Every mock draft around the league these days seems to have Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower being taken with the twenty-fourth overall selection of the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Bears are planning to go defense on Thursday night April 26, he should not make it by the Chicago Bears at nineteen.
Here is what WalterFootball’s Charlie Campbell says about Hightower:
Though a season-ending knee injury cost him the majority of the 2009 season, Hightower came back in 2010 to record 69 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss. This season, another year removed from the injury, he looked much better. Hightower was a real force in many games in 2011. He shows the ability to rush the passer well on blitzes and is a tough run defender. Hightower has also demonstrated the ability to move to outside linebacker on passing downs and rush off the edge. Thus, he can be a three-down defender in the NFL.
After returning from injury he thrived in Nick Saban’s system and proved to be the complete linebacker. He is ferocious getting off blocks in the run game. He excels in coverage, especially with backs in the flat. (See video above) His prime modern NFL value is his ability to rush the perimeter as a 3-4 outside or blitz occasionally in the 4-3. Not just complete. Versatile.
And unfortunately I have to base that opinion on football games. The ones where guys play football. Not Combine statistics calculated while guys run and jump and stuff. As most of you know I hate this time of the NFL season (usually) because I can’t stand the league’s fixation on numbers that seem to translate about as effectively to the NFL as picking names out of hat. (*Cough*Troy Williamson*Cough) I watch a lot of college football, even though I don’t care for the game half the time, and most of the time I’m fixated on those southern ball clubs who live on CBS. If the NFL has a minor league, it is the SEC.
Hightower feels like a Bear. His brand of football is the Bears brand. It’s tough. It’s blue collar. (And yes it IS nice to hear that phrase used in relation to a non-white player, isn’t it?) And just imagine adding his rushing abilities to Briggs’ tackling. Brick. Wall. Imagine being able to save Urlacher’s legs by not making him chase backs sideline-to-sideline in the screen game. And imagine the promotional opportunities for a guy named Hightower playing in the American city with the highest tower.
If the Bears are looking offense in the first round – either at wide receiver or along the offensive line – terrific. But looking defense here would not restrict their ability to find an impact wideout this April. Rutgers’ wideout Mohamed Sanu is a physical, between-the-numbers type that could serve as a perfect compliment to Brandon Marshall and a consistent, viable red zone target for Cutler. Rated slightly lower is Al Toon’s son Nick Toon. Toon was not a dominant player at Wisconsin but it ain’t that easy when you play at a school that runs the ball 700 times a game. There are two other WR talents I like. Illinois’ AJ Jenkins produced brilliantly last season without the aid of quarterback and Oklahoma’s Ryan Browles, coming off injury, is certainly a better player than he’s rated.
To insinuate the Bears are old at linebacker is to draw upon the wrath of #54 and on the off chance he reads this (I’ve been surprised to see who does of late) I will refrain from mentioning his ascending years. There is no arguing the defense, specifically the linebacking corps, is aging. Replenishing the most important position in the history of the Chicago Bears should always be the focus of those in charge at Halas Hall.