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This NFL draft will have no end for the Bears

North defensive end Trent Murphy (93) Stanford runs field before Senior Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday Jan. 25 2014

North defensive end Trent Murphy (93) of Stanford runs on to the field before the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews) ORG XMIT: OTKGA274

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WATCH LIST

Trent Murphy, Stanford, 6-5, 250: Given each man’s love of hunting and the rodeo, maybe it was too obvious a comparison to pass up: Some have compared Stanford’s Trent Murphy to new Bears star Jared Allen when he came out for the draft.

Murphy — who grew up hunting and steer wrestling in Arizona — figures to be chosen somewhere near where Allen was picked: the fourth round.

“Steer wrestling,” Murphy said, “shows athleticism at high speed.”

Whether Murphy fits as a 3-4 scheme’s outside linebacker — where he starred as Stanford’s captain — or a 4-3 defensive end, though, is another question.

Late enough in the draft, it might be one the Bears deem worth answering.

Five more

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, 6-6, 266: The most dynamic player in the draft could be the top overall pick.

Kony Ealy, Missouri, 6-4, 273: Could be an end or a linebacker, but NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said he likes him “more as a defensive end, move-around guy there than I do standing him up at linebacker.”

Dee Ford, Auburn, 6-2, 255: A bit undersized, Ford could play weak-side end, and could even handle coverage duties, making him a pick in the “late-first, early-second” rounds, ESPN’s Mel Kiper said.

Brent Urban, Virginia 6-7, 295: With great size and long arms, the Canadian is versatile. He played in a 3-4 and 4-3 in college, and could slide between end and tackle if the Bears use a fourth-round-or-later pick on him.

Michael Sam, Missouri, 6-2, 261: If Sam is picked —likely on the final day — he’ll begin to make NFL history as the league’s first openly gay player.

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Leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8, the Sun-Times will take a position-by-position look at the Bears’ needs and which players might be available to fill them.

The Bears have 34.5 million reasons not to select a defensive end high in the draft — or at all.

That’s the number of guaranteed dollars the team doled out to three defensive ends this offseason, hoping to fix a pass rush that finished tied for last with 31 sacks.

But first, the carnage: The Bears released Julius Peppers, freeing almost $10 million in cap space, and watched him sign with the rival Packers. Corey Wootton also left for a division foe, signing a one-year deal with the Vikings.

Shea McClellin was moved from end to strong-side linebacker.

The makeover has made a splash.

The Bears guaranteed future Hall of Famer Jared Allen $15.5 million in a four-year deal.

Former Raiders standout Lamarr Houston was lured to Halas Hall for $15 million guaranteed over five years and Willie Young got $3.95 million guaranteed for three.

The Bears also added depth by signing Austen Lane and Trevor Scott and brought back Israel Idonije, who had played in Chicago from 2004-12.

Only three ends remain from last season: David Bass, Tracy Robertson and Cornelius Washington.

The impact on the draft would have been unthinkable two months ago: The Bears don’t need to select a defensive end.

And if they do, it will likely be on the low-risk last day, and would be motivated by a compelling (likely flawed) prospect and the need to get younger.

Asked how Allen’s signing affected draft strategy, general manager Phil Emery said the team needed “high-quality players” at end.

“We talked at the end of the season about having more playmakers on our team,” he said, “and Jared fits that role.”

It’s fortunate, or good planning, or both as there might not be an end short of projected No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney that would have made sense with the No. 14 pick.

Clowney might be the only pure end selected in the first round.

He’ll be worth the investment, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.

He called Clowney the “best defensive end in the last 20 years,” and disputed those who nitpicked his motor during his junior season at South Carolina.

“I didn’t see the lack of hustle; I didn’t see the lack of effort,” he said. “I saw a guy that played hard 90 percent of the time …

“To me, he’s the No. 1 pick.

“Whether he’s a Houston Texan or somebody else, I don’t know how you take anyone over Clowney.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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