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Circus catch is only thing teams can hope for under big top of NFL draft

This is an unsettled draft.

Often at this time, we pretty much know what’s going to happen, who will be a star, how each NFL team will act.

But are you sure about the likely first pick (by the Buccaneers) of quarterback Jameis Winston? Yes, the Bucs likely will take the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida State, but is he a surefire great player, a difference-maker, a cornerstone?

Some critics of Winston’s well-documented off-field issues say they wouldn’t draft him with your work gloves. Some say he’s a potential Hall of Famer.

However it goes, Winston said he won’t be at the circus in Chicago on Thursday to put on the cap and do the ritualistic handshake with NFL commissioner Roger (Good Deal) Goodell. Why? He’ll be with his family in Alabama, including his grandmother who has diabetes and Winston says is too ill to travel.

That’s fine. That’s cool. But Grandma could watch on TV, like just about every other NFL fanatical fan will do — except the hundreds of lunatics from New York and Philly, who are driving or flying in just to boo whomever their teams pick.

Nor is likely No. 2 pick Marcus Mariota going to be here under the big tent. The Hawaii native will be out on his long board, scouting for that perfect ride on a Waimea Bay roller the size of 50 offensive linemen’s bellies.

Well, maybe he’ll just be chillin’ with his peeps in front of his Honolulu home tube. But he, for sure, won’t be here to do the weepy/happy dance routine with the commissioner, either.

There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, I kind of like that two ex-college football players are saying they’re football players and not “The Hills’’ wannabes.

But this circus needs its lions and jugglers and clowns, so shame on both of these guys for not painting their faces and doing Chicago right.

Oh, wait.

This is a selection process for future workers in a monopolistic coterie of revenue-sharing entertainment franchises, not an incipient cure for cancer, let alone warts. Yet, as we have been told by ESPN over and over again, and as Ron Burgundy might summarize, “It’s kind of a big deal.’’

The fact Winston’s character is questionable and Mariota’s spread-offense training at Oregon might not translate to quarterbacking skill in the NFL make this all the more of a riddle.

Which brings us to the Bears.

The hometown team has a quarterback nobody loves — Jay Cutler — but one who is just good enough and just erratic enough to keep us from believing there’s a better, attainable young quarterback wandering about at the seventh pick. Or at least one who screams out anything like “Andrew Luck.’’

Most quarterbacks, picked in any round, are duds. And it’s almost comical that Cutler himself is one of the QB cherries of the 2006 draft class.

In fact, Cutler, taken No. 11 by the Broncos, after Vince Young (No. 3) and Matt Leinart (No. 10), is clearly the best quarterback from that draft. Or maybe you’re a Kellen Clemens, Tarvaris Jackson or Brodie Croyle fan?

And speaking of unsettled, we now have a Bears team that did not pick up the fifth-year option for position-less defensive end/inside linebacker/outside linebacker/pass rusher Shea McClellin, the first pick by former general manager Phil Emery.

Obviously, McClellin does not fit in the Bears’ long-term plans, and it’s also possible new GM Ryan Pace is cleaning the cupboard of old-regime guys. So the Bears suddenly might be looking at picking a linebacker early.

Just a season ago, the Bears seemed set at the receiving positions, with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at wideout and Martellus Bennett at tight end. Now Marshall is gone to the Jets, and the Bears are rumored to be dangling Bennett as trade bait, unhappy that he wants to renegotiate a deal that has two years remaining.

Contracts are binding for a reason, but if you want to hold out (Bennett isn’t attending minicamp) and demand more, good luck to you. But be prepared to pack your suitcase and cancel your lease.

The Bears recently signed tight end Bear Pascoe, and maybe he’s the new starter. But excellent handle aside, Pascoe wouldn’t come close to Bennett’s 90 catches (best for all tight ends) and Pro Bowl season in 2014.

So might the Bears be looking for a tight end in this county fair, excuse me, draft?

Fun, fun, fun!

Wear a Bozo nose if you’re coming.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com
Twitter: @ricktelander