Bears pick TE Evan Rodriguez
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears addressed the tight end and cornerback positions on the third and final day of the 2012 NFL Draft by selecting Temple tight end/fullback Evan Rodriguez (No. 111) and cornerbacks Isaiah Frey out of Nevada (No. 184) and Greg McCoy from TCU (No. 220).
"I'm just excited for the opportunity," Rodriguez said. "They've got a great coaching staff there and I'm ready to work."
The 6-foot-2, 244-pound Rodriguez was the Owls' top receiver in 2011 with 35 receptions for 479 yards and two touchdowns. When he met with the club before the draft, Rodriguez compared himself to current New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns in the 2011 regular season, then continued to put up big numbers in the postseason.
"Aaron has worked really hard to get to where he is and I'm not there yet," Rodriguez said. "But I do (compare) my style of play to Aaron's. I have a lot of work to do, but I'm just happy."
Bears general manager Phil Emery envisions Rodriguez as the type of player who can make an instant impact and challenge for a starting role. The Bears used Tyler Clutts at fullback in 2011.
"Right role, right fit for the player and the team," Emery said. "As we analyzed our team and our team needs, we really felt we had a very defined need with the system changes that (new offensive coordinator Mike) Tice will bring. ... We also were looking for somebody who had versatility in terms of being that move tight end that could come up and lead up on a linebacker in certain situations."
Rodriguez transferred to Temple in 2008 after he redshirted his freshman year at West Virginia. After sitting out the required one season, Rodriguez started 28 games in the next three years for Temple.
However, Rodriquez has run into some trouble off the field. He was charged with misdemeanor disturbance and misdemeanor trespassing while at West Virginia in 2007, then arrested for disorderly conduct in April 2009.
"We all make mistakes," Rodriguez said. "It's growing pains. As long as you learn from your mistakes and don't let them happen again and mature, which I have done. If they believe in me ... I won't let them down."
Emery told the media that various members of Temple's athletic department and Bears area scout Rex Hogan vouched for Rodriguez's character. The Bears general manager also has scouted Temple extensively and made three campus visits this past fall.
"I know he has had past issues," Emery said. "It's precisely why we brought him in and it's precisely why we had (Bears running backs coach Tim) Spencer work him out and spend some time with him. Everybody in this building has spent quality time on him.
"He's a very tough, physical football player that we are very excited to have."
Frey had five interceptions and 21 pass breakups his senior year at Nevada en route to being named to the all-WAC first team, but did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine. The 5-foot-10 1/2 cornerback was a three-year starter for the Wolfpack and recorded a career-best 52 tackles in 2010.
"I played a lot of man [coverage] at Nevada," Frey said. "All four years I was there it was mostly man more than anything. That's one of the things I think I bring to the table."
Frey will have some competition to make the roster after the Bears signed veteran cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite in free agency to try and offset the losses of Corey Graham and Zack Bowman.
Besides being a starting cornerback in college, McCoy was a successful return man at TCU. He took back two kickoffs for touchdowns last season and was named Mountain West conference special teams player of the year. He had three returns for scores during his career with the Horned Frogs. McCoy was timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.43 at his official Pro Day.
He made 28 career starts at cornerback and finished with seven interceptions.