As the NFL draft nears — it takes place May 8-10 — we're taking an 11-day, position-by-position look at what's out there and what the Bears need.
Martellus Bennett enjoyed a productive first season in Chicago, racking up 65 catches, 759 yards and five touchdowns. That was welcome production from a position at which the Bears had been inept in recent years and offers promise that Bennett can be a major factor into 2014 and beyond. But the Bears' depth at tight end was also an issue last year and led coach Marc Trestman often to use Eben Britton as a sixth offensive lineman rather than deploying a second tight end.
Level of draft need: High Moderate LOW
Behind Bennett, the Bears have a horde of potential backup options, starting with veteran Dante Rosario (also a core special teamer) and continuing with developmental project Fendi Onobun. Matthew Mulligan and Zach Miller are also under contract. But it would not be a surprise if general manager Phil Emery eyed the final day of the draft to add to the competition and further the depth at the position.
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
6-4, 250 pounds
Worth a look: In a pass-happy league, Ebron is one of the prototypical 21st-century tight ends, a potential mismatch for defenses with his size, quickness and catching ability. He is accomplished working underneath and can stretch the field as well. Last season at North Carolina, Ebron totaled 62 catches for 973 yards with three touchdowns. He's considered NFL ready with his athleticism and dynamic ability in the passing game and could be a top-10 pick.
Stay away: From the Bears' standpoint, investing in Ebron with their first-round pick at No. 14 would be impractical given the needs on defense. Ebron also will need to polish his blocking techniques to become a more complete player for whatever team nabs him in Round 1.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
6-5, 265 pounds
Worth a look: Every offense in the NFL could use a playmaker like Amaro, whose productivity in 2013 was consistent and eye-opening. He finished with 106 catches and set a single-season Football Bowl Subdivision single-season receiving yardage record for tight ends with 1,352. He's effective when spread wide, creating matchup difficulties for defensive backs.
Stay away: Doesn't possess elite speed and may need time to adjust to a new offense that isn't as wide open and pass happy as the one he played in during college. Amaro was a little shaky during pass-catching drills at the combine. One red flag: punching a Minnesota defensive back in the 2012 Meineke Car Care bowl.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
6-5, 265 pounds
Worth a look: Fiedorowicz, a Johnsburg product and a first-team All-Big Ten honoree last fall, easily could slip to Day 3 of the draft, where he would become a solid value pick in Round 4 or later. His body control for his size has allowed him to stand out as both a run-blocker and pass-catcher. Intelligence is also a plus.
Stay away: Fiedorowicz may face a rude awakening at the next level when confronted with pro-level speed and athleticism. He lacks a little bit of a "wow" factor in his skill set.
Jordan Najvar, Baylor
6-6, 256 pounds
Worth a look: For a team looking for a tight end who can supply consistent and reliable pass protection, Najvar might deserve a look in the later rounds or potentially even as an undrafted free agent. He has decent strength up front and can contribute positively to the run game.
Stay away: Najvar's impressive size is offset by his underwhelming speed and athleticism. He doesn't figure to be much of a difference-maker in the passing game.
Reggie Jordan, Missouri Western
6-3, 240 pounds
Worth a look: There's potential in Jordan, a Division II prospect who has obvious ability but needs refinement. He showed intriguing athleticism at the combine in February as a top performer among tight ends in both the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle. His on-field speed makes him a weapon as a pass catcher and his blocking comes with toughness and aggressiveness.
Stay away: Jordan had 23 catches for 366 yards and four TDs last season, production in Division II that doesn't exactly forecast an NFL breakthrough. His route running is unrefined and may require great effort to enhance.
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