After allowing more sacks than any other NFL team, the Bears are expected to use their first draft pick on an offensive lineman.
Depending on whose mock draft your believe, they will choose Colorado tackle Nate Solder, Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod or Baylor guard/tackle Danny Watkins -- unless they decide to go with a defensive tackle ... or a linebacker.
NFL draft: Top offensive linemenAnthony Castonzo, Boston College; 6-7, 311 lbs., runs 40 in 5.27
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin; 6-7, 314 lbs., runs 40 in 5.18
Tyron Smith, USC; 6-5, 307 lbs., runs 40 in 5.00
Nate Solder, Colorado; 6-8¼, 319 lbs., runs 40 in 4.98
Mike Pouncey, Florida; 6-5, 303 lbs., runs 40 in 5.16
Danny Watkins, Baylor; 6-3½, 310 lbs., runs 40 in 5.29
Orlando Franklin, Miami; 6-5½, 316 lbs., runs 40 in 5.18
Derek Sherrod, Miss. St.; 6-5½, 321 lbs., runs 40 in 5.21
Clint Boling, Georgia; 6-4¾, 308 lbs., runs 40 in 5.29
Marcus Cannon, TCU; 6-5, 358 lbs., runs 40 in 5.29
As always with the misdirection NFL teams like to utilize in the draft, anything is possible.
If they go O-line, as just about everyone with an opinion believes they should, the Bears would be fortunate to have Solder fall to them.
He's a converted tight end with excellent athleticism, and he runs the 40 in 4.95 seconds even though he's 6-foot-8 and 319 pounds. His 20-yard shuttle time of 4.34 seconds was better than all offensive lineman at the Scouting Combine and most of the tight ends.
At least six offensive tackles will be taken in the first round, and they come in all different shapes and sizes.
"I think I'm more athletic than they are," Solder said, when asked to compare. "I can move a little better in space."
Solder didn't transition to left tackle until 2008, but he was a starter from Day One and started all 38 games in his last three seasons, allowing just 5 career sacks.
Solder needs to get stronger, and he admits he is still learning to play left tackle, but he gets high marks for character, coachability and work ethic. He also has the right attitude.
"I'm just such a competitive guy in everything that I do," he said. "There's not one guy I don't want to do everything better than, at every single level. And that plays out in a lot of ways. If I've got to smash him into the ground to shut up his mouth, then that's the way I'll do it."
The Bears would seem top have a better shot at Sherrod, who was also a three-year starter at left tackle. At 6-5 ½ and 321 pounds, he is not as athletic as Solder, but he's agile enough to play on the left side and big enough to play on the right if he adds some strength. He compares favorably to Solder in his work ethic, smarts and devotion to the game, but he came across to some coaches as a bit passive at the Senior Bowl.
But Sherrod considers himself on a par with any of the top tackles and said starting 35 games in the tough SEC prepared him well for the NFL.
"The SEC is among the best when it comes to athletes and the speed and the physical aspects of the game," he said. "Any SEC game will be very physical and very hard fought. That's the epitome of the league. It's a tough, physical game and I was right there with it."
Watkins is a native of Canada. He played hockey and rugby and worked as a firefighter in British Columbia for four years. He didn't play football until he enrolled at Butte (Calif.) Junior College's firefighter program. Still, he was an immediate starter at Baylor, opening at left tackle in all 25 games.
Watkins will be a 27-year-old rookie, but he projects to being a Day One starter although he probably fits better at guard in the NFL. He's still learning the nuances of the game, but he possesses almost all of the physical attributes needed to be successful.
Asked at the Combine if his advanced age was a concern, Watkins laughed and said: "Well, I don't have arthritis. … I feel pretty good. I was one of the first guys out of my physical. I'm a little more mature than the other guys. I don't think it's a negative."
Most NFL teams won't either.
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