Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top ten Chicago baseball prospects

10. 1B Micah Hoffpauir - Cubs

Likely to start season at: MLB
Should be in the majors by: /

At 29, some may consider Hoffpauir too old for this list. He's still considered a rookie in eligibility, though. Hoffpauir doesn't really fit in to the Cubs' plans defensively, but his bat should be a major boost off the bench this season for Lou Piniella.

9. CF Jordan Danks - Sox

Likely to start season at: high-A
Should be in the majors be: 2011

The White Sox must have a thing for the Danks family. After trading for John, they drafted Jordan not once but twice. If he's nearly as good as his older brother, the Sox may have found their center fielder of the future. Jordan has all the tools you look for, he just needs to make sure it translates on the field.

8. RHP Andrew Cashner - Cubs

Likely to start season at: high-A
Should be in the majors by: 2011

Thought the Sox had the market cornered on re-drafting? Not quite. Cashner finally decided to play pro ball in 2008. He only needed to be drafted four times, twice by the North Siders. The righty projects as a late-innings reliever in the major leagues. Cashner gets bonus points on this list for talking to our old friend Zach Martin, too. We know how difficult that can be sometimes (hey-o!)

7. 1B Brandon Allen - Sox

Likely to start season at: Double-A
Should be in the majors by: 2010-2011

Allen has perhaps the best raw power in the Sox' system. He had a breakout season last year, and should be in the majors by the time Paul Konerko is ready to head out of town.

6. C Tyler Flowers - Sox

Likely to start season at: Double-A
Should be in the majors by: 2010

The top prize in the Javy Vazquez trade, Flowers appears to be the heir to AJ Pierzynski's throne. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? The only problem with Flowers is his defense. Scouts aren't sure if he can stick behind the plate. With great patience and power though, the Sox look to have found themselves another masher, wherever he plays on the diamond.

5. LHP Aaron Poreda - Sox

Likely to start season at: Triple-A, MLB
Should be in the majors by: 2009

Aaron Poreda throws a mean heater. That much we know. His success in the majors will hinge on his ability to develop secondary pitches and throw them for strikes. The lefty looks like he could break camp with the big league club this year as a specialist out of the pen.

4. 3B Dayan Viciedo - Sox

Likely to start season at: Double-A
Should be in the majors by: 2009-2010

Viciedo is similar to Flowers in the sense that no one is sure if he can stick at third base, but his ability at the plate is unquestioned. Viciedo won't start 2009 in the majors, but if he mashes in the minors, he could quickly join fellow Cubans Alexei Ramirez and Jose Contreras in Chicago.

3. RHP Jeff Samardzija - Cubs

Likely to start season at: MLB
Should be in the majors by: /

Though he has been terrible this Spring (9.90 ERA), the future is still bright for Samardzija. He'll start off 2009 in the bullpen, but could find himself back in the rotation soon.

2. 3B Josh Vitters - Cubs

Likely to start season at: Double-A
Should be in the majors by: 2011

Vitters is still a long way away, no doubt. But Cubs fans have to be excited to have a prospect with a ceiling so high. No one wants to think about the third baseman of the future right now, not with Aramis Ramirez proving himself to be one of the best hitters in the National League in 2008, but if he continues to hit like he did last season in the minors, Vitters will be in Chicago before you know it.

1. SS Gordon Beckham - Sox

Likely to start season at: Double-A
Should be in the majors by: 2010

It's Gordon Beckham's world and we're all just livin' in it. Though he played only a handful of single-A games last season, Beckham - the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft - has been so fantastic in Spring Training that he's threatening to break camp with the big league club this year. Even if he it takes one more year of seasoning, the Sox look like they picked a future star.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top Ten most disappointing high school basketball players from Chicago

All the guys on this list have one thing in common: they all were big-time high school players from the Chicago area who had disappointing college careers. Guys who played in the NBA are excluded, otherwise Eddy Curry and Darius Miles (from East St. Louis) would be on this list. The cutoff was the mid-90’s, about the time when I started to follow high school basketball.

