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Bears coveting a mix and max in the draft

Danny Watkins 26 has gone from firefighter hot offensive line prospect out Baylor.  |  DarrCummings~AP

Danny Watkins, 26, has gone from firefighter to hot offensive line prospect out of Baylor. | Darron Cummings~AP

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Updated: July 30, 2011 12:15AM



In the cloak-and-dagger world of the NFL, it’s never easy to decode the verbal camouflage at draft time. How do you differentiate between smoke signals and smokescreens?

But if you’re wondering what will happen when the Bears are on the clock with the No. 29 pick next Thursday night, general manager Jerry Angelo and player personnel director Tim Ruskell are right there with you. They met with the media Wednesday at Halas Hall, expressing confidence in a draft plan that includes four to six players they covet from as many as four positions for that first selection.

‘‘And that is important,’’ Ruskell said, ‘‘because when you start thinking about the possibility of trading down, you want to at least have half as many guys that you would like as the number of picks that you would go down. That’s kind of a rule of thumb. That’s not in stone, but Jerry and I have talked about that.’’

It has been contended in NFL circles that the Bears would love to trade out of the first round to try to pick up extra selections. This draft is unique because the lockout mean teams can’t trade players for picks. Any move up the board would have to be completed with draft picks as compensation, be it from this year or the future.

The Bears don’t have enough firepower this year to move up, and they don’t want to trade any picks from future drafts after picking so late the last couple of years after the Jay Cutler trade. If there are enough players they like to justify the move, the Bears might be best off trading down and adding more depth to a team that is aging fast, particularly on defense. And with a stated goal of acquiring four future starters, the Bears need all the picks they can get.

It’s no secret the offensive line could use a boost, and with no free agency before the draft, the Bears haven’t been able to bolster a group that could use at least two new starters. Angelo said he expected at least five offensive linemen to go in the first round, with as many as seven possibly taken.

The Bears are looking closely at the defensive line. One league source said there are more than a dozen defensive linemen with a first-round grade on the board and perhaps as many as 20 worth taking in the first two rounds. Angelo said this group of defensive linemen is better than last year, when a record 11 players were taken in the first round and five more in the second.

Among the players the Bears could be considering in the first round are offensive linemen Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State) and Danny Watkins (Baylor), defensive linemen Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) and Marvin Austin (North Carolina) and cornerback Aaron Williams (Texas). One league source insisted the Bears have done plenty of research on Pitt wide receiver Jon Baldwin, although Angelo repeated an old mantra, saying, ‘‘I just don’t want to overrate the position . . .’’

‘‘Yeah, we’d like to get the big receiver, like everybody,’’ Angelo said perfunctorily. ‘‘We’ve looked at the position hard this year. I don’t anticipate that we collectively as a group see anybody that is going to fit that definition, but we do like the receiver group, given how they complement what we have. We looked at it in-depth.’’

Watkins and Austin are representative of the kind of players found at No.  29 — risky prospects for different reasons. Watkins, from British Columbia, started down the path toward becoming a firefighter 10 years ago and didn’t begin playing football until after he enrolled in community college in 2007. Angelo said the Bears were OK with the fact he’d be a 27-year-old rookie.

Austin, a three-technique tackle, has character concerns, and North Carolina kicked him off the team last year. Angelo said coach Lovie Smith, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and scout Mark Sadowski have all spent a ‘‘goodly’’ amount of time with the guy.

Despite effectively wasting a sixth-round pick last year on Dan LeFevour, Angelo said the Bears have a ‘‘goal again this year’’ of drafting a quarterback.

‘‘It can never be a luxury position. We know that,’’ Angelo said.



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