For the first time in three years the Bears have draft picks in the first two rounds, which should provide a legitimate opportunity to come away with four eventual starters, the goal every year of general manager Jerry Angelo.
But the Bears don't assume that a future Hall of Famer will be waiting for them at the No. 29 slot, which is where they're scheduled to make their choice late tonight.
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"Given where we're picking, you can't feel like you're going to hit a home run with a player, or that he's going to come in here and change the course of your football team," Angelo said. "We do want to come out of this with four starters -- players that we can win with. We feel that there is a good potential for that happening."
Four of the Bears' 2008 draft picks were starters in '09 -- right tackle Chris Williams, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Earl Bennett and cornerback Zack Bowman. But Bowman played his way out of the starting lineup last season, and Bennett wasn't technically a starter, but he was on the field as much as some starters.
The '07 draft provided just one starter, tight end Greg Olsen, although guard Josh Beekman started in '08 before he was released after one more season.
The last time prior to '08 that a Bears draft produced four starters was the '04 class that included defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson, wide receiver Bernard Berrian and cornerback Nate Vasher.
In a perfect world, this year's draft would yield starters on both lines, at linebacker and wide receiver, which are considered the Bears' positions most in need of help.
This year's draft is well stocked on both lines, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where 13 players could be first-round picks. Most of them will be ends, while the Bears are more in the market for a 3-technique defensive tackle who can fill the void left by Tommie Harris' deterioration and eventual release.
But it's offensive line that is the Bears' most pressing need.
"I would say potentially you could get as many as seven (offensive linemen picked in the first round)," Angelo said. "It's really deep with the defensive line, but it's a good year for offensive linemen, too."
First-round O-linemen linked to the Bears include Nate Solder and Derek Sherrod, who could still be available after Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Mike Pouncey have been spoken for.
If Angelo decides to look to the D-line, the Bears would love to have Illinois' Corey Liuget fall to them, but it's likely he'll be off the board, leaving the Bears to choose among Iowa's Christian Ballard, North Carolina's Marvin Austin or Oregon State's Stephen Paea.
It's possible one of them could last until Friday night, when second- and third-round picks will be made. If the Bears trade out of the first round (a possibility) they could stockpile enough picks on Friday and Saturday (rounds 4-7) to address all their needs.
At linebacker, the Bears have just two players under contract: Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. The preponderance of teams playing 3-4 defensive schemes could work in the Bears' favor when it comes to finding a linebacker. The 3-4 teams look for different qualities in a linebacker than 4-3 teams, like the Bears.
"Probably the guys we like, they're not even on half the boards in the league," Angelo said. "I think there are more linebackers that we can get later if we choose to go that direction. We'll be able to find players to come in here with the traits we're looking for."
Getting the big No. 1 wide receiver that all teams covet will be more difficult. After first-round locks A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the talent level drops precipitously.
"We'd like to get the big receiver like everybody else, but they're hard to find," Angelo said. "We've looked at the position hard this year. I don't anticipate we'll see anybody who is going to fit that definition, but we do like the receiver group given how it complements what we have. It's not a great group, but there are some players that we like, and we feel can come in and help us."
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