10. Dameon Mason- West Aurora "border="0">Mason was the best player on a loaded West Aurora team that included Shaun Pruitt, Justin Cerasoli and Jay Thomas. After averaging 23 points and nine rebounds his senior year and finishing second in the voting for Illinois’ Mr. Basketball, Mason was a consensus top 40 national recruit. He had two decent years at Marquette before deciding to transfer to LSU, where he was never really heard from again.

9. Brian Carlwell- Proviso East "border="0">
Always considered a “project,” Carlwell never did develop the game to go with his great size and athleticism. Even though he averaged 19 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks his senior year at East, Carlwell mainly got by on just being bigger and stronger than anyone that he was matched up against. He played very little at Illinois, before he was seriously injured in a car accident. Carlwell transferred to San Diego State, where he redshirted this season.

8. Nate Minnoy- Hales Minnoy, who was a co-MVP of the EA Sports Roundball Classic at the United Center, never really had a true position, as he was built like a linebacker but was only 6’3’’. He dominated inside at Hales, but had to adjust to playing more on the perimeter when he got to Purdue. Although he averaged 10 points his freshmen year at Purdue, a knee injury cut short his season. Minnoy ended up transferring to Central Michigan in 2007, but didn’t even play on the team this year.

7. Jimmy Sanders- Westinghouse
A 5’6’’ point guard, Sanders averaged 19 points and 10 assists his senior year and was first-team All-State his junior and senior years. DePaul wanted Sanders, but he didn’t qualify academically there, and was never really heard from again. Sanders was the first of a succession of small, quick point guards who starred at Westinghouse, with David and Martell Bailey coming a few years later.

6. Ryan Hogan- Deerfield
The sharpshooter scored over 2400 points during his career at Deerfield, and averaged 28 points per game as a senior. Hogan played sparingly as a freshman on the 1998 Kentucky championship team, and then transferred to Iowa one year later. He never averaged more than seven points a game in either of his two seasons with the Hawkeyes.

5. Jamarcus Ellis- Westinghouse "border="0">A 6’5’’ swingman who can play three different positions, Ellis was considered by most to be the best player in the city his senior year, when he averaged 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Ellis, who helped lead Westinghouse to a state title his sophomore year, spent two years at junior college before being recruited by Kelvin Sampson to Indiana, where he started most of last year. When Sampson got shown the door, so did Ellis. Earlier this fall, former Hoosier Eric Gordon said drugs wrecked Indiana’s season last year. It’s believed that the two biggest culprits were Ellis and former high school teammate DeAndre Thomas.

4. Pierre Pierce- Westmont "border="0">I remember watching Pierce play downstate his senior year at Westmont, and was amazed at his ability to score (even though he was doing it against Class A competition). Pierce averaged a ridiculous 35 points per game his senior year. While at Iowa, Pierce became one of the Big Ten’s best players by his junior year, before his season and ultimately his career was cut short by legal troubles. Midway through his junior year, a disturbance was investigated at the home of a woman Pierce had been dating. He allegedly choked her and threatened her with a knife after an argument over her new boyfriend. Pierce was soon dismissed from the basketball team and sentenced to two years in an Iowa correctional facility.

3. Imari Sawyer- King "border="0">A dynamic scoring guard, Sawyer averaged 31 points and 12 assists his senior year. Coming out of King, Sawyer was considered a top 20 national recruit. He went on to play two years at DePaul, even averaging 11 points as a sophomore, but off the court problems and suspensions caused him to not return for his junior year. This is a Sports Illustrated story on how Sawyer was going to restore greatness to the DePaul program.

2. Leon Smith- King "border="0">If they had the one-year in college rule back in 1999, Smith might not have gone down as perhaps the worst first-round pick in NBA history. At King, Smith was a monster, averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds his senior year. Smith clearly didn’t have the right guidance when he bypassed college for the draft, where he was taken by Dallas with the 29th overall pick. Before ever playing a game for the Mavs, he was released after spending several weeks in a psychiatric ward after swallowing 250 aspirin tablets.

