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September 13, 2009

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Prospect Preview: Hakeem Nicks

April 21, 2009

Hakeem Nicks is an intriguing prospect if there ever was one. He could have been a good pick up for the Bears at the 18th spot in the NFL draft or he could possibly even fall as low as 49th in the draft. There is no way to say where he is better in his game than either Kenny Britt or Brian Robiskie. The three fit well together for the type of receivers they are and the type of receivers the Bears needs.

For starters it’s hard to argue with Nicks’ production, his hands, his work ethic his run after the catch his route running all the things that are far more important than a guy like Heyward-Bey who has built his reputation primarily on speed. Nicks’ intangibles are greater than Heyward Bey’s and that is enough to sell me on him as a prospect. In our receiver combine report we picked up on the scouting report given by Colts GM and receiver evaluator extraordinaire Bill Polian who gave strong compliments to Nicks.

Plus if you’ve seen Nicks play (I saw two of his games) you came away impressed with his ability. Nicks is a receiver who will be productive in the NFL because he is more polished than a lot of the other WRs who have come before him. A lot of Nicks’ yards came from his solid separation in his route running in short passes that he turned into big gains with ability after the catch.

His performance in the Citrus Bowl is all you need to view to know that he is big time receiver. He almost won the game by himself with his three touchdowns and 213 yards receiving. He just would not let his team lose because of something he failed to do.

Big time receivers show up for the big games and this is one game where Nicks was shining through. As well as the conference game against Miami. He made big catches in that game as well to help put his team in position for a win.

There is little doubt that if Nicks were to fall to as low as 49th in the draft he would be considered a steal if the Bears were able to scoop him up.

Prospect Preview: Safety Troy Nolan

April 19, 2009

Well this one is one of the easiest scouting reports I’d had to do on a player given that I’ve seen him practice and play first hand at ASU games the past two season. The benefit of being an ASU football season ticket holder pay it’s dividends in this case.

So can I put up a non-biased scouting report of Troy Nolan’s talents? Well I’m going to try.

For me personally Nolan can look like Ed Reed in one instant and then look like he’s lost in space the next. Why would I dare mention Ed Reed? Consider just for a moment that he was the Ed Reed of college football, while Ed Reed is the NFL version of well duh Ed Reed. By this I mean Nolan is a ball hawk with 10 career INTs of which five went for touchdowns. 167 yards for those return yards after he picked the ball off so I know Nolan can set up blockers and get into the end zone ala Ed Reed.

Thing is Nolan is not always consistent with his game. Sometimes he over pursues the play and ends up really costing the team. He is a good tackler, will stick his nose in and make a play on the ball carrier. But his most impressive aspect of his game is his ball hawk ability. He has good size, 6-1 209-pounds, but lacks the real speed you’d like to see out of your free safety. He’s not going to light the track on fire with his 4.61 timed 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, but his game speed is better than his timed speed.

His ball hawk skills were pretty consistent although after a big junior it took him awhile to get going for his senior year. He wound up with seven pass break ups to go with his four picks so it as no fluke. He was a second team All-Pac-10 performer which doesn’t say much to most people, until you consider created by god himself as the perfect athlete and safety (if you believe the hype) USC Trojan Taylor Mays plays in the same conference.

The negatives are enough that he likely won’t get sniffed until the later rounds. The 40-yard dash time from the combine will scare some teams as will some of his lost in space lapses in coverage.

The Bears recently worked him out privately at a work out scheduled for another player. Nolan happened to be around so he was put through some positional drills. Since the Bears have a dire need in the secondary for a safety prospect and the Bears are known for finding starting caliber safeties late in the rounds it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up a Bear.

Nolan is another safety prospect that is among the long list of prospects the Bears are scouting seriously. The positions the Bears are scouting the most players at are in no particular order wide receiver, offensive line, safety and strong side outside linebacker. It shouldn’t therefore shock most fans when the Bears go with a number of these scouted prospects that appear on this list.

