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updated: 5/1/2011 7:39 PM

Wide receiver or not, Bears' draft looks to be a good one

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  • Bears first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi throws a first pitch before Sunday's White Sox game.

      Bears first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi throws a first pitch before Sunday's White Sox game.
    Associated Press

 
 

Nitpick if you want about the Bears' failure to draft a big wide receiver during the painfully elongated three-day NFL draft, but early indications are that general manager Jerry Angelo's 10th draft will be a success.

Despite picking late in the first round and having a total of five picks, the Bears might have come away with two opening-day starters and at positions considered to be their areas of greatest need.

Very few, including the Bears, figured Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi would be available at No. 29.

That's why the Bears made a bungled attempt to move up three spots. The deal never got done because of miscommunication on the Bears' part, but they still got their man.

Carimi makes the beleaguered offensive line better right now. Whether he plays left tackle, right tackle or guard, he should be a solid building block up front for the next decade.

There was little chance that second-round pick Stephen Paea would last until the Bears' spot at No. 62, so they moved up nine spots to claim him at 53.

While Paea wasn't mentioned by many as a first-round pick, the 6-foot-1, 303-pound defensive tackle generally was considered a solid high-second-round choice.

Getting him at 53 was a bargain, especially if he provides the versatility to be a disruptive force at the 3 technique and a stout run stuffer at nose tackle.

It says a lot about Paea's potential that he considers quickness his greatest attribute, even after setting the all-time NFL Scouting Combine record with 49 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

"I feel like the bench press was something in my back pocket," Paea said. "When I watched the replay (of his epic combine effort), some of the experts, (Mike) Mayock and all of those media guys saying that I'll be a true nose tackle (that was great).

"But in my mind strength is my Plan B. As far as the quickness and stuff, that is what I feel like I can bring to the game."

Paea might not have quite the athleticism that enabled the Bears' former 3 technique, Tommie Harris, to make three straight Pro Bowls. But he also is not as likely to completely disappear for long stretches, which was the knock on Harris the past three years.

Safety Chris Conte seems like a major reach at the end of the third round, especially when five wide receivers went in Round 4, including Indiana's 6-2, 201-pound Tandon Doss and wicked-fast Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian.

But given the ridiculous turnover that the Bears' safety positions have seen the past seven years, and the fact that Danieal Manning is a free agent, Conte fills a position of need.

Fifth-round quarterback Nathan Enderle was a four-year starter in a prostyle offense at Idaho.

More important, he comes highly recommended by Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who knows a little about developing little-known QB prospects.

Kurt Warner immediately comes to mind. If Martz believes Enderle is a worthwhile project in his offense, that more than overshadows the 6-4, 240-pounder's lack of athleticism (5.21 40-yard dash).

Besides, there's no such thing as a fifth-round bust, and this certainly seems like a better solution to the quarterback situation than 38-year-old Todd Collins was last season.

The Bears want to develop their own quarterbacks, and now Martz has one to mold.

Enderle lacks mobility and is a classic pocket passer who needs to be protected. That would have been a problem if he had to play behind last year's offensive line.

But with Carimi and last year's surprise seventh-round starter J'Marcus Webb, the Bears are a lot closer to providing a secure pocket than they were a year ago.

Sixth-rounder J.T. Thomas is not highly regarded, but he is the Bears' kind of linebacker (6-1, 241), which means he can run (4.68 in the 40) and has the versatility to play all three LB positions.

He also is expected to be a factor on special teams, where the Bears may have gaping holes to fill considering the large number of their key special-teams players who are free agents.

"All these players fit the prototype of what we are looking for at their positions," Angelo said. "Some of them will be early contributors, some will give us quality depth, and some will make an impact on special teams. I think that's the best we can do given the hand that we were dealt."

Now the NFL must find labor peace and get back to the business of playing football to see how that hand plays out.

•Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @Bob LeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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