1. Ronnie Fields- Farragut "border="0">Fields averaged 34 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and four steals his senior year and was a consensus First-Team All American. He also had a reported 50-inch vertical leap. After signing a letter of intent to play at DePaul, Fields was later ruled academically ineligible. A sure-fire NBA lottery pick while at Farragut, Fields never made it to the pros, and has bounced around for 15 different teams, including stops in the CBA, Venezuela, Turkey and Greece. On a side note, how did a high school team with Fields, Kevin Garnett, and Michael Wright, who would go on to star at Arizona, not make it downstate?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Top ten Chicago basketball players in the Big Dance

Unlike last year there isn't total disappointment. At least Illinois made it, giving Chicago fans something to cheer about. But another way to look at things is to cheer for the local talents from the city of close suburbs. And there is quite a bit of Chicago-based talent to be watched. Below are the top ten individuals from the area with hopes of winning a national title.

10. Maurice Acker- Marquette
Maurice Acker has stepped in well to replace Domanic James. While they are only 1-5 since James' injury, it's not Acker's fault. Typically being 5' 8", one is often a defensive liability. But Maurice's pesky defense is actually what was earning the Hillcrest graduate more time.

9. Johnny Moran- Northern Iowa
The freshmen from Algonquin could be the difference in this year's Northern Iowa team. Moran scored 8.4 points per and nearly four rebounds this season. Look for Moran to move up this chart and possibly find his name in the top five of the 2010 version of this list.

8. Bobby Frasor- North Carolina
Bobby Frasor's numbers will surely increase if they can't keep Ty Lawson's toe from swelling worse than it already has. By no means is he the speedster Lawson is, the change-of-pace point is a veteran leader. Averaging 17 minutes/game those numbers will surely go up for the former Brother Rice standout at least the next few rounds of the tourney.

7. Demetri McCamey- Illinois
McCamey lead a U of I team in scoring with 11.5 points and four assists a game. The former St. Joes guard will surely be leading a top 15 team next season in the Illini. While we're talking about the 2009 tourney, the chances of them escaping the round of 32 are very much in question.

6. Jon Scheyer- Duke
The ACC Tournament MVP was lights-out in the final. The junior from Glenbrook scored 27 in a game that was in their control through the duration. Probably the highest high school prospect of all the guys on this, Scheyer is a great system guy in coach K's Duke squad.

5. Jerome Randle- Cal
The 5' 10" guard from Hales scores in droves. Averaging 18.4 and four assists a game, Randle could make an argument for Pac -10 Player of the Year. It should be interesting to see how Cal fares against the overachieving Maryland squad.

4. Jeremy Pargo- Gonzaga
Pargo is an ultra quick guard on an ultra quick team. They are fun to watch, when they decide to play together. The Robeson standout was vastly overlooked coming out of high school, which is odd to believe considering he has a chance of being drafted in the upcoming draft. He leads the Bulldogs in assists with more than five a game and has a lengthy list of honors in his four seasons at Gonzaga.

3. Sherron Collins- Kansas
Collins is the shoot-first version of Pargo. The former Crane great is one of the best Longstreet ever coached in Chicago. After being the sixth man on last years national champs, Sherron has stepped into the leader role extremely well. Leading the team in points (18.3) and assists (5.0), there is no way anyone can question his newborn leadership.

2. Evan Turner- Ohio State
The likely Big Ten Player of the Year, Turner looks a level above most players in the Big Ten. His versatility allows him to go to the hole for a dunk or pull up and hit 20-footers. Of all these guys, the former McCamey teammate is probably the top NBA prospect of the bunch.

1. Jerel McNeal- Marquette
McNeal is the leader of a team that spent the majority of the season as top 10 team in the nation. While his stock has probably lowered since the injury of James, there is no denying McNeal's flat-out ability to play. The former Big East Defensive Player of the Year not only matches up with the best the Big East has to offer on a nightly basis, but has improved his offensive numbers every year, becoming the nations most lethal scorers. It wouldn't be unlikely to hear the former Hillcrest swingman's name called out on draft day this year.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Top Ten single-game performances by Chicago athletes

Chicago’s first pro sports team was the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, who began playing ball in 1867. Since then, the White Sox (1904), Bears (1920), Blackhawks (1926) and Bulls (1966) have joined them, making our town one of the greatest sports cities in the entire country. The five teams combined have played thousands of games throughout the years, and in those games, there have been quite a few amazing performances.

