Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Final argument: Bears in no-man's land?

By Kevin Seifert

Circling back one final time on draft issues we've discussed over the past few months:

As we speak on the first day of the NFL draft, the Chicago Bears haven't filled any of their five positions along the offensive line. They have candidates for each spot, and they're hoping to re-sign free-agent center Olin Kreutz, but the next three days will play a big role in determining how the lineup shakes out.

But the Bears face a practical dilemma with the No. 29 overall pick: Will an offensive lineman worthy of that spot still be on the board? And if not, should they trade down or take a player at another position? To be sure, the Bears also have needs at defensive tackle and linebacker, and I, for one, wouldn't hammer them for drafting a receiver at No. 29.

But first, the offensive line: Tackles are typically the most sought-after line position in the draft. Everyone has their own evaluation, but it's hard to imagine the top two -- USC's Tyron Smith and Boston College's Anthony Castonzo -- being available at No. 29. It also wouldn't be surprising if Colorado's Nate Solder and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi were gone as well.

If that's the case, the Bears might have to decide between Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod, a marginal first-round pick, or move on to guard, where Baylor's Danny Watkins could be available. (Florida guard-center Mike Pouncey is probably a top-20 pick.) Other options include North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin and even Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

Depending on their partner, trading down could net the Bears anywhere from an extra sixth-round pick to a 2012 first-round pick. Such are the myriad options when a team is positioned so low in the first round. Hang on for the ride.

Earlier: Solder is an interesting prospect. The Bears' offensive line is in flux. Establishing the value of the No. 29 pick. I managed to draft Carimi in the ESPN.com Blog Network mock draft. The Bears have spent a lot of time researching Austin.