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Bears' NFL draft preview: Tight ends

As the NFL draft nears, we're taking an 11-day, position-by-position look at what's out there and what the Bears need.

Bears' status

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Martellus Bennett made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in January. The recognition was well-deserved. His career-high 90 receptions led all tight ends. He had 916 yards, six touchdowns and played in all 16 games. He's entering Year 3 of the four-year free-agent contract he signed before the 2013 season. The Bears re-signed Dante Rosario on Feb. 27, reuniting him with coach John Fox. Rosario did a bit of everything last season, from lining up as a fullback to catching passes downfield to serving on special teams.

Level of draft need: Low

Bennett has no more guaranteed money left on his contract, so the new regime could part with him if it so desired. Of course, that would amount to subtracting a major weapon from the passing game. Rosario's value comes from his versatility, but the Bears still don't have a true blocking tight end. It will be interesting to see whether they can get anything out of Zach Miller, who caught the ball well last preseason before suffering a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.

Top prospect

Maxx Williams, Minnesota

6-4, 249 pounds

Worth a look: Williams has good straight-line speed and is adept at beating defenses down the seam in the passing game. He quickly accelerates into space after the catch or on screens. He can catch contested throws, which adds to his value in the red zone. His father, Brian, played center for the Giants (1989-99), so he knows what it takes to be a pro.

Stay away: He must refine the nuances of his route running, including sharpening his cuts and not allowing leans to telegraph moves. He isn't a powerful in-line blocker, which is what the Bears need from a tight end.

Intriguing options

Ben Koyack, Notre Dame

6-5, 255 pounds

Worth a look: Koyack is the type of blocking tight end the Bears could use to round out their depth chart. Although he might need some time to develop the frame and strength required to block at the pro level, he was an exceptional blocker for the Irish. He understands leverage and hand placement and competes to win blocks. He has experience blocking out of the backfield and as an in-line blocker.

Stay away: He's not an established pass catcher, but in fairness, Notre Dame didn't require that of him in its offense.

Nick O'Leary, Florida State

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6-3, 252 pounds

Worth a look: O'Leary, who won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end, is a tenacious competitor and versatile blocker. In 40 starts, he played out of the backfield, the slot and in-line. He catches the ball fluidly away from his body and is good at beating zone coverage.

Stay away: He lacks the speed to be a downfield threat — he didn't have one reception of 25 or more yards as a senior. . He doesn't create separation in his routes and isn't a physically imposing blocker.

MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois

6-2, 251 pounds

Worth a look: The three-year starter uses his body well to shield defenders while running routes. He's known for his good hands, whether it's catching the ball at its highest point or using them to separate downfield on passing plays. He can threaten the second and third levels as a receiver, especially once he gets up to full speed.

Stay away: His blocking technique needs improvement, specifically his narrow base. His competitiveness and willingness to make contact was inconsistent.

Sleeper

Blake Bell, Oklahoma

6-6, 252 pounds

Worth a look: Bell played quarterback for the Sooners during his first three seasons. A team drafting him in the late rounds could be rewarded for its patience in developing him. He improved significantly as a blocker last season and demonstrated that he's coachable. He doesn't shy from contact, and his passing background helps him against coverages.

Stay away: He's still raw as a blocker and a route runner. A team looking for a late-round tight end could find others who are more familiar with the position.

Twitter @Rich_Campbell

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