NFL Nation: Tim Ruskell

Bucs seem intent on first-time GM

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The common theme emerging from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' search for a general manager is that they’re looking for someone who hasn’t held that title before.

The reported candidates include Lake Dawson, Lionel Vital and Morocco Brown. All three are widely respected in league personnel circles and are viewed as up-and-comers. Those are not bad qualities to have in a general manager.

But the direction in which this search apparently is headed leaves me wondering why the Bucs aren’t even looking at some people who have been general managers before. There are experienced guys out there like Jerry Angelo, Mike Tannenbaum and Tim Ruskell.

None of their names have surfaced in connection with the Tampa Bay opening. That is a little surprising since the Bucs made it a point to get a coach with head-coaching experience in the NFL in Lovie Smith.

That the Bucs hired Smith might be the very reason they are attempting to land a first-time general manager. One of the conditions for Smith accepting the job was that he would get final say on personnel matters. That little detail could make experienced general managers lose interest in the Tampa Bay position.

Maybe that is why the Bucs are looking for a first-time general manager.
Chance WarmackAl Bello/Getty ImagesIt's been 30 years since the Titans franchise drafted a guard in the first round.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The last two guards drafted by the Tennessee Titans franchise, Hall of Famers Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews, just oversaw the selection of another.

Alabama’s Chance Warmack is so football-focused, he only got his license last year. He's so strong, the Titans said he moved SEC defensive linemen like no one else. He's so in love with the idea of playing for these two coaches, he didn't hold a private workout for anyone else.

I’ve known Munchak and Matthews since 1996. I can’t recall ever seeing the two low-key, business-like football men beam quite so brightly. The glow they gave off at the news conference at Titans headquarters after making the 10th pick made me believe it when they said there was no question he was their man early on -- something virtually every coach stated Thursday night.

A few days after Alabama’s pro day, Munchak and Matthews got Warmack on the field with Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker in Tuscaloosa. The coaches put the prospects through a difficult 90-minute workout that helped transform Matthews into a believer.

“Really for me, I go in very skeptical on linemen that I’ve heard about,” Matthews said. “Because typically they’re a product of the team they play on. Alabama having such a great tradition and on such a hit streak, you kind of think they’ve got a bunch of other guys on the team pumping him up.

“I went in very skeptical, wanting to shoot him down at every turn. And really I think what sold me on him was every time I was with him, I got excited about the opportunity to watch him play and coach him. He has the demeanor and the mindset and he plays the style that we are looking for.”

Warmack spoke in advance of the draft about Tennessee being a dream destination. He’s from Atlanta and went to Alabama. In addition to playing in the Southeast, he craved the coaching the Titans could offer, considering he’d never played for a coach who’d actually played offensive line before.

“They put me through the wringer,” he said, recounting the private workout. “I felt like I put everything into what I did and throughout my visit we had a great time going over plays and I felt like we hit it off pretty well.”

The franchise hasn’t drafted a first-round guard since Matthews in 1983, ninth overall, and Munchak in 1982, eighth overall. Years later, they presented each other into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As a long-time offensive line coach, Munchak frequently develops mid-round picks into capable players. He was promoted to head coach in 2011 and hired Matthews, his closest friend, to take over his old job.

Fifth-rounder Benji Olson and third-rounder Zach Piller were the starting guards on the Titans Super Bowl team in 1999. Free agents like Kevin Mawae, Fred Miller, Jake Scott have been splashed in, but homegrown and developed guys were far more frequent pieces.

None came in the first round since Brad Hopkins in 1993, and only 1996 bust Jason Layman and current left tackle Michael Roos were drafted as high as the second round.

Investing through the draft has proven insufficient recently. Leroy Harris and Eugene Amano were counted on to develop into reliable pieces and didn’t do enough.

The Titans thought they could make it through last season. They added Steve Hutchinson, the well-credentialed veteran guard. He didn’t bring much and then got hurt, like virtually every other lineman on the team.

