After the Chicago Bears had a miserable season on defense, their attention will rightfully be there come draft day. There is a critical position they must not forget about, however- center.
Roberto Garza had another solid season anchoring the offensive line. Unfortunately for the Bears, he will be 35 by the team next season starts.
Seeing what happened on defense when there was not much depth in positions manned by older players, Phil Emery must keep in mind Garza’s age and be prepared. Even if Garza has a good year, his time in the NFL is more behind him than in front of him, and plans for his replacement must be made.
There will be some good center talent (Alex Mack comes to mind) available through free agency, but the defense needs a lot of help so the money priority must be there. Good, athletic centers will be available in the draft, even in the later rounds.
Marcus Martin(6’3″ 310 lbs), USC- Projected Round= 3-4
Martin is a junior who surprised some people when he declared for the draft. He started 20 games at guard in his first two seasons before converting to center this past season. He performed so well he was named All Pac-12 First Team.
Martin would be considered a project with great upside. He has the lateral movement to stay with pass rushers. Does a good job of sealing defenders on running plays.
There is also some nastiness to Martin. He plays to the whistle, and sometimes will play a little past the whistle as well. This was something that the new look line had this season and was a welcome sight.
Martin can go down at times because he tries to knock defenders over rather than sustaining his blocks.
It would be advantageous for Martin to come in and learn from a veteran like Garza, who also transitioned from guard to center and did it well.
Bryan Stork (6’4″ 306 lbs), Florida State- Projected Round=4-5
This is the guy who should be a Bear. He has picture perfect mechanics. He maximizes his leverage and has good initial quickness either with the quarterback under him or out of the shotgun.
Stork anchored the line and was the veteran leader for the nation’s top-rated offense and national champions. He had 40 career starts, 34 of them at center. Another player who converted to center. Was originally a tight end in high school who converted to guard, then center.
This is the prototypical player the Emery wants. He covets players who may not be the biggest, but are smart, quick, and athletic enough to do things that bigger, bulkier players are not able to do. This is what worked with Kyle Long, a Pro Bowler in his rookie season.
Stork has great upper body strength, but will need to build his lower body. Because of that, he has trouble moving at the point of attack, and lacks some body control when blocking on the move.
This is another guy who could do well learning under Garza and improving his lower body strength before taking over.
Corey Linsley (6’3″ 298 lbs), Ohio State- Projected Round=6-7
Linsley was named All Big-10 First Team last season. He is not overly big, but is extremely strong. He bench presses over 500 pounds and is durable, having started 26 consecutive games over the past two seasons.
Linsley has great footwork, and plays well on the move. Defensive linemen will have a difficult time moving him off the ball.
Linsley is another one of those high motor players who play to the whistle. He does not look to just block the defender, he wants to eliminate him.
Sometimes Linsley is too patient and is susceptible to explosive pass rushers. He needs better control blocks when engaged.
These are some players that should do well in a Bears’ uniform. Garza must be re-signed, and a plan must be implemented to train his replacement.