But what was the best game ever turned in by a Chicago athlete? It’s a simple question, but the answer’s not so easy. Lot’s of great games were considered, but we settled on the ten best, with the goal to include at least one player from each of the five pro teams. So here they are, the ten best single-game performances by a Chicago player. And don’t worry, we know we missed some great ones, so feel free to comment on amazing moments we failed to include.

10: Nate Thurmond-- First ‘official’ quadruple-double in NBA history
This is what people mean when they discuss impressive debuts: In Thurmond’s first game in a Bulls uniform, he turned in 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks. That October 1974 game, a 120-115 Bulls overtime win over Atlanta, was the first ever quadruple-double recognized by the league (The NBA didn’t start counting steals and blocks as official stats until 1973). Thurmond finished the ‘74 season averaging double-figures only in rebounding.

9: Lance Johnson-- Six hits- inc. three triples- in 1995 White Sox game vs. Twins

Two things stuck out when examining the White Sox single-game record book. First is that surprisingly only one of the records was set this decade and the other was just how awesome One Dog was in this game versus the Twins. Johnson tied or set team records with the six hits and three triples, and also drove in four runs in the Sox’s 14-4 victory. His 12 total bases are also pretty amazing as well, considering he was hitting lead off.

8: Grant Mulvey-- Scored five goals and dished out two assists in 1982
For a lot of hockey players, it might take them a couple of weeks to record seven points. Mulvey did it in one night. Five goals and two assists helped the Blackhawk right-winger to set a team record during a win over the St. Louis Blues. The output was especially rare for Mulvey, who only scored 149 goals total in his 586-game career. He is now the treasurer for the Blackhawks Alumni Association.

7: The Ryne Sandberg Game
June 23, 1984. Cubs trail the Cardinals 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth. Hall-of-Fame bound closer Bruce Sutter is on the hill for St. Louis. Ryne Sandberg, who is heading to Cooperstown as well, at the plate. After fighting off some tough pitchers, Ryno finally gets a hold of one, crushing a homer to Wrigley’s left field bleachers. Tie game. Top of the tenth, the Cards score two, making it 11-9. Head to the bottom of the inning, Sutter’s still throwing. Now with a man on, the second baseman comes back to the plate. He fights off some more pitches until again getting a hold of one, smacking a second homer in two innings versus the best relief pitcher of the decade to tie the game at 11 apiece. One inning later the Cubs drive in another run, winning 12-11 in 11 innings, sending them to an eventual NL East crown and Sandberg to the ’84 NL MVP.

6: Michael Jordan--35 points, six three’s in first half of Gm. 1 in ’92 Finals

This list could have been entirely devoted to Jordan games, but I decided to limit it to two of MJ’s best. One was obvious- see #2- but choosing the second was tougher. Other TTCS staffers suggested his 69-point night versus Cleveland, the 63 he dropped on Boston in the ’86 playoffs or the double-nickel game against the Knicks. But I felt this performance topped them all, simply for the fact that it showed fans something new. Mike had never been and never was a long-distance shooter. But for those 24 minutes of game one, Jordan was hotter than a Las Vegas summer. Add in the famous shrug and you have a game for the ages.

5: Pat Seerey-- Four home runs in White Sox game

Most of Seerey’s career wasn’t note-worthy, as he was a lifetime .224 hitter for the Sox and Indians. But in June 1948 against the Philadelphia A’s, Seerey swung his way into the record books by hitting four homers in one game. He’s the only player on either side of town to pull off that accomplishment and one of only 15 players all-time to do it.

4: Walter Payton--275 rushing yards on 40 attempts

On Nov. 20, 1977, the man known as Sweetness ran into the NFL record books, as his 275 yards versus the Vikings edged the former record, held by OJ Simpson, by two. The amazing part of the game was how #34 got better as the game went on. Payton ran for 77 yards in the first quarter and 67 more in the second. The third quarter saw 48 yards and then finally in the fourth Payton dropped the hammer on Minnesota, running for 83 yards in the game’s final 15 minutes. Payton’s single-game rushing record stood for 23 years before Cory Dillon of the Bengals ran for 278 yards. Since then, both Jamal Lewis of the Ravens and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings have topped Dillon.