Prospect Preview: Safety Louis Delmas

April 15, 2009

Of course the headline of this topic doesn’t really mean anything to the Bears since they don’t have a first round draft pick. But what it could mean is that the Bears may have to grab a safety in round two if they want a good one out of this draft. Some of the talk you hear is that there is just not a lot of talent at the safety position in this draft for the second year in a row. No talent whatsoever that is first round worthy. Last year only Kenny Phillips from the Miami Hurricanes went in round one and it was at the end of round one at that.

So for the second consecutive year there is a major void of overall talent in the first round. So where is the talent? Some would say there is good talent to be had in the second and third rounds but then a drop off in talent after that. There is some argument that top corner back prospect Malcom Jenkins may be forced over to free safety due to his lack of pure straight line speed in the 40-yard dash. What helps Jenkins though is his overall athletic ability, which fits in very well with the CB mold.

Beyond that it’s a matter of where you plug in the top safeties available. Louis Delmas from Western Michigan is the top rated safety in the draft by most accounts. Delmas is a four-year starter and a thre-time all conference selection which is impressive by all accounts but some may knock him as being a small conference player. Delmas has been productive all four years of college and when you are named All-Conference it’s important to not that it’s not the fans that participate in this vote, or the media. These selections are made by the head coaches within the MAC, so all the evaluation and respect that these players earn are from the coaches in the league. Men who make a career out of evaluating and coaching football talent.

That’s a fine level of respect for Delmas coming from his conference’s coaches. But to take it up another level Mike Mayock of the NFL Network’s Path to the Draft show said that Delmas is the most aggressive run defending safety he has seen in the draft in the last five years. That may be the biggest compliment that can be paid to a player like coming into the draft. He’s an aggressive tackler, unafraid of coming up and making the hit and perhaps overly so given a tendency to come up in play-action. However that can be coached on and worked on to a nice level of improvement. It’s about reading and making the proper reaction at the right time. Plus trusting that if it is in fact a run, that your front seven will be more likely to stop it without the safety having to get up and make the help.

There are a lot of positives regarding Delmas and not as many negatives as you would think for a safety that may fall out of the first round. It’s hard to call be overly aggressive a negative aspect of a player’s game because you want that in a player. You want to be able to have to perhaps calm a player down a bit rather than have to get him pumped up to make plays or big hits.

There is also talk of what is an ideal size for a free-safety in this league and Louis Delmas doesn’t have the ideal frame. One would argue though that at 6-foot 209-pounds is plenty big enough so long as you’re bring the wood every time you tackle.

Mike Brown wasn’t an ideal size and when healthy played at a Pro Bowl level. Bob Sanders of the Colts is 5-foot-9 206-pounds and is known for his aggressive style of play. He’s is like a human missile is the way he flies up to take on the ball carrier in the run game.

What is important is that Delmas plays the ball well in the air and attacks the line of scrimmage well. He isn’t afraid to make the big hits which is important when considering how WRs can be so easily intimidated to come over the middle by a big hitting safety.

Will Delmas last until the second round? Will he possibly be there at 49 when the Bears select? It’s a possibility if the WR talent pool that is considered first and second round worthy is drained by the time the Bears pick.

Prospect Preview WR Kenny Britt

April 9, 2009

Is it all possible that Kenny Britt will still be on the board when the Bears draft in the second round? The 49th pick overall is the first pick the Bears have in the draft, after the Jay Cutler trade. What is the potential that they would trade up to land a prospect like Britt at the back end of the first round or the front end of the second round?

We won’t have these questions answered until the day of the draft, but this much is certain based on Britt’s size, speed, athletic ability and his rising stock he may be one of the most intriguing prospects the Bears are scouting personally.

Ron Turner took in Kenny Britt’s pro-day personally, plus the Bears worked him out privately to even further evaluate this 6-foot-3 210-pound wide receiver prospect. Britt is intriguing because in everything he does, he does it well. At his pro-day he dropped one pass the entire workout session, and improved his 40-yard-dash time running a 4.48 and a 4.47. He showed solid hands the ability to keep the ball out in front of him instead of letting it get into his body. Plus he is a strong receiver a great prospect for his run after the catch ability and a player who is not afraid to go over the middle and bowl over CBs and safeties to get those tough extra yards. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of his game is his willingness to block in the run game.

