Bears select defensive tackle Paea, safety Conte on Day 2

April 30th, 2011 - 8:41 am

The Bears continued to address needs on the second day of the 2011 NFL Draft by selecting Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea in the second round and safety Chris Conte from California.

I couldn’t be more thrilled about the selection of Paea, who ought to make Bears fans forget about Tommie Harris quickly — if they hadn’t already phased him out in the past two years like I had. The selection of Conte, however, gives me a lukewarm feeling. I’d say Angelo is batting 2-for-3 right now with two great picks and one iffy selection.

What’s interesting about the Paea selection is that the Bears were eyeing him in the first round if they had not been able to draft an offensive tackle — they wound up landing Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi. In order to get Paea, who they really coveted to fill the vacancy of Harris at the three-technique tackle position, they had to trade up nine spots with the Redskins to get him. The irony of the deal is that the Bears sent Washington their fourth-round pick, the same pick that was supposed to go to Baltimore in a botched trade on Day 1. Not only were the Bears fortunate to get Carimi in Round 1, but they were equally as lucky to land a player of Paea’s caliber in the second round.

Says one draft publication about Paea: “[He] was arguably the most dominant defensive player in the Pac-10 during the 2010 season … was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10′s top lineman for the second consecutive year, and was a consensus Associated Press All-American.”

Paea is known as a weight-room workaholic. He grew up playing rugby, has a non-stop motor, and he never missed a college game. The best thing about Paea is that he is quick off the snap, has a great bull rush, and can penetrate the offensive backfield with the best of them. That’s exactly what Lovie Smith needs out of his interior defensive linemen to help collapse the pocket and pressure the quarterback. In essence, that’s the fuel that ignites the Cover 2.

Conte’s selection is a bit more perplexing. He’s been called an overachiever, has a great motor, is a smart player who ought to find himself in the right position on the field, but he doesn’t have a lot of experience as he started just one season in college.

NFL.com says about Conte: “Probably never becomes a starter, but could be an effective reserve safety and special teams cover guy.” When I hear that, I think of Todd Johnson and Craig Steltz.

What’s also discouraging is the last sentence in NFL.com’s “overview” of Conte: “Conte could be a seventh-rounder or priority free agent.”

I’m curious to know when this review was written, because apparently Conte has been climbing up draft boards since the combine. But if that sentence is even remotely true, spending a third-round pick on him might have been a mistake the likes of Garrett Wolfe or Michael Okwo.

Regardless, I’m willing to give him a chance before I indict him — or Angelo. Just like we’re all innocent in this country until proven guilty, all draft picks are good until proven bad.

The Bears have two picks left for the final day of the draft unless they try to acquire more selections. They’ll pick No. 29 in Round 5 and No. 30 in Round 6. The positions of need still worth addressing include receiver, offensive line and cornerback. Although, if another defensive lineman of value is available, he’d be worth exploring.