Mike Nadel: How good is new Bear? Who knows?

Mike Nadel

Chris Williams is an oversized wimp who prefers finesse to force and is too doggone nice to be a dominant NFL offensive tackle. Or the Chicago Bears' No. 1 draft pick is athletic, intelligent, passionate about football and a young man of impeccable character.

Or maybe all of the above. Who really knows?

The Bears hope they do, but their recent record of using first-round draft picks on offensive players is about as inspiring as Hillary Clinton's ability to dodge sniper fire.

Odds are, you never have seen a Vanderbilt football game. Not voluntarily, anyway. Me, either. Had we been forced to watch the Commodores every week -- punishment almost as cruel as being condemned to sit in the ESPN studio with Chris Berman and Mel Kiper Jr. -- we'd have seen Vanderbilt win six Southeastern Conference games during Williams' three years as a starter.

Not that Vandy's lousiness was his fault. Williams allowed only two sacks in his last 1,558 snaps -- great news to Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Craig Krenzel, Peter Tom Willis or whoever plays QB for the Bears this season.

Offering instant analysis on Saturday's selection by Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and the rest of the Bears' braintrust would be just plain silly.

Then again, many of us media types minored in silly during our college days.

Those who know everything about everything -- even about Vanderbilt football players they've never seen play a single down -- undoubtedly are killing the Bears for selecting a lineman who backed down from a fight during Senior Bowl week.

Come on! The Bears could have drafted a local kid, Illinois tailback Rashard Mendenhall!

Obviously, skepticism in Bear Country is understandable. Since becoming the team's GM, Angelo has drafted Grossman, Cedric Benson and Marc Colombo in the first round. Angelo merely has upheld the team's decades-old tradition of throwing away No. 1 picks on truly offensive players: David Terrell, Cade McNown, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Stan Thomas, etc.

On the plus side, Angelo and the Bears were due, right?

It's unfair to judge Williams based on what the Bears have or haven't done in the past. The last time the team drafted a decent tackle -- Jim Covert in 1983 -- Williams hadn't even been conceived. Let's give him a chance.

"It's great to be a Bear," he told Chicago reporters. "I'm speechless."

When asked about the fight he avoided, however, Williams quickly became speechful.

"I'd like to take his head off, but at the same time, you have to show discipline and be smarter than that," he said. "At Vanderbilt, we don't fight, because you know it is gonna cost you the next game (in a suspension)."

Like 99.9 percent of all humans, I'm no expert on college offensive linemen, so I don't know if Williams is better than the guys picked right after him (Branden Albert by Kansas City, Gosder Cherilus by Detroit and Jeff Otah by Carolina).

But I do agree left tackle was the Bears' position of greatest need.

If Williams earns the starting job -- and he should if he can stand up without a walker -- John Tait would shift to right tackle. That immediately would strengthen a line that grew old and bad last year.

Yes, the Bears needed a tailback. And they got one in the second round, Matt Forte of Tulane -- another guy few of us saw play in college.

Mendenhall went to Pittsburgh with the 23rd pick, later than most mock-drafters (a.k.a. "guessers") had expected. Among other teams that passed on the ex-Illini star: Dallas, Detroit, Carolina and Denver. So if the Bears messed up, they had plenty of company.

What about quarterback? Hall of Famer Steve Young, the only credible member of the ESPN crew, ripped the Bears for drafting Forte instead of Louisville QB Brian Brohm.

"Brian Brohm is ready to play," Young said. "So they feel better about Rex Grossman than they do about Cedric Benson? They're already giving up on (Benson)."

Smith, who personally scouted Benson and raved about him after drafting him three years ago, said: "This pick isn't about Cedric."

Sure, Lovie. Go tell that to your GM.

"Maybe (Benson) is not the feature back we thought he'd be," Angelo said. "It was a position of need."

Quarterback isn't, he said. Hmmm. Were I running the Bears -- and frankly, I wouldn't take the pay cut -- I'd draft one in today's later rounds. Oregon's Dennis Dixon is particularly intriguing.

It's hard to disagree with this sad-but-true gem from Young: "Rex Grossman has been a late bloomer. A really late bloomer."

Mike Nadel ( is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at