By Adam Hoge --
CHICAGO (WSCR) In the end, after a number of crazy trades, a few very questionable picks and a near costly mistake by Jerry Angelo, the Bears got the guy they wanted all along: offensive tackle Gabe Carimi from the University of Wisconsin.
Yes, he's a Badger, so yes, not surprisingly, you are getting my take on the Bears' 2011 first round pick.
Some of you know this and some of you don't, but I am the founder and editor of Buckys5thQuarter.com, a web site that covers the Wisconsin Badgers (blah, blah, blah .... where's the "Who cares?" drop, I know). The reason I bring this up is because there seems to be a lot of information out there about Carimi -- some of it positive and some of it negative -- that I don't find to be very accurate. I don't think I need throw my credentials out there, but just so we are clear, I covered Carimi at Wisconsin since he arrived on campus in 2006. I saw all 49 games he played in live as they happened and nearly all of them in-person. I also personally talked with Carimi in the locker room after nearly all of those games, including at the Rose Bowl in January.
With all that said, I have no idea where this idea came from that he is arrogant and has an attitude problem. According to Pro Football Weekly's draft guide, Carimi "has a white-collar mentality at a blue-collar position and carries an inflated opinion of himself. Thinks he is better than he is and came off as arrogant and selfish in interviews at the Combine. Durability is concerning -- was consistently slowed by injuries."
Now, I wasn't at those interviews at the Combine and have no idea what Carimi said and have no control over how teams perceived what Carimi said, but having talked to him plenty of times, I can tell you that he has never sounded arrogant. He's a confident kid who believes in himself and is a phenomenal leader. Ask any remaining offensive lineman on the Badgers right now and they will tell you Carimi's leadership and knowledge of the game is one of the hardest things they have to replace in 2011. Fortunately for the Bears, that is what they are gaining.
Carimi is getting flack from scouts because he said multiple times in interviews that he thought he was the best offensive lineman in the draft. Would you want your first-round pick to think otherwise?
And as for the durability issue, Carimi missed three games his entire collegiate career and started at left tackle in all 49 games he played in. He finished his career at Wisconsin by starting each and every one of the Badgers' last 31 games. To say he was "consistently slowed by injuries" is just a flat-out lie. Sure, he had his fair share of nicks and bruises, but I never thought he was slowed down by them and if he was, then the Bears are getting an even better football player than we think if he is ever 100 percent healthy.
OK, now before I start sounding like a defensive homer -- which I'm sure I already have -- let's get to my true feelings about what kind of football player he will be in the NFL.
If you've been following my mock drafts, you know I had the Bears picking Carimi with the 29th overall pick in my first mock draft. The immediate reaction I received was that I was being a homer and that there was no way Carimi would still be around at No. 29. Well, which is it?
The truth is that I was downgrading Carimi a little bit from most of the draft projections. I think 29th overall is exactly where he belonged. If Carimi was a can't miss left tackle in the NFL, he would have gone in the top ten of the draft. Sorry.
He may get a chance to play on the left side for the Bears because they don't really have any better options, but he will fail if he doesn't get meaner. Carimi is admittedly a tad less athletic than most left tackles, but he is strong enough and big enough to hold his own. The problem is, he has never come off as the kind of aggressive tackle who can pound you to the ground. Sure, he has had his moments, like at Iowa this year when he took defensive end Adrian Clayborn -- who coincidentally went to Tampa Bay at No. 20 overall -- and drove him from the left side of the line all the way to the right side before pancaking him. Unfortunately, that was one of the few times he made me say, "Wow."
In college, Carimi rarely got beat and was only called for a few penalties each season. But compare that to his Outland Trophy predecessor at Wisconsin, Joe Thomas, who never allowed a sack in his career and was only called for one penalty in three years at left tackle and you can see why Thomas was drafted No. 3 overall by the Cleveland Browns and is a four-time pro-bowler.
The Bears got a very good player who is a considerable upgrade on the offensive line, but let's hold off on calling Carimi a 10-year starter at left tackle. The Bears obviously did their homework as Mike Tice worked Carimi out a number of times. Tice's son was a teammate of Carimi's at Wisconsin and is still a walk-on quarterback there. He and the rest of the Bears coaching staff were hoping Carimi would somehow fall in their lap at No. 29 and he did. But right now, Carimi is not a starting left tackle in the NFL. That doesn't mean he can't become one before the season starts, but he's got some work to do.
The good news is that Carimi has no doubts he can play left tackle in the NFL. You might call that arrogance, but I call that confidence and that's something rest of the Bears offensive line severely lacks.
Do you agree with Adam? Post your comments below.
Adam regularly covers the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports for The Score and is the Executive Producer of Hit & Run on Sunday mornings. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge670 and read more of his blogs here.
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