Some of the negatives reported by scouts are that at times he drops passes from a lack of concentration and his route running is not as polished as scouts would like. The thing is you really have to dig deep to find negatives about Kenny Britt because he has shown to be productive and consistent. His production level doesn’t lie
rec yards avg TDs
2007 13 62 1,232 19.9 8
2008 12 87 1,371 15.8 7

Plus he is the all-time leading receiver in the Big East conference.

Mike Mayock of the NFL network rates him as the fifth best WR prospect on the draft board which is about as high as I’ve seen him rated.

Areas of concern some scouts say his hands aren’t as consistent as you’d like. Plus there are rumors of attitude problems and a cocky attitude that may cause him to slide on some draft boards.

Personally I don’t think is a real lack of a problem from Britt when you see his level of production throughout his career. Not every prospect the Bears will be scouting will be an ideal top-5 prospect who comes in and makes an immediate impact on the level that a lot of fans are hoping for. Receiver is a very complicated position to learn and develop in, but you take probably the best positives you can find out of a prospect and make your draft decision based on that.

Britt fits that role almost ideally to what the Bears need, he is tall, long arms, big hands and again the willingness to block is what the Bears need in this offense in the first place.

Fans can come along and nitpick Britt for this or that, prospects at this point have been analyzed again and again. Negatives can be found on even the best of them. But for my money I am comfortable with any receiver the Bears go after that has the attributes that Britt brings to the table.

Chicago Bears Pro Prospect Private Workout List

March 30, 2009

Bear with me I am going to attempt to put together a list of prospects that are being invited to Halas Hall for further review beyond just their Pro-Day and combine evaluations. The list will be a constant work in progress and I can promise it won’t be 100% accurate because lists like these are kept pretty quiet for the most part. Some information has been leaked so I’ll attempt to keep a running tab on who is coming and who has been here. The Bears are allowed 30 private workout visits per draft scouting period and are currently at 20.

If there is any player that I missed that you have heard is coming to visit Halas Hall feel free to share you comment in the comment section of this blog post.

Updated April 1st to include WR Mohammed Massaquoi and OL Lance Louis
Updated April 2nd to include WR Derek Kinder
Updated April 4th to include WR Juaqin Iglesias, DB Sherrod Martin, DB Anthony Scirrotto, DT John Gill, WR Brian Robiskie
Updated April 5th to include RB Aaron Brown DB Ellis Lankstser
O-Lineman

Rich Ornberger
Phil Loadholt
Eben Britton
TJ Lang
Lance Louis
Louis Saucedo
Dennis Conley
Mark Lewis

RBs

Aaron Brown
Ellis Lankster

WRs/TE

Hakeem Nicks
Kenny Britt
Brian Hartline
Taurus Johnson
Brandon Myers
Jason Chery
Brandon Gibson
Mike Wallace
Mohammed Massaquoi
Derek Kinder
Juaquin Iglesias
Brian Robiskie
Julian Edelman

QB

Todd Boeckman

D-Lineman

Henry Melton
Jamaal Westerman
John Gill

LBs

Maurice Crum
Nathan Williams
Russell Allen

DBs

Michael Mitchell
Al Afalava
Anthony Scirrotto
Sherrod Martin

NFL Network: Chicago Bears draft needs

March 28, 2009

Breaking up the state of the franchise segement into two less grueling on the eyes posts, we come to part two team needs. Most everyone that is a Bears fan and has a pulse understands what the Bears’ team needs are.

Charles Davis who is serving as a draft analyst on the NFL Network points out mostly what we already know. The needs Davis specifically targets in his statement are offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive line. But Davis projects the Bears utilizing the #18th overall selection on Hakeem Nicks wide receiver from North Carolina.

