Bears draft preview: Defensive tackles

April, 22, 2012
4/22/12
4:40
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Dontari PoeJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesMemphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe could be available when the Bears pick at No. 19.
Depth at defensive tackle took a major hit for the Chicago Bears with the departure in free agency of Amobi Okoye and the decision to release veteran Anthony Adams.

Outside of starters Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina, rising second-year man Stephen Paea is the only defensive tackle on the roster with experience, meaning this is likely a position the Bears would look to address in the NFL draft.

Interestingly, it’s believed the Bears haven’t used any of their NFL-allotted 30 pre-draft visits to host any defensive tackle prospects. The inactivity with potential prospects at the position could be viewed as one of the many smokescreens teams perpetuate in the days leading up to the draft.

The Bears relied on a rotation of five players -- Melton, Toeina, Okoye, Paea and Adams -- last season at defensive tackle, and that group combined for 13 sacks, including four from Okoye to rank No. 2 among the defensive tackles. Bears coach Lovie Smith spoke of wanting to improve the pass rush at the NFL combine.

That can’t be accomplished by simply adding to the workload of Paea, a second-round pick in 2011, who was inactive last season for the first five games. So look for the Bears to try to add an interior either through the draft or with undrafted rookies. The Bears will also look for more significant contributions from some of the young players on the current roster such as Jordan Miller.

“Everything needs to be ramped up,” Smith said. “But I like some of the things we were able to do on the defensive line [in 2011].”

The next 10: 11. Billy Winn, Boise State, 6-5, 295; 12. Jaye Howard, Florida, 6-3, 301; 13. Josh Chapman, Alabama, 6-1, 316; 14. DaJohn Harris, Southern California, 6-3, 306; 15. Hebron Fangupo, Brigham Young, 6-1, 323; 16. Mike Daniels, Iowa, 6-1, 290; 17. Rennie Moore, Clemson, 6-3, 270; 18. Markus Kuhn, North Carolina State, 6-5, 299; 19. Travian Robertson, South Carolina, 6-4, 302; 20. Marcus Fortson, Miami, 6-1, 301.

Position grade: A.

Analysis: This year’s class contains several strong interior pass rushers, which is somewhat of an anomaly. One of the hallmarks of Chicago’s system is the pass-rushing defensive tackle, and a player such as Poe, who possesses freakish athleticism, could be available at No. 19. A player like Iowa’s Mike Daniels could be a later-round consideration. At the very least, the Bears need to add depth at defensive tackle because of the departures of Okoye and Anderson.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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