3: Gayle Sayers-- 6 touchdowns in one game ties NFL record

How crazy is it to scores six TD’s in one game? Last season it took Bears rookie star Matt Forte to week 12 before he crossed the goal line for the sixth time. Sayers was the definition of an all-around threat, as his six touchdowns versus the 49ers in December 1965 consisted of one TD catch (an 80-yard screen pass), four rushing scores (21, 7, 50 and 1 yard runs) as well as an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. By the end of the game Sayers had accounted for 134 return yards, 113 rushing yards and 89 receiving yards, as the Bears won over San Francisco 61-20 at Wrigley Field.

2: Michael Jordan--38 points in 44 minutes during NBA Finals with stomach flu
"border="0">It’s one of those stories nobody would believe if it weren’t actually true. The greatest player of all time in bed all day throwing up after eating some bad food, barely able to warm up, decides to play for the Bulls in game 5 of a tied NBA Finals series versus Utah. Jordan ends up scoring 38 points, including the game-winning three with 25 seconds left, to give the Bulls the 90-88 win. The ‘Flu Game’ goes down in the history as the gutsiest and most courageous performance in MJ’s amazing career.

1: Kerry Wood-- 20 strikeouts against Houston in fifth career start

Talk about peaking too soon. Kid K, who wasn’t even old enough to celebrate at his favorite Wrigleyville establishment, fooled with Houston and the Killer B’s (Craig Biggio, Derek Bell and Jeff Bagwell) like they were a team of four-year old T-Ball players, not the eventual NL Central champs. The combination of a high-90’s fastball and knee-shattering breaking ball helped Wood throw what many statisticians call the greatest game ever pitched. And Cubs fans know were it not for the slow glove of third baseman Kevin Orie, the 20K game would have also been a no-hitter.

(Also, note in that picture there are four people wearing #34 jerseys, yet none of them were Kerry Wood's. Strange)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Top Ten Milton Bradley Meltdowns, Moments and Quotes

Little has been said lately of the Cubs prized(?) free agent acquisition, Milton Bradley.

Namely because nobody has really seen him after he went down with a leg injury during his first at bat in Spring Training.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the new Chicago Cub.

Bradley's history is littered with moments that can either make you fear for your safety at Wrigley Field, or feel bad for a guy that could just be misunderstood.

Decide for yourself with the Top Ten Milton Bradley Meltdowns, Moments and Quotes.

10. 2004 - Bradley vs. Bag of balls

After being ejected in a 2004 game while playing for the Dodgers, Bradley didn't go down quietly.

I'll let this excerpt from an ESPN article tell the tale:

"When Bradley reached the top step of the dugout, he grabbed the ball bag and tossed balls onto the field. He also threw a ball to the warning track in left field."

Always a classic tantrum tactic and one that Lou Piniella may have actually invented. But don't tell too many people about it because Lou's been saving it for when the Cubs need a spark late in the season.

Like in the playoffs or something.

9. 2004 - Bradley vs. Fan

Bradley was minding his own business out in the field when a moron in the stands threw a plastic bottle at him. He quickly headed towards the direction it came from, looking like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, and chucked the bottle into the front row of the stands.

That's why remind you to keep your hands and feet inside the stands ladies and gentlemen.

Steve, you listening?

8. You Can't Make Stuff Like This Up

“I want people to say Milton Bradley was a pretty good ballplayer and a pretty good person. Anybody who is going to stand between me getting there, then they need to be eliminated.”

Sounds like a quote from a bad Sylvester Stallone movie.

7. 2004 - Bradley vs. Cleveland Indians

Bradley disrespected Tribe manager Eric Wedge after failing to run hard on a popup and is promptly traded to the first team willing to take him.

I'd want to be traded from the Indians too.

Or as we like to call them, the Cubs Part Deux.

6. 2003 - Bradley vs. Bruce Froemming

Froemming is notorious for getting into verbal altercations and questionable actions as an MLB umpire.