Davis states that Kyle Orton needs another weapon to stretch the defenses and Hakeem Nicks provides just that. Big, strong, fast, smooth with terrific hands, I think Hakeem Nicks would be a terrific selection for the Chicago Bears.

Based on a lot of the scouting reports I’ve read about Hakeem Nicks he doesn’t seem to have a real weakness to his game. Nicks is arguably the most complete WR in the draft opposite Jeremy Crabtree. The one true thing that old Nicks back, ever so slightly from being THE most complete WR in the draft is his lack of ideal or elite speed in his 40-yard dash times.

However when you pop in the tape of Nicks you can see that he has plenty of speed to make big plays. In the Miami game, Nicks had a huge day making plays which may have been his national coming out party for NFL scouts and analysts.

His exclamation point game came in the final game of the season , the bowl game against West Virginia. Nicks attempted to take on the West Virginia team by himself, attempting to win the game on his own by finishing with eight catches for 217-yards and three touchdowns against the Mountaineers. Nicks was a man possessed in the game with his game-breaking receiving ability.

Nicks fits into the mold of a complete player who will be available at 18 because of his perceived lack of game-breaking speed. But it should be noted the lack of game breaking speed that Jerry Rice and Anquan Boldin showed at the NFL combine as well. Nicks fits into that physical mold of receiver as well.

In our earlier combine coverage we covered what Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian had to say about Nicks during his combine workout:

Hakeem Nicks is a very very good player, he’s got a great feel for routes, he’s got very very good hands, he’s got exceptional run after the catch, and he’s a very strong guy. And I think he’s going to have a very fine career in the National Football League.

Nicks was a player I noticed early into the college football season during the ESPN televised game of Miami versus North Carolina. Nicks stood out to me then and I followed him throughout the rest of the season.

It’s almost to the point the way the hype as built around Nicks and the way the draft board is aligning itself and the Bears’ needs that they would be foolish not to draft Hakeem Nicks. This is not to say that there are other great players out there, Nicks just seems to be the near consensus pick that would suit the Bears the best at #18.

Herman Johnson scouting report

March 22, 2009

So I did a little thinking in the way that Jerry Angelo might do some thinking. With Frank Omiyale moving over to RT and the Bears being in need of a left guard now by proxy of the move, who would I target? What better prospect to scout on his pro-day than LSU behemoth Herman Johnson. At 6-foot-7 356-pounds Johnson is a mountain of a man. With that type mountain lined up next to Chris Williams for the next decade the Bears wouldn’t have a lot of problems running left on teams.

Johnson in the same breath would work well for and work against the Bears running scheme. Johnson would be able to help in the running game immediately because he is going to get out and lean on people and lean on them heavy for quite a while. If he keeps his weight down and conditioning up (which he is starting to do) he could develop into a solid prospect.

It’s important to note that not every GREAT O-Lineman comes in the first round. They come from various rounds and their work ethics define what type of player they develop into. Johnson’s weakness is he isn’t very fluid or mobile and may not work out in the Bears’ zone-blocking scheme which requires your lineman to be pretty nimble and to be able a hit a moving target. So while he grades well as a guy that might win a one on one battle against one of the Williams boys form the Vikings, he might struggle against a quick three technique type of DT. Overall he grades out as a mid round level prospect that could be had in the second day.

WVU’s Pat White continues to prove he is a QB

March 13, 2009

West Virginia put on it’s pro-day yesterday with some 27 NFL teams in attendance to check out WR/QB prospect Pat White. Problem is White continues to shine as a QB and likely won’t be drafted as a WR. Thus proving his worth as a passer who just happens to be the most mobile of QBs available in the draft.

At the combine NFL scouts requested that White workout as a WR with the WR, White refused by said that by request he would be willing to run through WR drills at his pro-day. Well yesterday was that pro-day and after about 45 passes in his QB workout most of the NFL scouts left and none requested White run through receiver drills. White improved upon or met all of the accomplishments he showed at the combine. White’s stellar combine performance makes it even more likely an NFL team will take a shot at him as a QB.

