- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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The outlook for the interior of the offensive line changed significantly for the Chicago Bears in 2013 due in part to the first-round acquisition of Kyle Long, who started all 16 games at right guard last season en route to making the Pro Bowl, and veteran free-agent signee Matt Slauson.
So it’s safe to deduce the Bears -- with more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball -- likely won’t spend much time pondering whether to use an early pick in the NFL draft to select an offensive guard or a center. There’s plenty of depth already at the position in proven veterans such as Eben Britton and James Brown, who can play both guard and tackle.
The club also added a starter in waiting during free agency in veteran center Brian de la Puente, who has familiarity with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, in addition to bolstering the depth at that position by re-signing Taylor Boggs.
So if the Bears add to the interior of the offensive line at some point in the draft, count on it being in the later rounds, if at all.
“Feel very good about the development of our O-line,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said back in January. “We’re going in the right direction. There have been four new members of our starting unit. They have worked together extremely hard. Our penalty discipline is an outstanding difference from one year to the next. Last year, we had 38 offensive line penalties. This year, we had 16. To me, that is 22 less sacks. That is 22 [fewer] negative plays.”
Here are some center/guard prospects projected to be taken in the mid to late rounds that might garner interest from the Bears:
Five potential targets
Player School Projected Round
1. G Chris Watt, Notre Dame, 4-5
2. C Tyler Larsen, Utah State, 4-5
3. G/C Anthony Steen, Alabama, 4-5
4. G Ryan Groy, Wisconsin, 5-6
5. C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma, 5-6
Position grade: B-