Decent possession receiver would welcome the opportunity to play for his hometown team. The Naperville and Northern Illinois product caught 40 balls for Tennessee last season and would be an option as an X receiver.

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General manager Jerry Angelo and college scouting director Greg Gabriel sat down Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Bears' draft, the one that already began with the acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler.

The draft, at least Saturday's first two rounds, will be anticlimactic for the Bears. Their only selection is No. 49 overall, the 17th pick of the second round and that will not come until some time after 7:30 p.m. The longer the draft session went--it lasted a little more than 45 minutes and we have some updates from it right here--the more Cutler was part of the discussion. The Bears shipped Denver their first- and third-round picks as well as a first-round pick in 2010 for Cutler and a fifth-rounder this year.

``I know not having a No. 1 pick will put a cloud on the draft,'' Angelo said.

But Cutler is the Bears' first-round pick, the closest thing the organization has had to a franchise quarterback in decades.

The Bears have started their pre-draft media session with general manager Jerry Angelo and college scouting director Greg Gabriel. Here are some highlights as we go:

JA: "I know not having a No. 1 pick will put a cloud on the draft. I see potentially three starters from this draft class. We certainly have needs some of you have talked about, pretty obvious in some areas."

Angelo says the after market in free agency starting next week will be better than usual. Maybe he targets a wide receiver there. Angelo believes some wide receivers could be cut after teams draft some.

JA: "The receiver position is a position we are looking at strongly but I don't want to rule out other players at other positions that can be better players. We're never going to rule out defensive linemen. There are other positions we feel potentially you would classify as a need as well."

JA: "Three starters down the road [could come from this draft]. When we put a final grade on a player that reflects what that player will be in Year 2 or Year 3."

Need No. 5--Cornerback

Players on roster

CB Charles Tillman (signed through 2013)
CB Nathan Vasher (2012)
CB Corey Graham (2010)
CB Trumaine McBride (2010)
CB Marcus Hamilton (2009)
CB Rudy Burgess (2010)
CB Danieal Manning (2009)
CB Zack Bowman (2011)

Need

If things go the way the Bears are hoping with new secondary coach Jon Hoke, this will be a position of strength with the players already on the depth chart. Tillman is still recovering from shoulder surgery in January and his health must be watched. The belief is he will be fine. He's always been such a rugged addition to the run defense that you wonder if his second shoulder surgery as a pro will affect the way he plays. Vasher went into Lovie Smith's doghouse last season but he was running with the starters in minicamp. That was because Tillman and McBride were both out rehabilitating injuries. Vasher is intent on fighting his way back into a starting role and he looked to be in good position. It looks like he'll get more of an opportunity than last year's cast off in the secondary, Ricky Manning Jr., and Vasher has earned that right.

Welcome to draft week.

We have five days until one of the more exciting weekends on the NFL calendar. Check back with us often this week as we will be updating with information related to the Bears' situation as we come across it. General manager Jerry Angelo, college scouting director Greg Gabriel and coach Lovie Smith will speak Tuesday at a pre-draft session at Halas Hall. The smoke screens are already forming.

We will have a Four Down Territory each day through Friday, so get your draft-related questions in now and make sure you stay with us all week, including Saturday and Sunday from Halas Hall where we'll be filing continuous updates. Let's get to it:

Q: I've seen plenty of stories from all over that seem to indicate some of the top wide receivers could be falling into the second round. If so, why wouldn't the Bears trade up to give themselves a better chance to grab a player who could make a difference for Jay Cutler this season? I know rookie wide receivers are not always the most productive, and they are not the safest picks, but I'm with you. Are the Bears that sure Earl Bennett is a future star?

