Chicago Bears 2011 NFL Draft Review

The Bears accomplished one goal and filled a logical need by drafting left tackle Gabe Carimi. Carimi was projected to be drafted earlier than pick 29, but with all the quarterbacks and defensive linemen being selected, the rangy tackle fell into Chicago’s lap. The Bears’ good fortune extended into the second round when they traded up nine spots (Chicago sent a fourth round pick – 127 – to the Redskins) to draft defensive tackle Stephen Paea at number 53. The Bears reportedly would have drafted Paea at 29 if Carimi was not available. The pair of linemen were need picks that will help shore up the lines on both sides of the ball. Gabe Carimi was a four-year starter at Wisconsin where he won the Outland Trophy last season as the nation’s best interior lineman. He has the coveted long arms and big hands for the left tackle position and will compete with Frank Omiyale. The rangy tackle played toe to toe against several of the top first round pass rushers over the past two years. Week after week he saw the likes of Brandon Graham, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Heyward, and Ryan Kerrigan. In practice he got a workout from first rounder, JJ Watt. Stephen Paea will compete with Matt Toeaina at left defensive tackle. The Bears project the versatile and physical player as a three technique and nose tackle. Paea was a threeyear starter and was named the Pac-10 defensive MVP in 2010 after recording 45 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and six sacks. The Tonga native is thick and quick with extremely strong arms and legs. He’s a disruptive and explosive player who is a good fit in the Bears’ Tampa-2 package. His biggest claim to fame this spring was when he hoisted up 225 pounds, 49 times at the Combine in Indianapolis to set a strength record. Chris Conte was a reserve cornerback for three years and was moved to safety in 2010. He’s a developmental angular safety who will contribute on special teams. He recorded 72 tackles and one interception last fall. General Manager Jerry Angelo said that Conte is everything the Bears look for from a physical standpoint at safety. Conte is a good athlete who is an aggressive run support player and a solid wrap up tackler in space. Nathan Enderle was drafted as a developmental quarterback in the fifth round. Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie have nailed down the starting and backup roles. The Bears plan on keeping three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster and reportedly don’t plan on signing a veteran backup in free agency. JT Thomas started at weakside linebacker for three years at West Virginia. He had 73 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and 2 ½ sacks. The Bears project him to back up all three positions because of his ability to grasp multiple positions in college. Thomas is intense and athletic in his play. He has experience in a variety of stunt packages. He plays with a good use of hands, speed, and quickness and will contribute on special teams coverage units while adding depth to the linebacker corps. GRADE: AVERAGE.

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