General manager Ruston Webster and Munchak huddled after the season and decided it was time. When free agency opened, they landed top available guard, Buffalo’s Andy Levitre, with a six-year, $46.8 million contract.

Now they drafted Warmack. He will shift from his college position on the left to the right and be a fixture on the more powerful side of the line.

“To me, he is the complete package,” Munchak said. “He loves the game; he has a passion for it. Spending time with Bruce and I, he loved hearing the stories of linemen of the past, talking about the history of the game. For a young guy, that’s rare, that he’s interested in those types of things. Obviously, we all hit it off pretty well …

“I think he wanted to be a Titan the whole time and he didn't hide his feelings on that.”

Warmack said he weighs 325 pounds and anticipates playing at 325 or 330.

Tim Ruskell scouts the Southeast for the Titans and said the sort of power he saw from Warmack is rare in the NFL. He saw Hutchinson up close in Seattle where he was dominant at the start of his career. The way Warmack plays will mean the Titans can do anything they want behind him.

“He can explode with his hips and he can get in and get movement versus bigger people,” Ruskell said. “He played against so many good defensive linemen that were strong and stout. We didn’t see a lot of guys moving those guys. But when you watch Chance, he was able to get movement, he was able to seal run lanes -- that kind of power. It’s the power to anchor, it’s the power to explode and get movement versus bigger people.

“… It just sets him apart from the normal offensive linemen that you tend to look at. That is what got our attention and then it is aggression, the aggression and the want-to and to sustain and finish the block. Coaches always talk finish. This guy has finish. It is a big thing that seems simple, but it is a big deal. When you see it and the combination of what he has, I think it is a rare trait.”
Darrelle RevisThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCornerback Darrelle Revis certainly has the star power that would get Bucs fans fired up.
With each day that passes without the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trading for Darrelle Revis, the more convinced I become they will trade for the cornerback.

New York Jets general manager John Idzik and Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, the guys who used to brew the coffee and make copies when Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell ran Tampa Bay’s personnel department, are holding a very public staring contest.

For more than a month, we’ve been hearing rumors about Tampa Bay dealing for Revis. You can throw out the ones that were floated to try to get Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez involved. But I think everything else -- such as the various compensation packages that have been discussed and the Jets hitting the “pause button" -- is based, at least somewhat, in truth.

The Jets almost have to get rid of Revis because he is headed into the final year of his contract and New York has no intention of giving him a massive long-term extension. That alone, I used to think, gave the Buccaneers the upper hand.

But now I’m not so sure. I’m thinking the closer it gets to next week’s NFL draft, the more the Jets have the upper hand.

Quite simply, the Buccaneers have set themselves up for (perceived) failure if they don’t trade for Revis.

They’re sitting there with more than $30 million in salary-cap room. They’re the only team in the NFL with the room to pay Revis, and it’s widely believed they’re the only team with interest in trading for a guy who might be the best cornerback on the planet but is coming off a major knee injury.

I get it that Dominik is playing the waiting game because he doesn’t want to give up too much of his team’s present or future as compensation. That’s smart and the prudent thing to do. But there’s going to have to come a point very soon where Dominik has to make the deal.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWith Darrelle Revis, Bucs coach Greg Schiano should see heavy improvement in a pass defense that was the NFL's worst in 2012.
Anything less than Revis in pewter is going to cause problems in Tampa Bay. There already is a large segment of the fan base that thinks the Glazer family, which owns the team, doesn’t spend enough money. Presumably, that thinking has played a role in the Buccaneers having trouble selling out Raymond James Stadium in recent years.

There are other reasons for the attendance issue. This franchise has been lacking in star power for a long time. There was sizzle when Jon Gruden was the coach, Derrick Brooks was tackling everything that moved and doing it with class, and the likes of Keyshawn Johnson, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice were as entertaining off the field as on it.

These days, the Bucs are coached by Greg Schiano. He might be a good coach, but the flashiest thing you can say about Schiano is that he once held an office in the same building as former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice.