Said one NFL assistant coach in attendance according to the NFL Network, “that at this point White throws the ball better than Michael Vick did coming out of college.” Vick as you recall was drafted number on overall by the Atlanta Falcons. While yet another scout simply said “Pat White is a quarterback.”

White measure just a hair over 6-foot-1 but ran the fastest time in the 40-yard dash among QBs at the combine. He also threw better than the much more heralded Mark Sanchez. Sanchez also has about half of the game experience that White has leading to a somewhat intriguing question as things move forward towards draft day. Sanchez is pegged as a sure fire first round QB, but could his lack of experience hurt him? Could Sanchez be hurt by a higher draft status and more pressure to come in and succeed right away thus hindering some of his development as a QB?

White could easily be in a better position to succeed because he won’t be looked upon to be a franchise QB on day one. He’ll be handed a clip board and some popcorn and told to watch from the sidelines and get comfy in the film room. Plus has another dimension that Sanchez lacks which also could help him succeed. White’s only pressure continues to be the pressure he puts on himself to prove he is worthy as a quarterback. The great part about self imposed pressure is you work harder to meet those expectations placed upon yourself.

So would the Bears consider a player like White? It remains to be seen what the Bears plan to do as the QB position. Caleb Hannie looked fine in the pre-season for an un-drafted free agent. Kyle Orton shined as the starter for the first seven games before his high ankle sprain hampered his consistency the rest of the way. Brett Basanez is simply a mini-camp/pre-season invitee who won’t have a roster spot. There is spotty veteran QB talent at best available, so what is the harm in looking at someone like Pat White in the later rounds? A Wildcat formation with Hester and White would scare the crap out of any NFL defensive coordinator.

I for one after hearing and seeing what White has done am not opposed to the idea. White was quite efficient and productive in college in a spread option offense. His career numbers are quite good coming out of college. As a starter his completion percentage is well over 65% and he has a career TD to INT number of 56 TDs to 23 INTs. White is impressive as an athlete and is worth a second look by Chicago Bear coaches and scouts.

Western Illinois LB blows up his Northwestern pro-day

March 13, 2009

Perhaps not much is known about a small school LB prospect from Western Illinois. The prospect will be known before to long and should get consideration for being drafted in the NFL after blowing up his pro-day workout. Jason Williams measured just over 6-foot-1 and 238-pounds and get this ran his 40-yard dash time in 4.48 and 4.51. He then proceeded to go and hit 39 inches on his vertical jump and nail a 10-feet 8-inch broad jump. To show that he’s a strength guy Williams pumped out 25 reps at 225-pounds not bad for a LB.

So the question then becomes can you take a flier on a kid who played his football at a small school? Williams’ college stats are impressive, 107 tackles as a senior, 16.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, four pass break ups and five forced fumbles proving that he brings the wood when he hits.

The main complaint scouts had at Williams’ pro-day was he ran his 40-yard dash in a hard rubberized surface inside on a basketball court. So they added a tenth of a second for the surface putting him in the 4.58 to 4.6 range…..okay that was at WIU. So what does Williams do for an encore? He attends Northwestern’s pro-day and follows it up with a 4.42 4.45 on a much slower field turf artificial surface.

Have your attention now? Good because if you love decent size, fantastic speed (speed better than just about all the safeties at the combine) and production you likely do take a gamble on a kid who already has his college degree. What do you have to lose? He’s smart, tough, productive and brings the wood. So what if he wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, had he been invited he would have embarrassed all of the kids from the defensive heavy SEC.

Every year kids like this fall through the cracks but given his local Chicago ties, (Bears scouts were in attendance) and the Bears need for a strong-side LB candidate I’m for drafting this kid late. Groom him on special teams where you can get the most out of his speed early and often and see where his ability takes him. He’ll be tutored by two of the best LBs in the game in Urlacher and Briggs so he’s worth the risk. If he does slip through the cracks and into free agency, hope that he loves Chicago and wants to stay home.