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Matching up Senior Bowl standouts with the Bears’ biggest draft needs

Iowa State wideout Allen Lazard pulls in a touchdown pass. (Getty Images)

MOBILE, Ala. — A year after their coaches got firsthand work with prospects at the Senior Bowl, the Bears spent this year conducting more methodical interviews at the college all-star game. General manager Ryan Pace and his staff spoke with just about every relevant prospect. Matt Nagy, meanwhile, was the only Bears coach to make the trip.

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Lining up Senior Bowl standouts who interviewed with the Bears with the team’s areas of need:

• An explosive edge rusher. Marcus Davenport is the kind of player the Bears would love to team with Leonard Floyd for the next five years. The 6-6, 259-pounder totaled 15 sacks in the last two seasons at Texas-San Antonio and could grow into a dominant edge rusher in the right system. He believes he fits as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

“I think I can,” he said. “I just need to continue to learn and get better. Repetition — just getting into the manner of things. It’s been awhile.”

Davenport might profile better there than as a 4-3 defensive end. Practicing with the South team, Davenport has struggled this week to explode out of a three-point stance, particularly in run drills.

An offensive tackle to develop. The Bears gave left tackle Charles Leno an extension last year and seem somewhat content with right tackle Bobby Massie. New offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich even said last week that he thought “the young tackles have a chance to be fantastic.”

Still, Pitt’s Brian O’Neill could make sense if the Bears decide to shuffle their offensive line. He could play guard at first if they decide to part with Josh Sitton and become a developmental prospect at tackle.

The 6-6, 298-pounder left school a year early thinking he might work his way into the first round. Through two Senior Bowl practices, it’s easy to see why.

• A tall receiver. The Bears finished the season with only one healthy wideout taller than 6 feet. When they overhaul the position this offseason — likely via the draft and free agency — they’ll need to get bigger.

Allen Lazard certainly qualifies as taller. The 6-4, 227-pounder dominated during his last three seasons at Iowa State, totaling 2,767 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns on 196 catches.

A tendency to drop passes, though, could sink his stock into the late rounds. Lazard struggled catching in his first practice with the North team Tuesday but didn’t let the ball hit the ground on Day 2.

Lazard said he wanted to prove that he could win on intermediate and deep routes this week. He’s so good on short routes that some teams have asked if he’d be willing to switch to tight end.

“If they wanted me to put my hand in the dirt,” he said, “I’d have to gain a little more weight.”

• A specialist. New coordinator Chris Tabor can start from scratch on special teams if he wants.

Kicker Cairo Santos, punter Pat O’Donnell and long snapper Andrew DePaola aren’t under contract for next year.

Auburn’s Daniel Carlson might be the highest-touted kicker prospect this offseason. In four years, he made 92 of 114 field goals and all 198 extra points.

Carlson, who has been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, missed eight field goals last year after only failing four times in 2016. When teams have asked why, he has pointed out that three were blocked in 2017.

“That’s always tough,” he said. “Some of it’s in my control; some of it’s not.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com