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Mel Kiper Jr.: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson, possible Bears draft target, a star

Mel Kiper Jr. wasn’t shy in finding a comparison for Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson: a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist.

The ESPN draft analyst said Nelson, who figures to be the Bears’ draft radar, reminds him of Steve Hutchinson, the seven-time Pro Bowl guard who was among 15 finalists for Hall of Fame induction last month.

“You just watch him. He just destroys people at the collegiate level,” Kiper said Wednesday. “Steve Hutchinson . . . is a good comp. Had a great career in the NFL. I went back and looked at their size, their strength, their physical attributes, athletic numbers and they were very comparable.”

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Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson blocks against Stanford in November. (AP)

The Bears’ interest in Nelson likely is strong after they told guard Josh Sitton on Tuesday they would not pick up the $8 million option on his contract, rendering him a free agent. The Bears hired Nelson’s former college line coach, Harry Hiestand, in January.

The Bears want to get younger on their offensive line, and Nelson would be a perfect fit. There’s no guarantee Nelson will be available when the Bears draft eighth overall in April. Kiper projects him to go seventh to the Buccaneers, but said he could be selected in the top five.

Kiper forecasts the Bears selecting Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who he thinks can play both inside and outside.

“With Nelson, it would be interesting if he were there — I don’t think he will be,” Kiper said. “I think Edmunds, certainly, he played both [inside and outside linebacker], he had over 100 tackles, he gets after the quarterback, he can bat down passes with his length.

“Quarterbacks hate inside linebackers with height and length and wingspan, and that’s what he provides. I actually like him better inside, but he can certainly play both. I think he’d be a great fit for the Chicago Bears.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com