Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Racial Draft '08 Good For Da Bears

So the draft finally came. Overall I think the Bears drafted well this year. This was my first year actually watching the draft, and I pretty much watched the entire thing. Saturday started off well. I anxiously waited for the 14th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft from my couch. As team-after-team that was expected to take an OT with their first round pick decided to fill other needs, I knew the Bears would have their choice of Jeff Otah, Branden Albert, and Chris Williams. They made a great choice with Williams. While Albert was still on the board at the Bears' slot, he is not ready to play left tackle in the NFL. He does have a bright future, but he will be a multi-year project and the Bears needed someone to step in and play left tackle IMMEDIATELY. Chris Williams is a very good pass-protector and that's exactly what we need for Grossman to be successful. Williams is known for having very good technique with his hands and his coach at Vandy called him the smartest football player he ever coached. His one downside is that he needs to get stronger to become a better run-blocker. Some say he's also lacking a mean-streak, but I disagree. Apparently during a Senior Bowl practice one of his teammates shoved him in a way that would justify a retaliation. Instead he kept his cool and did nothing about it. I believe this says more about his character than his lack of a "mean-streak". He wasn't about to fight a TEAMMATE during a practice for a game that could vastly improve his draft stock. He's a smart kid who knew it was in his best interest to just let it go. With Williams stepping in and starting on the left side of the line, John Tait can slide back over to the right side, which is his natural position. With this pick, the Bears improved 2 spots on their offensive line.

A lot of people (or jackasses) are calling for Jerry Angelo's head because they didn't select Rashard Mendenhall. While I would've liked to see Mendenhall in a Bears uniform, it would have been an incredibly stupid pick. Anyone who actually understands football and watched the Bears play last year knows that the offensive line was the biggest problem for them all season. It wasn't the QB position and it wasn't the RB position. Although neither of those were consistent the least common denominator is the offensive line. If you don't have pass-protection your QB will spend half the game on his back, and if you don't have any push up front, your RB will be stuck behind the line of scrimmage every time he touches the ball.

So with one of the Bears' needs already filled, the next obvious choice is to select a RB to compete for the starting job this season. I am one of the few people that thinks Cedric Benson has yet to have a true shot to show what he's worth. He performed well when Thomas Jones was still on the team, but was never the featured back because Jones performed very nicely. Last year was Benson's first year as the featured back and the Bears obviously didn't have an O-line to create any lanes. While I do agree that he hasn't performed up to his capabilities as a 4th overall pick, I'm not one who wants to run him out of town quite yet. With the lack of quality QBs in this year's draft, I do think it was necessary for the Bears to pick a RB with their 2nd round choice.

By the time the Bears' 2nd pick we were at a bar on the Westside grabbing some dranks before the Jay-Z (and Mary J. Blige) concert. "With the 44th pick of the 2008 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears select Matt Forte." WHO?!? Are you kidding me? I was expecting to hear the name Ray Rice called. This threw me the fuck off. I had never heard of this kid. I know there are some concerns with Ray Rice being banged up after carrying such a heavy load at Rutgers, but the guy impressed me a lot in the International Bowl dominating Ball State (sorry AK). I think B-More got a GREAT pick with Ray Rice. Now back to Matt Forte. While I was upset with this pick when it happened, I've come to like the pick. He's considered the best pass-protecting RB in the entire draft, and like I said earlier, the more protection you give Grossman, the better he will perform. From what it sounds like Matt Forte has a very good chance of winning the starting RB job before the season starts or shortly into it. I think that whatever combination of Forte/Benson/Garrett Wolfe (plus Adrian Peterson on 3rd down) we use this year, there will be a lot of success running the ball with this improved O-line.

