By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — The 2014 NFL Draft is still over six months away, but the college football season is already on its back half.
At this point in the fall, we’ve seen a lot from the upcoming draft class and yet there are still four, five, or in some cases, six games left for college players to put together their draft film. Thus, this seems like an appropriate time to single out some potential draft targets for the Bears for you to keep an eye on as the college football season winds down.
Here are five potential targets at five positions of need for the Bears. Keep in mind that these are just players I have personally singled out and if you get a chance to watch them, view them as the “type” of player the Bears could potentially target in the draft. All five of these players are likely to go in the first two rounds in my opinion, so the Bears can’t get all of them.
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon) – I first noticed Ekpre-Olomu when he came off the bench at the 2012 Rose Bowl and he has shined as the starter in the two seasons since. He’s slightly small at 5-10, but he possesses the press-man coverage skills the Bears need at the cornerback position and he’s a playmaker — the kind of guy who fits right into the Bears’ ball-hawking mentality. Still a junior.
When to watch him: Thursday night in Oregon’s showdown at Stanford.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) – The junior might be the top safety this year so the Bears would likely have to use their first round pick to get him. His technique is sound and he possesses all the physical ability to play at the NFL level. He changes direction quickly and reads quarterbacks well. The only problem is that he projects as a free safety and the Bears might need a strong safety with Major Wright in a contract year.
When to watch him: Next Saturday (Nov. 9) when Alabama hosts LSU in primetime on CBS.
DT Michael Bennett (Ohio State) – Bennett appears to be the prototypical 3-technique the Bears need in their defense, but he also has the versatility to move around if the organization decides to tweak their scheme within the base 4-3 (they’re not moving to a 3-4). Bennett is still a junior, but he’s a disruptor in the middle and might be available in the second round.
When to watch him: With underwhelming games against Purdue, Illinois and Indiana coming up, you might need to wait until the Buckeyes go to Michigan Nov. 30.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas) – Some of the early scouting reports on Jeffcoat will scare Bears fans away because they contain phrases like “struggles to get off blocks” and “might be better suited as a 3-4 rush linebacker.” Sound familiar? The difference between Jeffcoat and Shea McClellin, however, is that Jeffcoat is already playing in a 4-3 at Texas as a defensive end and to me, he has the strength to put his hand on the ground at the NFL level while also possessing the versatility and athleticism Phil Emery prefers. Jeffcoat is a senior and one of six finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award after posting six sacks in his last four games.
When to watch him: You have plenty of chances as Texas plays West Virginia in FOX’s primetime game next week (Nov. 9) and then finishes with three games against ranked opponents (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor).
QB Derek Carr (Fresno State) – The younger brother of former No. 1 overall bust David Carr, Derek is blowing his brother’s Fresno State numbers away and he looks like a legitimate pro quarterback. At 6-3, he possesses good size and can make all the throws. He’s a pocket quarterback, but is still elusive enough to escape when needed. He would fit well in the Bears’ west coast offense and would be the perfect project for Marc Trestman who would probably need to wind Carr down a little bit to make him more of a methodical, precision passer. The problem here is that Carr might shoot up draft boards and get taken before the Bears even make their first pick in May. He’ll impress many NFL execs with some of the adversity he has faced in his life and the level of maturity he is at now. For what it’s worth, he’s married with a newborn son who nearly lost his life at birth in August.
When to watch him: You can stay up late as Fresno plays Nevada on ESPNU at 9:30 CT tonight and Wyoming at 9:15 CT next Saturday. If they win out, Carr might get the national spotlight in a BCS bowl.