Defense figures to own the early day of the NFL draft in May for the Chicago Bears but the offense should get their chance sooner or later. Here are some potential sleeper picks who could become big contributors.
Cody Latimer – WR – Indiana
Phil Emery loves big receivers. It’s a simple fact. His first big move as a GM was trading for Brandon Marshall (6’4″) followed quickly by drafting Alshon Jeffery (6’3″). A year later he added Marquess Wilson (6’3″) in the 7th round. So Cody Latimer fits the profile at 6’3″ but what sets him apart is he’s both fast and agile. He can set up defenders with his routes and get open quickly. Concentration issues and lack of a serious deep threat capability will push him down the board but his addition to the offense would simply give Jay Cutler another giant target.
Storm Johnson – RB – UCF
Michael Bush is gone. Matt Forte no longer has a credible backup at running back, which isn’t good since he’s turning 28 himself. Chicago has to get some young blood into that position, especially given how much Marc Trestman uses it in his offense. Storm Johnson has lingered in the late rounds for most projections but he is a better player than that. Overshadowed a lot by Blake Bortles, he runs with good power and vision and is deceptively good as a receiver out of the backfield.
Bryan Stork – C – Florida State
Few coaches are better than Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer at grooming late-round offensive linemen into starters. He did last season with rookie 5th round pick Jordan Mills, who started all 16 games at right tackle. One of his greater successes was center Brian De La Puente, who went from an undrafted free agent to starter for the New Orleans Saints. Bryan Stork of Florida State has been compared to him. While he has the upper body strength, technique and tenacity there is a definite lack of drive in his lower extremities. That will require work to fix, meaning Stork can’t play right away. That makes him an ideal understudy for Robert Garza, who at age 35 is nearing the end of his career at center for Chicago.
Marcel Jensen – TE – Fresno State
Unpolished gems can become just as valuable as polished ones. The difference is time and work. As it stands Marcel Jensen is little more than a capable run blocker at tight end. However, closer inspection reveals an athletic big man at 6’6″ with huge hands who can catch passes when his quarterback bothers to throw his way. He wasn’t much use in a spread offense at Fresno State, but in a balanced offense that requires blocking and receiving ability similar to Martellus Bennett, Jensen is an ascending talent.
Tom Savage – QB – Pittsburgh
Chicago Bears fans are itching with the inescapable question: with Josh McCown gone will the team look to the NFL draft for help at quarterback? Experts are divided on the subject but the fact remains the only person behind Jay Cutler at present is Jordan Palmer, who has five career passes to his credit. They need another body in the mix. Tom Savage has a lot of late-round intrigue. He struggled at times for Pitt in 2013 but examination of the tape showed he was handcuffed quite often by poor pass protection. When given time to throw he demonstrated elite power in his velocity coupled with good ball placement and accuracy. His footwork is good and he has the strength to shake off tacklers to keep plays alive. With some proper coaching from Trestman, he has a lot of upside.