On a side note the Jay-Z show was GREAT. We stayed at the bar until 8:30 (the show was scheduled to start at 7:30) hoping to completely miss the opening act (The Dream). By the time we got to our seats there was a countdown clock on the screen with about 4 or 5 minutes on it. We were sincerely hoping that when that counter reached zero that The Dream was not going to appear on stage. We planned it perfectly. The lights dimmed and Mary J Blige and Jay-Z took the stage to perform "Can't Knock The Hustle." After that MJB performed by herself, with the exception of a couple verses from Jay. Although I only knew (the hooks of) about 4 or 5 of her songs, she gave a really, really good performance. She showed a lot of emotion and a great vocal range throughout the entire performance and didn't seem to lose any energy throughout the 80-minute set. Then Jay came back out and shut shit down. He went through a good majority of his catalog, including a lot of songs from American Gangster. Other than him only doing his first verse from "Big Pimpin'" (and not Bun or Pimp's verses), Jay did not disappoint me at all. He did a "freestyle" about Bush that I had been hearing about from people that went to this tour in other cities. All-in-all it was a great finish to a great draft day.

Sunday was intense. I woke up around 10:45, so I did not miss the Bears first selection in the 3rd round. However, most of the day was spent arguing on the ESPN Bears' Draft Conversation page with some joke from ASU. This kid spent the entire draft talking about how the Bears made a horrible choice drafting Matt Forte because he went to a small school. On multiple occasions he let us know how stupid the Bears were for not drafting Ryan Torain "who is a GREAT running back" according to him. Throughout the draft he also took the time to stroke Rudy Carpenter and talk about how he's the best QB in the country and will be the #1 pick in next year's draft. As the draft went on he was crying for the Bears to select a QB. Even during the 7th round after the shallow, shallow talent pool of QBs dried up he was still begging for a QB. What good is taking a 7th rd QB going to do? Not shit.

Anyways, back to the Bears' actual picks. They chose WR Earl Bennett with their 1st pick in the 3rd rd. I like this pick. Never really saw him play, but he holds the SEC record for career receptions (after only 3 years), so he knows how to catch the ball. He supposedly can catch the ball in traffic and isn't afraid to go over the middle. Hopefully he'll continue to have success in the NFL.

The Bears then chose DT Marcus Harrison from Arkansas. I think this is another good pick. He has had some injury problems throughout his career, but he made 2nd team All-SEC this last year after coming back from a torn ACL. He had a run-in with the law in August which caused his stock to drop significantly. He is supposedly a 1st rd talent who's had some bad luck with injuries and of course that incident with the law. If he stays healthy he can improve the depth of this Bears defensive line. With the way that they rotate the D-line, he can become a valuable asset right away.

In the 4th rd the Bears chose LSU All-American safety Craig Steltz. While Steltz is not the fastest guy in the world, he often makes the big play. He had 6 INTs last year and is known as a defensive leader on the team. If the Bears keep him at strong safety, it puts another person in front of garbage-ass Adam Archuleta (who hopefully will be cut from the team by the end of training camp) on the depth chart.

The Bears then chose CB Zackary Bowman out of Nebraska. Don't know much about this kid except that he has had a lot of injury problems over the year. I don't really mind this pick because it gives them a little more depth at CB.

The next pick is one I don't understand. They chose TE Kellen Davis out of the great MSU. From what I can gather he is mostly a pass-catching TE. I hope he knows how to block, because the Bears already have 2 TE that are more pass-oriented than they are run-blockers. Davis also has gotten some time as a DE but I'm not sure if that figured in to the pick at all. The Bears are very deep at DE so I don't really think they have any desire to work him in at that spot. Perhaps they are just looking to him for the future as Desmond Clark's contract will end after the 2010 season.

The rest of the Bears' picks didn't necessarily fill any needs, but hopefully add some depth to other positions. However, the Bears' final pick of Arkansas WR Marcus Monk is supposed to be a great pick this late in the draft. He is a big target who should be very effective in the red zone. Monk was projected as a possible 2nd rd pick if he left for the NFL after his junior year, but he chose not to. He suffered a knee injury before his senior year which he never fully recovered from. If he can get healthy, he can become a valuable asset for this WR corps that a lot of people are down on. I think that even though there really aren't any big name receivers on the team that this group can really do some big things this upcoming year. It all starts with the O-line giving the QB enough time to get the ball out, and I think the bears did a very good job of addressing their needs this year.