The Bucs have some nice young players (Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and Josh Freeman) and some talented veterans (Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks). Perhaps it’s because Schiano prefers his players to stay out of the spotlight, but Tampa Bay’s current roster is dull.

Revis would change all that. The guy would be the biggest star to walk into One Buccaneer Place since the day Brooks was shown the door. Heck, Revis could end up being bigger than Brooks.

First off, Revis would go a long way toward fixing a pass defense that was worst in the league last year. I know some fans out there think the Bucs would be better off not giving up several draft picks when no one is sure how healthy Revis’ knee is.

But let’s say the Bucs stay put at No. 13. They’ll have to draft either Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Washington’s Desmond Trufant if they want a cornerback. Or maybe they’ll get really daring and trade up into the top five to get Alabama’s Dee Milliner.

I’m not saying any of those three guys are bad players, but they’re not as good as a healthy Revis. And when it comes to flash, they would bring about as much excitement as last year’s first-round pick, safety Mark Barron, who is one of the quietest guys on the roster.

That’s why the Buccaneers need to go ahead and make the Revis trade. If they don’t, they’re going to look really bad to their fans, who have been waiting for this deal for weeks.

Even after spending big money on Nicks and Jackson in free agency last year and safety Dashon Goldson this year, ownership still needs to convince fans that it’s willing to pay whatever it takes to put a winning product on the field.

Revis would make the Buccaneers a better football team, bring some national attention and put people in the stands.

If the Buccaneers somehow don’t pull off a deal that has looked like a sure thing for a long time, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to a fan base that doesn’t want to hear anything but that Revis is coming to Tampa Bay.
Seattle Seahawks fans know their team once avoided at almost any cost NFL draft prospects with known issues reflecting poorly on the players' character.

That was the emphasis of former general manager Tim Ruskell, who drove home the message in a letter he sent to players following his 2005 hiring.

"We must be held accountable for our own actions, year round," the letter read.

A study conducted by a Hamilton College economics student shows Ruskell backed up his words. The study covered 2005-09, the years Ruskell worked for Seattle, and it identified the Seahawks as the only team to draft no players with known off-field issues (suspensions, arrests, etc.).

The NFC West-rival Arizona Cardinals used a league-high 27 percent of their draft choices on such players during the period in question, the study found. The San Francisco 49ers ranked tied for third at 20 percent.

Turns out the Cardinals and 49ers might have had the right idea. Players with known off-field issues were drafted lower than prospects with otherwise similar credentials, but some were more productive in the NFL, on average.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and receiver Michael Floyd are among the high-profile 2012 draft prospects with off-field baggage from their college days.

The study, though interesting, doesn't necessarily apply direction to current NFC West teams. Every team in the division has turned over its coaching staff since 2005.

Teams are best off using their judgment on a case-by-case basis, in my view. Ruling out all players with off-field incidents in their past would diminish the talent pool unnecessarily.

John Schneider, the Seahawks' current GM, said Thursday he would look more harshly upon some off-field transgressions, including those involving domestic violence against women.
Tight end John Carlson's five-year contract agreement with the Minnesota Vikings leaves Seattle with three remaining draft choices from the Mike Holmgren era.

Carlson
Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Ben Obomanu are the survivors.

The NFC North now outranks the NFC West in players entering the NFL as draft choices under Holmgren: Rob Sims and Lawrence Jackson in Detroit, Mansfield Wrotto and Chris Spencer in Chicago, and now Carlson in Minnesota.

Seattle drafted all of those players when Tim Ruskell was making the Seahawks' personnel decisions as the general manager. Carlson was the one Holmgren was most responsible for drafting. He pushed hard for Carlson because he badly wanted a versatile tight end for his offense.

Carlson set a franchise single-season receiving record with 55 catches as a rookie in 2008. Injuries, quarterback issues, roster atrophy and coaching turnover affected Carlson and the offense in subsequent seasons.

