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NFL Draft: ‘Freight train’ Chance Warmack packs tools to dominate

D J Fluker

D J Fluker

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OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Though the Bears signed free-agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod, they have a lot of work to do to fortify their offensive line. They are in limbo at every other position. J’Marcus Webb is back at right tackle. Gabe Carimi has moved to guard. Left guard James Brown has three NFL starts. And center Roberto Garza is 34.

Last year, the Bears passed on Stanford guard David DeCastro — considered by some analysts the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson — when DeCastro fell to No. 25 overall. In the unlikely event that Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper fell to No. 19, either would be tough to pass up.

The Bears also could use a center and reportedly have worked out Cal’s Brian Schwenke. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has had ­success developing mid-round picks into Pro Bowl players.

FIVE OF INTEREST

Kyle Long, G, Oregon: The son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and the brother of Pro Bowl defensive end Chris Long, he has the athleticism (4.94 40) and bloodlines to tempt somebody sooner rather than later.

Brian Schwenke, C, California: He doesn’t have overwhelming ­measureables, but his intangibles — his aggressiveness and instincts — could make him a solid mid-round pick if he’s still there.

D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama: He’s huge (6-5, 339) with long arms and an aggressive streak, ‘‘probably the best run-blocking RT I have graded in 35 years [of covering the draft],’’ ESPN’s Mel Kiper said. Terron Armstead, T, Arkansas-Pine Bluff:

The success of other raw-but-talented lineman from small schools gave him a big boost. Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma:

A junior-college quarterback and a great athlete, Johnson is a proven tackle with huge potential.

THE THREE BEST

Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M: He has the size, quick feet and enough athleticism to become the No. 1 overall pick. Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan:

Some analysts consider him the equal of Joeckel, or better. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina:

Technically sound ‘‘knee-bender’’ whose stock has risen to elite status.

THE THREE ­SLEEPERS

Hugh Thornton, G, Illinois: Fits sleeper profile: good athlete with quick feet who has struggled with consistency. Garrett Gilkey, G, Chadron State:

Talented, improving Aurora Christian product many teams could be after. Braxston Cave, C, Notre Dame:

Though he doesn’t have any particular strength or overwhelming measureables, he does one thing well: plays football.

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Updated: April 19, 2013 6:53PM



Alabama’s dominating performance against Notre Dame in the BCS national championship game not only cast doubt on the NFL prospectus of Notre Dame players such as Manti Te’o, but elevated Crimson Tide players to near-legendary status.

Guard Chance Warmack was at the top of that list. A guard hasn’t been selected in the top 10 of the draft since the Saints drafted Colorado’s Chris Naeole 10th in 1997. But Warmack not only is a potential top-10 pick, he was rated the No. 1 overall player in the draft by NFL Network analyst — and NBC Notre Dame analyst — Mike Mayock.

He came to the scouting combine as an almost mythical figure. Alabama running back Eddie Lacy called him a ‘‘freight train,’’ an unusual description for a football guard.

‘‘I’m glad I got to see him in person and see that he is human,’’ said North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, a potential top-15 pick who was in Warmack’s massive shadow at the combine. ‘‘After all that I heard about him — I mean, they just make him seem unstoppable.’’

Warmack’s draft status has been tempered a bit by a less-than-stellar performance at the combine. He’s no longer a mythical figure. In fact, some mock drafts have Cooper being drafted before Warmack. But the 6-3, 317-pound Warmack still is considered a dominant player who can make an immediate impact. He thinks like a freight train.

‘‘I like being physical and explosive — I like that word a lot, explosive,’’ Warmack said. ‘‘I consider myself to be very explosive. I want to be the definition of the word. I love being big and mean. That’s what I like.’’

Warmack ran a 5.49-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine (Cooper ran 5.07) and was not impressive in drills. That might knock down other guard prospects, but the tape is too good to overlook, especially considering the quality of opponents Warmack faced in the SEC.

“I don’t really care what he runs,’’ Mayock said after Warmack’s disappointing 40 time. ‘‘I knew he wouldn’t run well. I knew Jonathan Cooper would run much better; you can see it on tape. So far on tape, [Warmack] is the best football player I saw this year. Whatever he ran or jumped wasn’t going to change that, especially for a guard. What he does 20 or 30 yards downfield, I don’t care about. I do care about his explosion, his short-area quickness, his ability to get to the second level, but not what he ran his 40 in.”

Asked what makes Warmack special, teammate D.J. Fluker — himself a first-round prospect as a right tackle — said, ‘‘The nastiness he’s got. He’s aggressive. Let’s you know that he dominated you, when he walks back and looks at you in the fact like that.’’



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