Sean B., Chicago

A: That is a good question and one we've covered a little bit before. The first point that needs to be made is that Angelo's history is to trade down in the draft. In seven years, he's traded up just once and that was to acquire wide receiver Justin Gage in the fifth round in 2003. Angelo has traded down a number of times, most notably in 2003 when he dealt out of the No. 4 overall pick and in 2006 when he traded the No. 26 overall selection to move out of the first round all together. History would say the chances are not good, but then again history would have told us the chances for Angelo getting in the running for Jay Cutler were not good either. That's changed and now the Bears need to do something to get some wide receivers to go with Cutler.

Now, NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock said last week that you can throw the traditional draft value chart away. He calls is obsolete.

``Every team in the top 10 is looking to trade out,'' Mayock said. ``Never seen it, never seen the situation quite this heavy. And the theory is, everybody knows we're upside-down right now with this draft. The rookies are getting paid way too much money proportionate to their value. So, teams are scared to death of missing (in) the top-10.


``Here's what happening, though, that I think is really interesting, and I'm anxious to see if this trend plays out. That whole trade chart that all the teams used to use, it began to go out the window last year, and I think, like the economy, it's completely out the window now. So, I think any team in the top 10 that is looking to get out will listen to any reasonable offer, and more than ever, teams are looking to get down (to picks) 15 to 25, because you can get the same kind of player at (No.) 20 as you can at (No.) 7, and you pay one-third the money.''

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The Bears are going to hold their annual pre-draft media session on Tuesday at Halas Hall.

General manager Jerry Angelo and college scouting director Greg Gabriel are going to do their best to convince everyone listening--and then everyone reading and listening to the reports after the press conference--that the Bears will have a world of opportunities when they go on the clock Saturday night with the 49th overall pick in the draft.

Best available player.

The Bears have preached it forever but it's hard to find a time when they have come out and practiced it, at least with their first pick. Look no further than last year's draft when they selected offensive tackle Chris Williams with the 14th pick. It wasn't a need selection, it was a dire need selection.

Angelo and Gabriel want everyone, including the teams picking in the vicinity of their selection, to believe they can go with anything other than a wide receiver at No. 49. Sure, there could be an intriguing safety on the board. Maybe even an offensive lineman or defensive lineman that is interesting. Then all you have to do is take a gander at the depth chart at wide receiver and see what real need looks like. You can't clamor for a safety or some other position in the second round now and then cry about the receiver situation come September. Remember, Angelo has had success finding safeties later in the draft.

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One of the issues the Bears have to be batting around at Halas Hall on the second day of full meetings with the scouting staff is what the difference is going to be in this draft between the seventh or eighth wide receiver vs. say the 13th or 14th wide receiver.

There is considerable depth at the position to go with some top-end talent. At safety, arguably the Bears' second greatest need going into this draft, there is not the elite talent you have seen in recent years and there also isn't a lot in the way of depth.

Bears college scouting director Greg Gabriel likes to talk in terms of combinations of players and that is what you have to do here. What combination of receiver and safety could the Bears get if they go with a receiver at No. 49 overall and a safety later on? What combination of safety and receiver could they get if they pull the trigger on a safety at No. 49 overall? At that point they could probably get a top five safety, maybe even top three depending on how the draft unfolds.

If the Bears opt for a receiver in the second round there is a good chance they will wait until the later rounds for a safety given their history of finding players such as Kevin Payne, Chris Harris and even Todd Johnson in the fourth round on down. If general manager Jerry Angelo makes a play for a safety in the second round, our bet is he goes with a wide receiver with his next selection at No. 99, the second-to-final pick of the third round, the compensatory selection for losing Bernard Berrian via free agency.

That is why we introduced Virginia's Kevin Ogletree as a possibility here. He's gaining some momentum and the Bears might be more comfortable with someone like him and a safety who could compete immediately for a starting job than a receiver like Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi or Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias and a safety later on in the draft.

``It's probably just guys going in and really looking at my film and evaluating me as a player,'' Ogletree said Thursday morning when asked why he was gaining some buzz with the draft nine days off. ``They're probably seeing some of the little things. I played with a bunch of quarterbacks, I think that helps. Given the opportunities I had, I did everything I could.''

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