The Bears might need some good fortune to have Oklahoma's super-athletic offensive left tackle Lane Johnson fall into their lap on the 20th pick of the first round.
His unique skill set fits their biggest need as well as almost anyone in the draft.
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Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher are more experienced at the crucial OLT spot, but they could both come off the board in the first five picks. Johnson, who entered college as a quarterback, should last a little longer, perhaps until the Bears are on the clock.
The 6-foot-6, 303-pounder outgrew quarterback and then tight end and defensive end, and he only started one season at right tackle before switching to left tackle as a senior. But he's retained an impressive amount of athleticism while adding 80 pounds. He claims he can still throw down a 360-degree dunk on the basketball court, and he ran the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in 4.75 seconds.
Johnson resisted the move to the line at first because he thought OU coach Bob Stoops was kidding, but he eventually saw the wisdom of the move.
"I wasn't playing that much at tight end and D-end," he said. "I was just trying to get on the field and help my team win."
His rise in status has been meteoric, from part-time college player to first-round prospect, but he says he's keeping things in perspective.
"I've always stayed humble," he said. "This is totally new to me. I've always been the low man on the totem pole trying to work my way up. Now that I've accomplished some things, I know I have a lot more to work on heading into the NFL.
"Just because you made it to the NFL doesn't mean you've made it in the NFL -- that was a quote by Robert Griffin last year. But I think it stands pretty true."
That's Johnson, still thinking like a quarterback -- a really big quarterback.
There's nothing that says the Bears won't draft a quarterback this season, even though it's not an immediate need.
Jay Cutler is in the final year of his contract and, if he doesn't demonstrate the ability to make the Bears a perennial playoff team this season, he won't be getting another multiyear deal.
Since the Bears don't need to reach for a quarterback as some NFL teams do this year, they can wait awhile and maybe take a shot at one of the second-tier quarterbacks. Florida State's EJ Manuel is an intriguing possibility. He's a likely second-round pick with the confidence of a first-rounder.
"I definitely feel I'm the best quarterback in this class," the 6-foot-4 ½, 236-pounder said. "I'm very confident in my abilities. No disrespect to anybody else, that's just the way I feel. I definitely feel I can be the best QB coming out of this week."
Manuel ran a 4.65 40-yard dash on Sunday, second among quarterbacks only to the 4.59 by West Virginia's Geno Smith. Manuel's 34-inch vertical jump was best among quarterbacks, half an inch better than Smith. Manuel was also second with a 4.21-second 20-yard shuttle and tied for second with a 9-foot-10 broad jump.
On the rise:
Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan were the only two Division-I schools to offer Eric Fisher a scholarship when he came out of high school as a 230-pound offensive tackle.
Now he's good enough to be considered by NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock a candidate to be the overall first player picked. Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is a popular choice for the top spot, but Mayock believes the athletic, 6-foot-7, 306-pound Fisher may be better.
"I thought Fisher closed the gap at the Senior Bowl," Mayock said. "I don't see a whole lot of difference between Joeckel and Fisher."
Fisher was asked at the NFL Scouting Combine if any Big Ten schools showed any interest in him coming out of high school.
"Not really," he said. "The only Big Ten schools I talked to were Michigan State and Purdue, and neither of them really wanted anything to do with me. So hey, it doesn't matter where you start, it's where you end up."
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