Bradley was walking back to the dugout and Froemming continued to stare him down like he owed him money or something. Bradley then launched his helmet and bat in Froemming's direction and had to be held back from knocking his block off.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Bradley would have received a few pats on the back from current and former players if he had gotten there.

Most notably Milt Pappas.

5. 2005 - Bradley vs. Jeff Kent

"The problem is, he doesn't know how to deal with African-American people," Bradley said.
These two seemed destined to butt heads eventually and it happened right after a series with Marlins in 2005.

This wasn't Kent's first rodeo with a situation like this, feuding with Barry Bonds throughout most of his years with the Giants.

4. 2008 -Bradley vs. Ryan Laefebvre

While playing in a game against the Royals last season, Bradley was alerted to the following comment made by Royals announcer Ryan Laefebvre while talking about Josh Hamilton:
"Here's a guy, with all the troubles he’s had, he’s showed that if you work at it, you can get your life back in order. And that would be a pretty good role model for Milton Bradley, who clearly has no control over himself, because it’s the same thing year after year ..."
Bradley was restrained and never made it up to the booth where, according to him, he planned on 'introducing himself' to Laefebvre.

3. 2003 - Bradley vs. Paul Lo Duca

Bradley and Lo Duca engaged in a war of words during a game back in 2003. Lo Duca was upset about Bradley unstrapping his batting gloves before running out a home run ball.

Bradley had this to say after the game:

"Somebody alerted me to the fact he was over there poppin' off," Bradley said. "I saw the videotape of him saying some things. I guess he kind of feels bad my numbers are better than his and I spent two weeks on the DL (disabled list).''

"Don't assault me and I won't assault you, because you don't know what I will, or won't, do. I'm going to end it with that.''
You can read the full story here.

2. This Sounds Promising
"Well, you can get a healthy guy to go out there and play 162 games, but he won’t do what I did in 120." - Milton Bradley, 2009 to the
While that quote may jump out at you, Bradley did go on and attempt to explain himself further.

"When you’re on one-year deals constantly, you’ve got to put up as good numbers as you can. When you have days where you’re not feeling like you can contribute, you’re not going to go out there, because you’re not going to want your numbers to suck.

"So, if you’re in a situation like I am now, if they want me to go out there when I’m feeling a little banged up, I’ve got no problem doing that because [the Cubs] made the commitment to me."

Are you worried about that statement Cubs fans?

Or do you like a taste of pure honesty?

I guess we'll let his production decide.

1. Bradley argues with ump, tackled by coach, blows out his ACL

Fast forward to the 38 second mark if you want to skip over the expert analysis.

Bradley blows out his knee while being restrained from going after umpire Mike Winters by manager Bud Black.

While Bradley comes out looking like the bad guy in the video, Winters was no angel in the situation.

Padres first base coach, Bobby Meachem, said, "In 26 years of baseball, I couldn't believe my ears the way that [Winters] spoke to Milton. [It] was so disrespectful, so angry, so vindictive."

He reportedly called Bradley a "f _ _ _ing piece of s _ _ _".

Milton Bradley won't stand for insulting Milton Bradley.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top ten positions the Bears will target in the draft

Yeah, another Bears post. This is what happens when your favorite basketball team is coached by Vinny Del Negro.

10. Center

Best of the bunch: Alex Mack
We suggest: ???

At 31, Kruetz - long viewed on this site as Chicago's most overrated "star" - isn't getting any younger. There isn't much depth behind him, either. A mid to late round draft could give the Bears some added insurance at center.

9. Outside Linebacker

Best of the bunch: Aaron Curry
We suggest: DeAndre Levy (Rd. 3 or 4)

Nick Roach made some strides last year at strong side linebacker, but the Bears could add some more depth with a mid to late round pick. The Bears love using fast linebackers on special teams, as well. That department took a bit of a hit last season without Brandon Ayanbadejo.

8. Cornerback

Best of the bunch: Vontae Davis
We suggest: Sean Smith (Rd. 3)

Corner always seems to be a question mark for the Bears. Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher are among the league's best sets of corners when healthy, but that's been a major issue lately. And no one even knows if Vasher will be back with the team next year. Corey Graham looked okay in 2008, and Zack Bowman showed some promise in limited action. But the Bears could still add depth, and maybe even a starter. Could they be tempted by Illini corner Vontae Davis if he's still around at No. 18?