The Seahawks' current leadership was not opposed to bringing back Carlson, but the team's decision to pay $6.8 million per season to Zach Miller last offseason redefined where Carlson stood on the roster. There was less room for Carlson to become the player Holmgren envisioned when Seattle made Carlson a second-round draft choice.
The Chicago Bears have released a preliminary list of candidates to replace former general manager Jerry Angelo. All four have been granted permission to interview with the team, but a statement on the Bears' website made clear that additional candidates have not been ruled out and that current director of player personnel Tim Ruskell remains in play.

The four outsiders are:
I don't want to pass much judgment on this list because I don't totally know what the Bears are up to. It's unusual for a team to announce its full slate of candidates for such an important job. Is this a new era of transparency? Or could there be a stealth candidate they're distracting us from? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but lots of crazy stuff happens this time of year. Could it be an attempt to demonstrate due diligence before ultimately hiring Ruskell?

There have been rumblings that Ruskell has a better-than-even chance to get the job. Let's just say that the Bears haven't stacked the deck with this pool. None of the four has experience as a general manager.

The most intriguing candidate might be Ross, who has been a rising star since the Philadelphia Eagles made him the league's youngest college scouting director in 2000, when he was 27. He is a Princeton graduate and has a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts.

Stay tuned.
Now that we know the Chicago Bears will move on without general manager Jerry Angelo but will retain coach Lovie Smith, the next question is natural: Who will take the top front-office leadership position?

We should be careful about assuming that person will be a traditional general manager, not with the Bears operating under a new chairman (George McCaskey) for the first time in nearly 30 years. At the very least, however, someone will have to run the personnel department and head up draft preparations. The first option would seem to be Tim Ruskell, a close friend of Angelo who joined the team in 2010 as director of player personnel.

Ruskell's arrival after five years as the Seattle Seahawks' president of football operations seemed like a succession plan for Angelo's eventual retirement. But Angelo didn't retire Tuesday. He was fired, and that wouldn't bode well for anyone in the front office with close associations to him.

Ruskell's candidacy depends on the extent to which the Bears want to change their front-office culture. He would be a different leader than Angelo, but his ascension wouldn't qualify as a game-changer. His ties to Angelo and their similar philosophies date back to their time together decades ago with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On the other hand, there is NFC North precedent for the right-hand man of a fired general manager to be promoted. That's exactly what the Detroit Lions did after firing Matt Millen in 2008. Current general manager Martin Mayhew had been Millen's assistant for seven years.

Bears president Ted Phillips will address the situation at 5 p.m. ET news conference.
The Seattle Seahawks once carried two kickers on their 53-man roster because their general manager (Tim Ruskell) and head coach (Mike Holmgren) could not agree on which one to keep.

Ruskell, as a personnel evaluator, valued the potential associated with the young prospect. Holmgren, as the man responsible for winning games often decided by narrow margins, valued the veteran's experience and track record.

The Seahawks will not keep two kickers on their roster this season, but they'll be able to choose between youth and experience after signing veteran Jeff Reed, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported they did Wednesday.

Reed's weight was an issue when the veteran kicker was filling in for an injured Joe Nedney in San Francisco last season. Reed, best know for his years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, showed up in better condition when the Seahawks brought him to their headquarters for a workout this week. The 32-year-old Reed joins a roster that has featured inexperienced kickers Brandon Coutu and Wes Byrum to this point in camp.

Reed made nine of his 10 field goal attempts for the 49ers last season. He ranked 33rd out of 35 kickers in average kickoff distance among players with at least 20 kickoffs during the regular season. David Akers, the 49ers' kicker this season, and Olindo Mare averaged an additional 5 yards per kickoff.

Leg strength on kickoffs will not matter as much now that the NFL has moved kickoffs from the 30- to 35-yard line.
If this were March, and the lockout had never happened, I honestly think I would be applauding the Chicago Bears right now. Their decision to get younger at center would have been bold, well-timed and representative of an organization refusing to allow nostalgia to rule its football decisions.

