Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5-8, 174)
The Bears addressed some major holes in free agency, signing (overspending, actually) for left tackle Jermon Bushrod along with tight end Martellus Bennett and adequate guard Matt Slauson. They also kept their defensive line strong by retaining tackle Henry Melton with a one-year tender.
With the 20th overall pick, Chicago can try to replace Brian Urlacher by drafting linebacker Alec Ogletree (Georgia) or the enigmatic Manti Te’o (Notre Dame). The Bears could also target safety Kenny Vaccaro (Texas).
But this isn’t Lovie Smith’s team anymore and new coach Marc Trestman is an offensive mind who was hired to finally help Jay Cutler tap into his potential.
If they want to maximize Cutler’s talent and hang with the prolific offensive teams in their division -- Green Bay and Detroit -- the Bears need another playmaking wide receiver, and West Virginia’s Tavon Austin fits the bill.
The speedy, versatile Austin would be the perfect complement to Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall and last year’s second-rounder Alshon Jeffrey. Marshall and Jeffrey are big, physical receivers who can outmuscle their opponents and use their bodies to make tough catches.
Austin would be the home-run hitter in Chicago’s offense. He wouldn’t need to make tough catches because he has the ability to get behind corners and safeties to catch passes in stride. He could benefit from the attention Marshall commands and Marshall could thrive in the extra space from the attention Austin would command.
The quartet of Marshall, Austin, Jeffrey and Bennett -- along with pass-catching tailback Matt Forte -- would feasibly make the Bears one of the NFL’s most explosive offensive teams and alleviate the burden on the defense to maintain its “Monsters of the Midway” identity without Urlacher.
The salary cap-strapped Bears are talking big about moving down in the first round and Austin’s stock has skyrocketed over the past week, so there’s a good chance that Austin is off the board by No. 20 or that the Bears are trying to move down and add picks.
But if they stay at 20 and Austin is there, the Bears shouldn’t pass him up.