- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPNChicago.com continues its daily Bears draft preview series with a look at the centers.
The Chicago Bears brought in California center Brian Schwenke on Wednesday for a pre-draft visit, lending credence to the notion the club plans to at least explore the option of adding the eventual successor to veteran Roberto Garza in the draft.
Projected to be a second- or third-round selection, Schwenke (6-foot-3, 314 pounds) is widely considered to be the No. 2 prospect at the position behind Wisconsin's Travis Frederick. Schwenke projects perhaps as the better option for the Bears because of his versatility. At California, Schwenke started his career at guard, where he started 24 games from 2010-11, before shifting to center in 2012, a position in which he earned first-team all-Pac 12 recognition.
At the Senior Bowl, Schwenke played all three inside offensive line positions during the week leading into the game, and his stock rose, according to several scouts in attendance.
"That's what people are saying," Schwenke said at the NFL combine. "I don't really pay attention to what people are saying often. But my agent and everybody's saying that it was a good experience for me, and it did me well. I just played my game. I don't know what (the scouts) saw in me that they didn't see in the season. But I just played how I normally play, and had fun doing it."
With Garza entering the final year of his deal, which will pay $1.75 million in 2013, the Bears know it's time to start looking for the veteran's heir apparent. But the Bears won't invest in the position with a first-round pick, and the club doesn't have a third-rounder because of the trade for receiver Brandon Marshall.
It's unlikely a rookie would unseat Garza in 2013, but the team could knock out two needs with one selection with a player such as Schwenke. First, the club would obviously add Garza's eventual replacement. At the same time, the addition would beef up the competition for one of the starting guard positions, where Gabe Carimi, James Brown, and Williams are competing for the spots opposite the recently-acquired Matt Slauson.
The next 10: 11. Dalton Freeman, Clemson, 6-4, 286; 12. Mario Benavides, Louisville, 6-2, 279; 13. James Ferentz, Iowa, 6-1, 289; 14. Mike Golic, Notre Dame, 6-4, 294; 15. Sam Schwartzstein, Stanford, 6-2, 290; 16. Matt Smith, Kentucky, 6-4, 295; 17. Eric Kush, California (Pa.), 6-4, 304; 18. Kyle Quinn, Arizona, 6-3, 288; 19. Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh, 6-5, 310; 20. Skyler Allen, Ohio, 6-2, 286.
Position grade: B
Analysis: Garza enters the final year of his contract, and with him just turning 34, it's likely the Bears think it's now time to start looking toward the future at the position. The team recently signed Taylor Boggs, who signed with the New York Jets in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, but hasn't yet played in an NFL game. At this point, he appears to be more of a developmental prospect than a potential contributor in 2013. Outside of Garza and Boggs, the only other option on the roster at the position is veteran Edwin Williams, who is listed as a guard/center, but has never logged a start at center. So it's safe to say the Bears are eyeing the position in the draft perhaps in the second round or later. Look for the team to try to add a center of the future in this year's draft.