Today, however, is July 31. Two training camp practices are already in the books, and the Bears will have at least two more before newly signed Chris Spencer can formally take over for veteran Olin Kreutz. If there were ever a time for a short-term, Band-Aid decision, it’s now. Instead, the Bears have taken on one of the most difficult post-lockout tasks imaginable: Transitioning a new center into a Mike Martz scheme during this summer’s compressed training camp and preseason, all while leaving their locker room at least temporarily rudderless.

[+] EnlargeOlin Kreutz
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesOlin Kreutz's career in Chicago has come to an end.
Let’s face it: Kreutz was not nearly the player last season than he was even a few years ago. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said Sunday afternoon that Kreutz “clearly regressed in all aspects.” The Bears knew this as well as anyone, and I think that’s why they weren’t willing to break their bank to re-sign him for one more season.

I would have had no qualms with that decision in March. But as we’ve discussed, the reality of the lockout necessitated a few adjustments to the proverbial viewfinder. If at all possible, it makes sense to carry as much continuity into 2011 as possible. I’d rather have Olin Kreutz at 60 percent than a newcomer facing the kind of learning curve Spencer will now deal with -- especially in this division. Need I remind you of this division's stable of defensive tackles? Ndamukong Suh? B.J. Raji? Kevin Williams? Hello?

If the Bears thought Kreutz was absolutely incapable of playing, then I’m guessing they never would have made him an offer to begin with. I guess you could argue their one-year, $4 million offer, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, was designed as a deal he would clearly refuse. Maybe they were just waiting for Spencer to become available.

Regardless, this doesn’t seem like the wisest time to make a long-term decision at such a crucial position, especially considering Kreutz’s locker room leadership role. I can’t imagine there is a coach on the Bears' staff who would endorse the move now if given a choice.

So it’s worth pointing out that in 2005, Spencer was the first player drafted by new Seattle Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell, now the Bears’ vice president of player personnel. Spencer is not a bad player, but he has a brutally difficult job ahead of him. Ruskell might have set in motion a decent succession plan at center, but the timing of it will almost assuredly debilitate the Bears in the short term.

Sometimes you have to walk the plank and jump feet first into a raging sea. Usually, however, it’s wise to make sure you’re high enough to brace for impact. That’s where the Bears failed in this episode. Right idea. Wrong time.

The ever-popular Brandon Mebane

July, 15, 2011
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Those clamoring for news on the NFL free agency front will have to settle for projections until the lockout finally does end.

There's been no shortage of them on ESPN.com regarding Brandon Mebane.

The Seattle Seahawks' defensive tackle would make sense for the St. Louis Rams, in my view. Colleague Pat Yasinskas sees Mebane fitting well with the Carolina Panthers. But those teams could face competition from the Chicago Bears, Kevin Seifert posits.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Mebane
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireBrandon Mebane has spent the first four seasons of his career with the Seahawks.
The Seahawks also remain in play, but Mebane has gone through this offseason feeling as though a departure from Seattle was likely.

"I feel like I wasn’t in their plans," Mebane told Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune two months ago. "And I feel like I have that right to think that because I got a third-round tender. If they really wanted me, they had plenty of time to do what they had to do. Me personally, from my experience, I don’t think I was in their plans. I would love to come back here, but I don’t know what their plans are."

Mebane, 26, has been a starter in each of his four NFL seasons. The next collective bargaining agreement is expected to make him an unrestricted free agent.

The Bears do make for an intriguing potential suitor given their strong connections to him. Former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell, who made Mebane a third-round draft pick in 2007, works for the Bears now. New Bears defensive line coach Mike Phair also worked for the Seahawks.