7. Running Back

Best of the bunch: Knowshon Moreno
We suggest: Javon Ringer (Rd. 3)

Matt Forte was a revelation as a rookie last season, but if the Bears want him to last, they can't give him so many touches. Running backs are known to have short shelf lives as is; the Bears can't burn Forte out too early. Michigan State's Javon Ringer would seem nice compliment.

6. Middle Linebacker

Best of the bunch: Rey Maualuga
We suggest: Gerald McRath (Rd. 3 or 4)

I still love Brian Urlacher more than most - as far as superstars go, he seems to have burned the most bridges here since Frank Thomas - but he's getting a bit old and his play is clearly declining. ESPN's depth chart for the Bears doesn't even list a backup for Urlacher. They could use some depth there in the form of a mid round pick.

5. Quarterback

Best of the bunch: Matt Stafford
We suggest: Rhett Bomar (Rd. 3)

The Bears caught a lot of flack for not taking a quarterback last season in the draft. This year they may be forced to. I will say that I'm down with Danny's plan to bring in a veteran backup like Jeff Garcia, but adding a young signal caller is just as essential. Sorry, I'm not buying into the Caleb Hanie hype like most of Chicago.

4. Safety

Best of the bunch: Louis Delmas
We suggest: Delmas (Rd. 2)

TTCS was originally infatuated with USC's Taylor Mays, but he didn't come out. Still, the Bears could look to add a safety as early as the second round. Since Kevin Payne played alright last year at strong safety, free safety would seem to be more of a necessity. Western Michigan's Delmas is widely considered the best in the class, and could be a nice addition to the Bears' secondary if he's available in the second round.

3. Defensive End

Best of the bunch: Brian Orakpo
We suggest: Michael Johnson (Rd. 1)

Much of the Bears fails last year happened because they couldn't generate a consistent pass rush. That can be pinned on the scheme, but also on a lack of production from Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson. They'll be a couple intriguing options in the first round if the Bears decide to go with a defensive end. According to the Sun-Times Brad Biggs' Bears blog, the Bears were present at the Georgia Tech pro day to watch Michael Johnson. He's built as a boom-or-bust guy with great athleticism and worries about his work ethic. LSU's Tyson Jackson and NIU's Larry English could be options as well.

2. Offensive Tackle

Best of the bunch: Jason Smith
We suggest: Michael Oher (Rd. 1)

Last year's first round pick Chris Williams is expected to fill in at left tackle next year, but the Bears now have a hole on the right side because of the sudden expected retirement of John Tait. They're going to need a tackle somewhere in this draft, whether they resign John St. Clair or not. If St. Clair goes, it becomes likely the Bears use another first rounder on a tackle. Michael Oher, who gained famed when his life was chronicled in the Michael Lewis book "The Blind Side", could be an intriguing option.

1. Wide Receiver

Best of the bunch: Michael Crabtree
We suggest: Hakeem Nicks (Rd. 1)

The Bears most pressing need is clearly at wide receiver. I think they should bring in a veteran - Torry Holt sure would be nice - and add a rookie with one of their top two picks. North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks is projected to go in the mid-to-late first round, and has been drawing comparisons to Michael Irvin. I think he'd be a natural fit on the Bears. The Bears are also said to have interest in Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, who reminds me of Bernard Berrian.

In case you're not familiar with Nicks, maybe you remember watching this catch on ESPN over and over:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top Ten moves that would help the Bears


Jerry Angelo is quickly catching up to John Paxson for title of worst GM in Chicago. Even though the Bears are about 30 million dollars under the salary cap, have major needs at several positions and have their pick of a number of short-term productive free-agents that would come pretty cheap, Angelo seems content to build through the draft.

Angelo really can’t think the Bears are “close” after being lucky to finish 9-7 in one of the weakest divisions in football, can he?

With that said, here are 10 moves the Bears should make before they take the field for their season opener, though I would be very surprised to see Angelo pull the trigger on any of the free-agents that I mention.

