Bears must address future needs in NFL draft
don't disagree with pomei's premise, but 2011 is IM more about immedaite needs and 2012 would b the long term draft at position like lb and CB .. neither needs to be addressed at top at draft this year:
Now's time to plot ahead to replace aging veterans before it's too late
Dan Pompei On the NFL 12:52 p.m. CDT, April 16, 2011
Too many NFL general managers look at their draft needs through reading glasses, studying just what's in front of their noses. What they really need are binoculars so they can see what's coming in the distance.
It's a trap to examine the Bears' roster and determine they must select an offensive tackle and a defensive tackle with their first two picks in the NFL draft because that's where their most glaring holes are.
A better plan, depending on how the draft falls, might be to ignore those positions for the time being. The best way to fill holes isn't through the draft — it's through free agency. Veterans are easier to evaluate and ready to play; rookies can be mysteries.
The smartest teams use the draft as a way to replenish wells that will run dry in the future — not wells that already are dry.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005, with Brett Favre signed through the 2010 season. Favre was 35 years old and coming off a fine season. Three years would pass before Rodgers started his first game.
Colts president Bill Polian has acknowledged that now might be the time to draft an eventual replacement for 35-year-old legend Peyton Manning.
For the Bears, then, it might be time to draft replacements for aging team pillars Brian Urlacher, Olin Kreutz and Charles Tillman.
Urlacher is going to be 33 when the season begins. He's coming off an outstanding year, but not many linebackers play high quality football into their mid-30s. If Urlacher can, and his body doesn't break down, the Bears can stick with him and have his eventual replacement play outside until Urlacher vacates his middle linebacker spot.
There is a chance Kreutz might need to be replaced this year because he is a free agent. But assuming they can re-sign him, he still will be a 34-year-old who's near the end of his career. The transition needs to begin now, even if the center of the future is a guard for the time being.
Cornerbacks tend to have a shorter shelf life than bigger players because they're more reliant on speed. Tillman recently turned 30. He played very well in 2010, but he has some hard miles on him and he's not going to play like he did last season forever.
Tillman is the only big, physical cornerback on the roster, and the only one who consistently comes up with takeaways. The Bears need a 23-year-old Tillman.
Once Tillman, Kreutz and Urlacher reach the end, it may be too late to use the draft to replace them. You have to anticipate that it will take at least one year for a draft pick to be ready to play, and it likely will take longer for him to be able to play at a high level. Expecting anything different is setting up your team and maybe the player for failure.
Rookies from the 2011 class in particular can't be expected to fill holes because it's likely the labor problems will cost them the opportunity to take part in minicamps, offseason workouts and summer system study, if not training camp and preseason.
So more than ever, it makes sense for the Bears to focus on 2011 and beyond in the coming draft.
In the first round, they likely will have only one possibility as a replacement for Urlacher — Illinois' Martez Wilson. He's an explosive playmaker who could be an impact defender in the NFL. Scouts say Wilson doesn't have the kind of instincts Urlacher has, however, and the Bears might not see him as a fit for their scheme.
Other middle linebacker prospects in later rounds that could interest the Bears include North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant, Michigan State's Greg Jones and Oregon's Casey Matthews.
Replacing Kreutz in the first round appears unlikely, as Mike Pouncey from Florida should be long gone when the Bears pick at 29. The next best centers, Rodney Hudson of Florida State and Stefen Wisniewski of Penn State, could be second round considerations.
There are a number of intriguing cornerback possibilities for the Bears in the first two rounds, including Texas' Aaron Williams, Colorado's Jimmy Smith, New Mexico State's Davon House and Virginia's Ras-I Dowling.
Very few people are connecting the Bears with these kind of players. But very few people have the vision that makes for inspired drafting.