Reader Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Tribune's Bears columnist fields questions on wide receivers, the draft vs. free agency and more in his weekly mailbag.
Notre Dame product Michael Floyd could be a perfect fit for the Bears. (Orlando Sentinel Photo)
By Dan Pompei Chicago Tribune reporter 5:53 p.m. CST, February 29, 2012
If the Bears are thinking wide receiver in the draft and both are available, should they take Michael Floyd's size or Kendall Wright's speed? -- Brian, Vernon Hills
Interesting question. Let's forget, for a moment, that Floyd had a faster 40 time at the combine than Wright. We all know Wright was faster in pads on Saturdays last fall. I know the Bears don't have a big wide receiver and the emphasis has been on adding one. But if they want a wide receiver, they should take the player they think is going to be the best wide receiver, regardless of size or speed. Teams can get too caught up in focusing on a specific trait or quality and forget that the only thing that will ultimately matter is who plays the game the best. If Wright is more highly rated by their scouts, there is no way they should pass him up to take a bigger receiver just because they don't have a big receiver. If it's close between the two players, then you can lean toward the player who fits the hole the best. I'm still in the process of researching draft prospects, but from what know at this point it is close between Floyd and Wright.
There are plenty of solid wideouts in this year's free agency and the Bears need one badly. So who do you think fits the Bears' system the best and has the best shot of wearing a Bears jersey next season? -- Sam Rudman, New England
Vincent Jackson is the best wide receiver with an expiring contract, and he would fit the Bears' need perfectly. There remains a school of thought that he will re-sign with the Chargers, though. And if he does become a free agent, there will be multiple suitors for him. It might be more realistic that the Bears end up signing someone like Stevie Johnson or Pierre Garcon. (Not gonna outbid the Colts for him if they've offered him $35/5yrs. and the turned it down. He should hope the Colts don't pull it off the table when FA starts. He may not get a better offer than that one. I don't know exactly what the rap on Johnson is but he has size Cutler wants (barely) and he's an outside cold weather guy although I don't think that makes a difference to anyone but VJax. He's already stated more than a year ago that he did not to play for or be traded to a cold weather team)
Is there any way you see Chicago going after Wisconsin's Nick Toon? He is underrated and should be available in the second or even third round. He is big, physical, has speed and is a great blocker. I think he would be a great fit in Chicago. -- Chris Munoz
Toon would be a fine pickup in the second round. He has size (6-2, 215) and good body control. He isn't a burner, but he should develop into a solid NFL receiver. If he had come out last year, as had been rumored, there is a chance he would have gone late in the first round. (I'd love to get Toon or McNutt from Iowa with a second or preferably that higher third round pick. We need to begin developing our own receivers better than we have done. Maybe it's just that they haven't had as much time in with Cutler as they need but whatever the reason we need to start a program of upgrading. Toon would be a good addition. Not all that much differnce than Floyd as far as size goes but a far less risky pick in the second round.)
Enjoyed your column on the danger of signing free-agent wide receivers. Reminds me of the Vikings signing Bernard Berrian. What happened to him? Seemed like his career was ascending when he left the Bears. -- Justin Fredian
After signing with the Vikings in 2008, Berrian had a career year with 964 receiving yards and an average per catch of 20.1. But that was his last good NFL season. In 2009, the Vikings brought in Brett Favre, and the legendary quarterback never clicked with Berrian. Berrian's production dipped despite the fact that the Vikings' offense became much more explosive and efficient. The following season Berrian had a few injury issues. By 2011, he wasn't the same player, and the Vikings cut him after five games. He has not been picked up by another team. Berrian is 31 now, and the NFL usually isn't too accepting of aging receivers who were speed dependent. (Cue Paul Simon's song "One Trick Pony".)
After watching the wide receivers, I was wondering if you would look at production in college or potential in the pros when drafting. I ask because Michael Floyd makes sense but Stephen Hill has off-the-charts numbers and played in a run-oriented offense at Georgia Tech. -- Shaun O'Brien, Wasilla, Ark.