10. Find a backup for Matt Forte
"border="0">Whether he’s already on the roster (Kevin Jones, Garrett Wolfe) or out there in free agency (Warrick Dunn maybe), the Bears need to find a change of-pace-back they can trust to compliment Forte. Dunn’s 4.2-yards-per-carry average last season was actually better than Forte’s.

9. Draft a safety in the second round "border="0">The safety class this year is really weak. It’s likely there will not be a single safety drafted in the first round, which means there will be a run on them starting in the second round. Even though the Bears could go for a defensive end here, guys like William Moore, Louis Delmas and Patrick Chung would be good additions and could compete for a starting spot.

8. Give Nathan Vasher and Mark Anderson one more chance Each of these guys have greatly underachieved these last two seasons. It would be easy to bench Vasher in place of Corey Graham and release Anderson, but the Bears didn’t pay Vasher all that money for him to be a backup and not too many guys get 12 sacks their rookie year like Anderson did in 2006. The Bears need both to bounce back and have good seasons; otherwise the defense will likely struggle for the third straight year.

7. Give Bob Babich as little responsibility as possible "border="0">Luckily, Rod Marinelli and Lovie will now be sort of like the co-defensive coordinators, while Babich will only be coaching the linebackers. I’m very interested in seeing if the Bears’ struggles on defense were really a result of poor play-calling by Babich or just a sign that guys like Urlacher and Ogunleye are past their primes and Vasher and Harris struggled because of injuries.

6. Re-sign John St. Clair With John Tait set to retire after five solid years as a fixture on the Bears’ line, bringing back St. Clair shifts from a luxury into a necessity. Chris Williams is penciled in at the other tackle spot, but he remains a major question mark after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. There’s been talk recently about the Bears drafting an offensive tackle with their first-round pick, but with St. Clair, Williams and lone free-agent pickup Frank Omiyale, the Bears should be okay.

5. Sign Darren Sharper If the season started tomorrow, Craig Steltz would be the 64th best starting safety in the NFL. Because the Bears didn’t bring back Mike Brown, safety is probably the second biggest need on this team besides wide receiver. Sharper has been around forever, and while his best years are behind him, he still presents a big upgrade over any one else the Bears currently have on their roster for the free safety position. Reportedly, the Bears and Saints top his wish list.

4. Make Danieal Manning the full-time kick and punt returner Hester looked totally lost on his returns last season and clearly isn’t the same guy who brought back 12 kicks for scores his first two years in the league. In just a handful of games late last season, Manning showed he can be one of the league’s better returners. Manning is probably the best athlete on the team, but he’s clueless on defense, so why not utilize his athleticism as much as possible?

3. Sign Jeff Garcia Doesn’t Kyle Orton need a little more competition in training camp than Brett Basanez and Caleb Hanie? Now I understand Angelo is worried that bringing in a veteran might hurt Orton’s confidence, but honestly, who cares? Orton has proved nothing yet in this league. And if Orton isn’t good enough to beat out the 39-year old Garcia, the Bears could at least stop fooling themselves into thinking they finally have a long-term answer at quarterback.

2. Sign either Tory Holt OR Marvin Harrison Right now, there’s not a team that has a worse receiving corps than the Bears. Hester is a number three receiver on a lot of teams, and Rashied Davis and Earl Bennett wouldn’t even play on most teams. The Bears need a reliable veteran who defenses would still have to account for. Holt and Harrison both fit that profile. Either one would help Orton tremendously and take a lot of pressure off of Hester. Holt is clearly the better player, but Harrison would be easier to get considering he’s an actual free-agent.

1. Draft a wide receiver in the first round I’ve seen mock drafts where they had the Bears taking everyone from Larry English to Michael Oher. Wide receiver has to be the first priority though. Even though there is great depth in this year’s receiver class, if the Bears wait until the second round to address it they will be picking from a group of leftovers. I would be happy with any one of these guys with the 18th overall pick; Darius Hayward-Bey, Percy Harvin or Hakeem Nicks. Angelo has a history of not taking receivers in the first round, but that needs to finally change.

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