“He’s a great route runner,” said Greg Gabriel, the Bears’ director of college scouting. “He’s got excellent hands and he’s very good after the catch. On top of that, his character is impeccable.”
The above was said of Bears’ third-round draft pick Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt wide receiver and the all-time SEC receptions leader –no small thing in a conference that produced the likes of the Packers’ Don Hutson (Alabama) in the 1930s and Sterling Sharpe (So Carolina) in the 1980s.
But let’s look at the translation of the Bears’ statement: Bennett is not a burner. Like Mr. Gabriel says, he’s a “hands” guy, another route-runner who can work within the short-passing snoozefest that is Chicago Bear football. To put that SEC record in context: being a receptions leader is not the same as being a yardage leader. It just means you were in a system that did a lot of short passing, you were reliable, and you had quarterbacks for four years who knew what they were doing.
Still, it’s better than late-drafting another Mark Bradley or other such hopeful that turns out to be a bust. Bennett being taken early is a sign that the Bears know where they are weakest, and they’re looking to shore up in key areas. They did it with their first-rounder with Williams, an offensive tackle who looks to be a genuine stud (and was a teammate of Bennett’s… good to have a pair of high draftees coming in together, helping each other out early on). They even did it with their second-rounder, Matt Forte, a Tulane running back I know very little about. But what I do know is that their offenisve problems –running and passing– needed to be looked into.
And finally, they didn’t take a stupid risk on a quarterback, in a class of QBs that was not sexy in the least. No new Rex Grossman (or Cade McNown… God forbid…). They’ll meet that need some other way, and I’m glad. They played it smart and safe, I think. I would have liked to see one of those other offensive linemen chosen higher than they were, as Bear QBs are not known for their mobility or durability. But overall, this draft class looks promising. Not brilliant, but promising.
Below is the full list of the Bears’ picks, FYI.
And as for the receivers they still need, besides draftee Earl Bennett, I have just one thing to say:
Yes, I think Chad Johnson –on his way out of the Bengals situation– has the potential to be a colorful and talented Bears’ star, at least as popular and effective as Willie Gault or Fridge Perry (from their one and only Super Bowl team). Yeah, Chad’s a handful, P.R.-wise. But he hasn’t gotten in trouble with the law, just with the league, for his crazy on-field antics. Same was true of Jim McMahon, the Punky QB. As for Chad’s coachability and locker-room behavior, Randy Moss proved last year that even the brattiest of superstars can change his ways when he gets on the right team. And finally, consider a receiver corps that includes both the tall, fast Johnson and the ridiculously fast and shifty Devin Hester (who will have to learn the rest of his new receiver duties without Moose Muhammad’s help this year, and could use a veteran to help him out, especially as a second threat or decoy, something Hester has not had thus far).
The one problem: the Bears are unlikely to spend the money on a guy like Chad Johnson. They seldom have in the past, anyway. But maybe the taste of victory in GM Jerry Angelo’s mouth two years ago, followed by the shame and disgrace of 2007, will lead them to change tactics and pick up more big-ticket free agents. So start a letter-writing campaign, people. Or just a chant: “We want Chad! We want Chad!”
Bears full 2008 draft class:
Overall Draft Number Name Position College
14 Chris Williams OT Vanderbilt
44 Matt Forte RB Tulane
70 Earl Bennett WR Vanderbilt
90 Marcus Harrison DT Arkansas
120 Craig Steltz S Louisiana State
142 Zack Bowman CB Nebraska
158 Kellen Davis TE Michigan State
208 Ervin Baldwin DE Michigan State
222 Chester Adams OT Georgia
243 Joey LaRocque ILB Oregon State
247 Kirk Barton OT Ohio State
248 Marcus Monk WR