I think you have to take everything into account, but pro potential certainly outweighs college production. There have been many highly productive college players who haven't been worth a lick in the NFL. But if a player has not been productive in college and you think he has NFL talent, you have to have a good answer as to why he did not produce more. Projecting what any player can do at the next level is the key to good drafting. But it often is done incorrectly, because it isn't easy. (This is where Emery is supposed to shine so let's see how the man works)
As much as I believe the Bears need a No. 1 receiver, if a stud pass rusher was available at 19, which way do you see the Bears leaning? -- George McKeown, Phoenix
Which position the Bears draft in the first round will be dictated by what they do in free agency. If they are able to acquire a premium pass rusher in free agency, they likely will draft a receiver or a player at another position at No. 19. If they sign a big-time receiver in free agency, it's likely they will go defense in round one. (That was a tough one wasn't it Dan? But you handled is so well)
A lot of pre-draft boards have the Bears taking Michael Floyd at No. 19. If Courtney Upshaw fell to that spot, would you take him? -- David Comiskey, Chicago
I would rather use that first-round pick on a defensive end than a wide receiver if all things were equal. The foundation of most great football teams usually is big men. And linemen tend to be safer picks than wide receivers. Upshaw might not be a bad pick, but I think Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry would be better ones. (On this I would agree although Mercilus still makes me nervous. All of those one year wonders do)
Even if the Bears pick up a big-time wide receiver in free agency, would you be a proponent of using the first-round pick on one as well and then using the second- and third-round picks to shore up holes on defense? Hopefully, Devin Hester would become even more productive playing exclusively on special teams and an offense powered by Jay Cutler and Matt Forte with a Vincent Jackson/Michael Floyd tandem would make the team absolutely unstoppable. -- Jeremy Smith, Washington
You probably know where I'm headed with this answer: I think the Bears need to prioritize defense. Teams have to draft with a big-picture, long-range outlook. You can't just get caught up in looking at what could be exciting for this year. All of the Bears' core players on defense are older than 30. They need to start bringing in eventual replacements. That's replacements -- plural. If the Bears could sign a free-agent wide receiver and use their first three draft picks on defense, I'd have no problem with that. This is a team that is supposed to be built on tough defense and the run game. Signing Vincent Jackson and then drafting Michael Floyd in the first round would be a mistake to me. (That's two areas where we're complete agreement. Why not tell Mr. Smith that there is no such thing as unstoppable. The Giants did it to the two best offenses in the NFL. I don't want a team where we need to score 40 points a game to win because we won't. That's not Bears football)
Do you see any way that the Bears could sign Cliff Avril from Detroit and still get a top-notch WR? -- Curt Wybourn, Warren
If the Bears land a big fish in free agency like Avril, I would not expect them to go after a second big fish. It is possible they could sign Avril and a second-tier receiver, though. The Lions are working hard at trying to get Avril signed to a long-term deal, and I still believe he'll never hit the open market. If he does, I would expect the Bears to go all out to try to sign him. And they won't be the only team after him. (Pssssst Mario Williams makes Avril look like his little brother. And you're right we could sign a top flight pass rusher and still have cap space left for a FA WR as long as don't attempt VJax)
Rather than sticking with Kellen Davis or spending money in free agency, do you think the Bears will try to draft Stanford tight end Coby Fleener? I don't think he will fall to the Bears in the second, so could you see them trying to move up earlier in round two to grab him? -- Jeff Doran, Forest Grove, Ore.
The only way the Bears get Fleener, I believe, is if they use the 19th pick on him. I don't see any way he lasts until the second round. Fleener might not even be there at 19. He would be a fine addition but might be viewed as more of a luxury, given some of the other issues the team is facing. (Tight Ends, Tight Ends, Tight Ends the buzz word if the 2012 offseason.Jeezus that's getting old. We already have 4 of them on the roster so lets see what they can do before we end up with five or six and not even have enough reps to spread around to evaluate them. The Pats used twin TE's very effectively to get TO the Super Bowl but those TE's didn't win it for them. Everybody wants TE's because NE uses two TE's. Geez if they'd won the Super Bowl with a one legged place kicker should we all go out and spend a high draft choice on one?)
I was wondering if the Bears would consider drafting Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly if he was still available in the first round. He had very similar combine numbers to Brian Urlacher. Maybe not a huge need but could be a smart pick. -- Michael
Kuechly definitely should be a consideration for the Bears if he is on the board at 19. I have my doubts he will be, though. Kuechly could step in immediately and contribute as a strong side linebacker and be the eventual successor to Urlacher when Urlacher retires or moves on. Kuechly is an athletic, instinctive backer who would be a perfect fit in Lovie Smith's defense. I think he's going to be a Pro Bowl caliber player in the NFL for a long time.
What do you think about the Bears going after Saints guard Carl Nicks in free agency? I know that guard is not a big position of need, but I think whenever you have an opportunity to acquire one of the three best players at his position in the entire league you should go for it -- especially when there's no compensation involved. Most teams have a similar philosophy in the draft -- if an elite player falls to you, you draft him regardless of position or need -- so why not use the same philosophy in free agency? -- Tom Davis, International Falls, Minn.
I would not go after Carl Nicks if I were running the Bears. Whoever signs Nicks is going to have to overpay him considerably because there is likely to be competition for him. And overpaying guards is not a good idea. Guards are one of the least important players on the field. You can fill in with average players at the position. You don't need star guards. If I have to overpay, I'd much rather overpay for a left tackle, a pass rusher, or even a wide receiver. Overpaying only makes sense if you do it for a player who can tilt the field. A guard can't do that. What's more, the Bears have more guards than they know what to do with. Chris Spencer, Lance Louis, Chris Williams and Edwin Williams all are capable starters at the position. Why bring in another when the team has other needs elsewhere? (I had to highlight this whole answer because every word of it is true. NO made a huge mistake paying Jahari Evans as much as they did. Now Nicks wants an even bigger deal and that's in the face of the fact that they have Brees, Colston, and Meachem to fit in as well. Really taking one for the team aren't you kid? Good luck to you Carl you're just another overstuffed lineman with delusions about your worth. Whichever team signs him within a couple more years will wish they hadn't. Besides if we want a 355 lb OG why not draft Cordy Glenn? He could be every bit as good as Nicks and he'll one hell of lot cheaper)
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