The 2011 NFL Draft is finished amid the news of a reinstated lockout and uncertain season. Even under the conditions of this disappointing news, Chicago Bears fared well in the draft with a balanced rookie class.
Carimi (OT), first round, fills the gap on the offensive line as he brings exceptional agility and solid footwork as a possible right tackle. Count on him to deliver punishing blocks and then get up and do it again. He has a keen awareness of his body and superior lateral movement to extend the block.
Stephen Paea (DT), second round, completed three years with the Oregon Beavers. He finished last season strong with a series of awards that include the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year and Pac-10 First Team Honors. As a DT for the Beavers he produced on the field with at least 1 tackle-for-loss in 12 of 18 of the games in 2010. Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com calls Paea a “disruptive force.” Paea will be useful to stop the pass with his ability to bull rush his opponent and solid, natural leverage to force the offense back.
Chris Conte (S), third round, built his football resume in the last year with a strong finish as a Safety; he played reserve Cornerback the previous three years at Berkeley. Even though he doesn’t have a stellar track record, his has the range and potential to offer the position some depth with the Bears.
Nathan Enderle (QB), fifth round, will join the Bears as a back-up QB. Enderle has a strong arm and large frame. Pessimists will point out that his size gets in his way. He lacks agility and needs to work on fluid movement under pressure. Optimists will rally around his powerful and accurate arm.
J.T. Thomas (OLB), sixth round, may not have the size or stature of other LB’s on the field but his passion for the game and fearless drive will add to the development of his athleticism. In order to be successful he will need to focus on the improvement of his overall skill set and do a better job at anticipating the play. He had a rocky start and finish to his college career with injuries. Time will tell how the rookie will fit in to the existing defensive line.
The first round was likely the most important for the Bears. The Bears needed to address the weakness in the current offensive lineup. Carimi appears to have what it takes to close the gap and provide reliable coverage. Paea is also an exciting prospect to bring to Chicago. He has an impressive resume and looks like he can deliver annihilating defense. These two picks represent the top of the draft class for the team.
From a fan’s perspective, Conte, Enderle and Thomas represent potential talent that could lead to “wow” Chicago. They all share a strong work ethic and intense drive to get to the starting line. In the case of Enderle and Thomas, they may have the benefit of time over Conte. Depending on D. Manning’s return as Safety, Conte may need to step up his game in a shortened amount of time to establish himself and add some depth to the position, an area where Manning has shown little progress in the last season.
Hopefully in the next few weeks there will finally be some closure to the lockout. At this point in the pre-season, it’s both shameful and frustrating that it continues on like this. The clock has started to wind down to Labor Day. While it may seem like a long time away, the summer months always seem to roll by faster than any other time of year. Memorial Day is right around the corner.
Stay tuned for an exciting year. I look forward to the final lift on the lockout and training camp to start.