D-Line Talent Pool Deep Syracuse's Freeney Could Be Good Fit for Bears at DE

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Byline: Bob LeGere Daily Herald Sports Writer

Both defensive end and defensive tackle are considered strong positions in this year's draft, and 8-10 players should fly off the board in the first round with as many as six going in the first 16 picks.

The tackle pool is deeper, and it's possible that four of the first 10 picks could be interior players.

With that much talent and depth, the Bears are hoping to address their need for an edge pass rusher.

Several mock drafts have the Bears claiming Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney at No. 29, and that prediction makes a lot of sense for a top-level defense that seems only to be missing a dominant pass rusher.

The 6-foot-1, 268-pound Freeney certainly is that, having piled up 17 1/2 sacks last season and 13 sacks in seven games in 2000.

Much was made when Freeney was blanked by Miami's Bryant McKinnie last season, but no one registered a sack against McKinnie in two years.

Pro Football Weekly's Joel Buchsbaum described Freeney as the "best pass rusher in college football in '01."

A legitimate concern regarding Freeney is that he lacks the size to be an every-down player. But he did an impressive 28 bench-press reps at 225 pounds at the scouting combine, one of the best efforts by any defensive lineman, and he maxes 500 pounds on the bench.

Pretty impressive for someone who has run a 4.42 40-yard dash on the super-fast track at Syracuse. Freeney's 4.65 time at the combine was faster than most linebackers.

"He can play against the run," said Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel. "He's a good football player. He did what they asked him to do. His main job was to get upfield, disrupt the offense and put pressure on the quarterback.

"That's what they asked him to do and he did a great job doing it. Did that take away some of his ability to play the run? Maybe a little bit, but only because that's what they asked him to do. …