Other former Seattle assistants have also surfaced around the league. Jerry Gray became the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator. Several members of the Titans' front office, including longtime Ruskell associate Ruston Webster, were with Seattle when the Seahawks drafted Mebane. Such connections often come into play when teams identify which free agents to target, although there are no indications Tennessee, amid suggestions that it could incorporate some 3-4 principles, plans on targeting Mebane.

Mebane recently ranked seventh on Matt Williamson's list of top 15 players in the NFC West.

"Mebane isn’t a slouch against the run, but he is much better suited for a 4-3 where he can use his array of abilities, including a quick get-off," Williamson wrote. "Mebane doesn’t get the publicity that he deserves, but he does everything asked of him well. Carolina or Denver would love to have him."

Williamson has also mentioned Mebane as a player who would help the Indianapolis Colts.

In short, Mebane could make sense for any team running a 4-3 defense and needing help at defensive tackle.
Over on FoxSports.com, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick recently posted a list of the top 10 presumed free-agent defensive linemen. It's worth noting that four of the top five played in the NFC North last season.

But I'm less interested in where Ray Edwards, Cullen Jenkins, Tommie Harris and Cliff Avril will play in 2011 than in who might be joining one of our teams. (All indications, by the way, are that Avril will be a restricted free agent and thus will return to the Lions.)

[+] EnlargeBrandon Mebane
Otto Greule Jr./Getty ImagesBrandon Mebane has spent the first four seasons of his career with the Seahawks.
Billick's ninth-ranked defensive lineman almost certainly is of some interest to the Chicago Bears, who are expected to be $37 million below the salary cap when free agency opens. I'm not in the business of indiscriminately throwing names against the wall just to foster free-agent discussion, but I think you'll agree that there are more than a few reasons to tie the Bears to defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who played the first four years of his career with the Seattle Seahawks.

First, the Bears should be in the market for experienced defensive tackles after releasing Harris. They've already made some moves, drafting Stephen Paea in the second round and indicating that Henry Melton could shift from end to tackle. But veteran Anthony Adams is a pending free agent, and Mebane's career track suggests he would be an upgrade.

Most recently, Mebane made two tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the Bears' 35-24 victory over the Seahawks in the divisional playoffs. Scouts Inc. offers this take on his strength as a player: "He has enough power to hunker down and clog things up on the inside and can be extremely quick off the ball to penetrate and create problems in the backfield."

Second, connections are always important when trying to predict free-agent movement. Mebane has two critical associations with the Bears. The man that drafted him in Seattle, Tim Ruskell, is now the Bears' vice president of player personnel. And the Bears' new defensive line coach, Mike Phair, spent the past six seasons with the Seahawks.

As we've discussed several times, offensive line should be the Bears' top priority in free agency. But on a secondary level, it makes sense to keep an eye on whether they'll take the seemingly obvious step of pursuing a player who makes sense for their team.
Another in a periodic series examining the roles of NFC North newcomers.

Unless you follow the Pac-10, your first introduction to Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea might have come at the February scouting combine. Still recovering from minor knee surgery, Paea set a combine record by completing 49 reps of a 225-pound bench press.

Combine that accomplishment with a 6-foot-1, 303-pound frame and a natural perception emerges: A space-eating nose tackle who projects as a two-down player in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeStephen Paea
Craig Mitchelldyer/US PresswireStephen Paea had 13 sacks in three seasons at Oregon State.
As it turns out, however, the Chicago Bears have a different plan for the man they traded up in the second round to draft last month. The Bears are hoping Paea can be stout against the run, but the middle of the second round is high to pick a player solely on his run defense. Ideally, they hope he can play the "three-technique" position vacated by the release of Tommie Harris, a position that requires quickness and pass-rushing skills that exceed those of a typical nose tackle.

Tim Ruskell, the Bears' vice president of player personnel, said Paea can and will play both spots for the Bears.

"[He has] the strength and ability to be able to hold off the double-team with his upper body," Ruskell said. "So if we have to move him over to the nose ... he would have the capability to do that. It's just a unique guy for us. When you combine that with his effort level and his passion for the game, it was kind of a no-brainer for us. Whereas all of those other guys [in the draft] had something missing here or there."

