Weather Updates

Positions of draftees have a familiar ring

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The names have changed, but the positions remain the same.

That’s the real indictment of the Bears’ 2011 draft class — not the players who were selected, but the feeling of deja vu as the positions were called.

Offensive tackle Gabe Carimi might have been the steal of the draft when the Bears selected him with their first first-round pick since 2008, the year they took offensive tackle Chris Williams. Second-round pick Stephen Paea is a defensive tackle with a video on YouTube. Sounds like 2009 third-round pick Jarron Gilbert, the Bears’ first selection that year.

The good news is that Paea’s video shows him bench-pressing 225 pounds 49 times at the NFL combine, while Gilbert’s video showed him jumping out of a pool. A show of physical strength might be a better indicator of NFL success than the ability to jump out of a pool, but pure power guys have struggled in the NFL.

Paea is one of only nine men to bench-press 225 pounds more than 42 times since 2000, and only defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (Philadelphia Eagles, 2006) and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (San Francisco 49ers, 2004) have developed into regular starters. So it was a relief to hear Paea say his strength is a secondary part of his game, something he can rely on after his quickness and relentlessness.

Chris Conte, the Bears’ third-round pick, is a safety, which means he plays a position the team has used a draft pick on in seven consecutive years: Major Wright (third round, 2010), Al Afalava (sixth, 2009), Craig Steltz (fourth, 2008), Kevin Payne (fifth, 2007), Danieal Manning (second, 2006) and Chris Harris (sixth, 2005).

At least Conte has a more interesting back story than most of the others. No, not the fact that he blossomed in his first year at the position last season at Cal, but rather that his grandfather was the actor Richard Conte, who was up for the role of Vito Corleone in ‘‘The Godfather’’ before Marlon Brando got it.

The Bears gave up their fourth-round pick to move up to take Paea and didn’t have a selection Saturday until the fifth round, where they took quarterback Nathan Enderle of Idaho. Last year, they selected quarterback Dan LeFevour in the sixth round.

Enderle was a bizarre pick. Either the Bears ran out of players on their draft board, or they simply can’t stand backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.

How can the Bears say their goal is to get four starters out of a draft, then take a quarterback when they wind up with only five selections? One of the reasons they made the move is because offensive coordinator Mike Martz is so good at developing the position. That’s the same man who insisted on signing veteran Todd Collins last season, then promoted him ahead of Hanie on the depth chart. That led to two wasted series in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Moreover, Martz turned down a contract extension in February and has one year left on his deal. Another project quarterback for a team that cut LeFevour last year seems nutty.

‘‘We want to develop our own quarterbacks,’’ general manager Jerry Angelo said.

Sixth-round linebacker J.T. Thomas will try to break the Bears’ string of failed linebacker draftees since they struck gold with Lance Briggs in 2003. Among the linebackers the Bears have drafted since then are Marcus Freeman, Joey LaRoque, Michael Okwo, Jamar Williams, Rod Wilson, Leon Joe and Joe Odom.

Of those, Wilson is the only guy still on the roster, and he’s hanging by a thread after being released by the Bears in 2008 and washing out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.