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With a little luck, Bears could find guard help at No. 20
After addressing offense with their biggest free-agent signings — tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett –the Bears are expected to address their aging defense if they end up keeping their first-round pick at No. 20. Linebacker Alex Ogletree is the marquee name in some prominent mock drafts, a potential big-play linebacker who can play inside or outside.
But the opportunity presents itself, the Bears might still fortify their unselttled offensive line by drafting an offensive linemen — most likely a guard after losing right guard Lance Louis to free agency and finishing last season with undrafted rookie James Brown starting on the left side.
The top possibilities at No. 20 according to ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. are Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper. Both are projected to go earlier than No. 20. But stranger things have happened.
If Warmack and Cooper are gone, the next best guard prospect, Mel told me, is Oregon’s Kyle Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive defensive end and brother of St. Louis Rams’ defensive tackle Chris Long, who was the second overall pick out of Virginia in 2008.
Long has an intriguing background. He’s a former defensive tackle and an excellent athlete who throws a mid-90s fastball and was drafted by the White Sox in the 23rd round in 2008. He went to Florida State to play baseball, but partied too much, was arrested for driving while intoxicated as a freshman, got in academic trouble by not going to class and dropped out of school.
He resurfaced as a defensive end at Saddleback junior college in 2010, moved to defensive end in 2011 and played at Oregon in 2012. Kiper has him projected as the 32nd and final pick of the first round.
”He can play right tackle, left tackle, guard. He’s got great feet,” Kiper said. ”He’s got that approach, the bloodlines with Howie and Chris. If the off-the-field issues are a thing of the past … Kyle Long goes in the late first or early second round. Could he be in the mix [at 20?] — a little early. At worst he’s an early [second-round pick].”
The best-case scenario would be if Warmack or Cooper were available. Not a likely situation. But last year Stanford’s David DeCastro, considered one of the best guard prospects in years, was projected to go between 10-15 in the first round and ended up going at No. 24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
”[The Bears] could look at guard at that point. It would make a lot of sense,” Kiper, Jr. said. ”It would be a steal if [they] can get Warmack or Cooper. I don’t think [they] will. But if you did, it would be one of the steals of the draft to get a guard with that kind of ability at No. 20.”