Don't let that sell job sway you, however. Space-eating nose tackles are much easier to find than pass-rushing defensive tackles, and the success of this decision largely will rest on whether Paea can get into the backfield and be a disruptive force.

Setting the bench press record surely generated Paea some attention, but he made clear his ambitions extend beyond its implications.

"It's a blessing to do that," he told Chicago-area reporters. "I feel like the bench press was something in my back pocket. When I watched the replay after, some of the experts, [the NFL's Network's Mike] Mayock and all of those media guys saying that I'll be a true nose tackle [that was great]. But in my mind, strength is my plan B, as far as the quickness and stuff, that is what I feel like I can bring to the game."

Paea said he models his style after two classic "three-technique" defensive tackles, John Randle and Warren Sapp.

"I can't compare myself to [Randle]," he said. "I feel like that is exactly what I want to play like, and Warren Sapp, the quickness. [I'm] not much of a bull-rush type of person."

Today, you might laugh at the thought of putting John Randle, Warren Sapp and Stephen Paea in the same sentence. But we do so more to describe a mentality than assess his skill level. I would be worried if a second-round draft pick was hoping to become, say, the next Ted Washington or Tony Siragusa. All I'm saying is the Bears are hoping for -- and need -- more than run defense from the No. 53 overall pick of the draft.

Earlier: The Lions needed an explosive receiver like Titus Young.
A few days ago, we suggested that the Minnesota Vikings had targeted Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle as a back-up plan of sorts if they weren't able to secure a quarterback earlier in the draft. The Vikings had put Enderle through an extended private workout and considered him a developmental prospect who might be ready to start in a year or so.

As it turns out, the Vikings weren't the only NFC North team who felt they had uncovered a gem from the WAC. Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz also put Enderle through a private workout, and with Martz's endorsement, the Bears drafted him Saturday in the fifth round with the No. 160 overall pick.

There's little chance of Enderle getting on the field any time soon, with Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie seemingly locked in as the Bears No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks, respectively. But Martz likes having a developmental quarterback on the roster, and it's the second consecutive year they have found a way to draft one. Last year's effort went for naught, however, when they lost Dan LeFevour on waivers to the Cincinnati Bengals while trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.

Enderle is a classically-built pocket quarterback and 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, and the Bears are hoping Martz can work the same magic he did with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger when he was with the St. Louis Rams.

"Martz has a real strong conviction on him," Bears vice president of player personnel Tim Ruskell told Chicago-area reporters.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 14, 2011
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft Philosophy.

Chicago Bears

General manager Jerry Angelo has emerged from what amounted to a two-year draft hiatus following the high-profile trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and late defensive end Gaines Adams. It will be interesting to see if any philosophical shifts are detectable in what will be the Bears' first draft since Angelo overhauled his front office. Director of college scouting Greg Gabriel departed, his position was dissolved and Tim Ruskell was hired to oversee the college and pro scouting departments. To this point, there has been a general sense that Angelo -- a onetime scouting director himself -- has been drawn to individual players he likes more than he has been guided by a larger plan to build a balanced team. Case in point: He has drafted 18 defensive backs and 11 offensive linemen over his tenure. Six of those 11 offensive linemen were taken in the seventh round, part of the reason the Bears are short-handed at the position this offseason.

Detroit Lions

If the Lions have proved anything under general manager Martin Mayhew, it's that they value every last drop of the draft. In some instances, Mayhew has gone to great lengths to secure an extra pick, no matter what round it is in. On at least two occasions, he has traded a player recently signed as a street free agent or claimed on waivers for a seventh-round draft pick. In several cases, Mayhew has included those picks in trades for other players. This spring, he and the Lions appealed a relatively mild NFL tampering discipline, hired a prominent attorney and achieved the slightest reduction in the penalty: A seventh-round pick lost in 2012 rather than 2011. Some teams consider seventh-round picks to be throwaways or places to grab a player otherwise destined for college free agency to avoid a bidding war on signing bonuses. Under Mayhew, the Lions use them as a daily commodity.

