According to, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. and colleague Todd McShay both have predicted the Bears will select Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. Heyward-Bey wowed scouts at his pro day and also ran the fastest 40-yard-dash time at the Combine at 4.30 seconds. He measures at 6-1 5/8 and 212 pounds.

As Kiper explains, “Heyward-Bey’s awesome size-speed ratio should win out here and give the Bears the kind of wideout they need to open up the passing game.”

McShay adds, “The Bears need a receiver capable of stretching the field vertically. Heyward-Bey’s combine-best 40 time (4.30 seconds) is all you need to know right here.”

Apparently McShay has no confidence in Devin Hester to be the “vertical threat” in the passing game. Either that or he’s never heard of the guy, although I think the former is more true than the latter. What the Bears need in a receiver is somebody who, on third- or fourth-and-long, can make a critical catch in traffic. A guy whom Kyle Orton — or whomever is under center — can feel comfortable forcing a pass to and feel confident his guy will come away with the ball. It’s somebody whom the other team knows it will have to account for and, in which case, will give offensive coordinator Ron Turner matchups to exploit.

Nobody on the Bears roster can do that right now. They’ve all had shaky, unsteady hands including the “No. 1” Hester.

Jerry Angelo has a history of avoiding wide receivers in the first round of the draft. Angelo has taken part in more than 20 drafts, including the years he was Tampa Bay’s director of player personnel, and he’s taken a receiver just once in the first round. That was Reidel Anthony in 1997 whose career was less than satisfactory.

Not only does Angelo believe in his current crop of receivers — either that, or he’s just saying that publicly because he’s not being given the funds to bring in a better one — but Angelo also believes that he can find receivers in the middle rounds of the draft. Let’s not forget that he essentially publicly denounced the importance of wide receiver at his season-ending press conference, saying that everything on offense started with the quarterback position and that receiver was not necessarily the problem last year.

I’m not exactly on board with the Bears drafting a receiver in the first round either. There are still attractive veterans — including Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt, among others — still on the market and teams aren’t exactly lining up to sign them, meaning their price tags will go down. The Bears offense will never be one that wows people with its passing game. Hence, spending a high draft pick on a receiver is not a priority. I’d much rather they sign a reliable veteran and use that No. 18 pick on filling a depleted offensive line, upgrading a woeful pass rush, or securing a long-term solution at safety.

We’ll see what Angelo does, but I’d be surprised if he went against his history and selected Heyward-Bey or any other receiver with the Bears’ first round pick.