Green Bay Packers

Generally speaking, more is better for the Packers. It's been well-chronicled that Packers general manager Ted Thompson built his championship team almost exclusively through the draft, and that approach requires volume to gather enough depth and maximize the chances for hitting big on players. Thompson famously traded back into the 2009 first round to select linebacker Clay Matthews, but a betting man realizes it's far more likely that he will trade back in any given year to accumulate more picks. Thompson rarely pursues the hot name or flashy personalities or even flashy players. Case in point: Choosing nose tackle B.J. Raji over receiver Michael Crabtree in 2009. But there is no arguing with the Packers' approach under Thompson, which has built layers of quality -- if not elite -- depth at multiple positions across the board.

Minnesota Vikings

Every team insists that talent trumps need in the draft, but under vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, the Vikings have drafted for need more often than you might think. Consider 2010. The Vikings entered the draft knowing their depth was thin behind injured cornerback Cedric Griffin, who was rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. They also had lost backup tailback Chester Taylor via free agency. Their first two picks? Cornerback Chris Cook and running back Toby Gerhart. In 2009, they wanted to replace right tackle Ryan Cook. The answer was Phil Loadholt, their second-round pick. In 2008, the Vikings traded up to draft safety Tyrell Johnson because they knew starter Darren Sharper was entering his final season. There's a difference between taking what the draft gives you and maneuvering to make sure it gives you what you want. The Vikings lean toward the latter under Spielman.

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: decision-makers.

Atlanta Falcons

Make no mistake, general manager Thomas Dimitroff is the man running the draft room in Atlanta. He comes with a heavy personnel background from his days as a scout with the New England Patriots and this is the time of year he enjoys most. Dimitroff has a good working relationship with coach Mike Smith and the two often watch film together. That gives Dimitroff a strong feel for what his coach wants in players. So far, this arrangement has worked very well, with the Falcons producing winning records in each of the three seasons Dimitroff and Smith have been together. One last thing on Dimitroff -- he’s not a dictator. He values the opinions of those around him and that includes more people than you’d expect. Even though the Falcons were almost certain they were going to take quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008, Dimitroff was asking an Atlanta staffer who was at some of the pre-draft media events in New York for updates on the quarterback’s demeanor.

Carolina Panthers

In the early years of the regime of coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, there was a lot of talk about them running an equal partnership, and that was very true. But Fox is gone and Ron Rivera is in his place. Even before Fox left, the partnership stopped being equal. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but Hurney has been calling the draft shots for at least a couple of years. That was extremely evident last year when the Panthers used a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen, a quarterback Fox wanted no part of. Rivera and his coaching staff will have input and college scouting director Don Gregory is an important cog. But more than ever, Hurney is the person running the draft in Carolina.

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis isn’t a real public person and that probably prevents him from getting the full recognition he deserves. He and coach Sean Payton are very much in this together and their track record has been very impressive. Loomis is at his best as an administrator. He knows what Payton and his staff are looking for and he matches up that knowledge with what his scouts give him. Anybody can hit on first-round picks, but the Saints have had some big success in the middle (Jahri Evans and Jimmy Graham) and later (Marques Colston) rounds. That’s the mark of a machine that’s working well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mark Dominik is the general manager and he prides himself on being a person who carries (the best) parts of people like Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell, Bruce Allen, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in his thinking. So far, it has worked out pretty well. In his first draft, Dominik landed Josh Freeman, who has turned out to be the first true franchise quarterback this team has ever had. Amid a lot of distractions, Dominik never has taken his eye off the fact that the Bucs are building everything around Freeman. Coach Raheem Morris and scouting director Dennis Hickey play big roles in the process, but you started to see Dominik’s blueprint take hold last season when the Bucs went 10-6.

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