2012 NFL Draft: Every Need the Chicago Bears Must Address

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IMarch 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Every Need the Chicago Bears Must Address

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    Now that the main free agents are off the board, it's time for the Chicago Bears to look to the NFL draft to fill their remaining holes.

    They tried to acquire a defensive end to pair with Julius Peppers. They thought they had a deal in place with Jeremy Mincey, but he signed instead with the Jags.

    And while they solved their need for a No. 1 wide receiver, they still need a complementary player to take the pressure off Brandon Marshall. So, the position still must be addressed in the second or third round.

    I doubt they would take a wide receiver in the first round after trading for Marshall. But if Notre Dame's Michael Floyd somehow is still on the board, he would be hard to pass up. Stephen Hill would be another option in the first round, but again, I don't see the Bears taking a wide receiver this early.

    The Bears don't know if Johnny Knox will ever play effectively again, and he almost certainly won't be ready to go when the season starts. Meanwhile, Roy Williams is not very good and could get released; Devin Hester has no business being a regular receiver; and, Dane Sanzenbacher and Earl Bennett don't cut it by themselves.

    Likewise, even though they re-signed Tim Jennings, the Bears need a cornerback to pair with Charles Tillman. Jennings is a tough little guy who plays hard, but he is not an every-down starter in the league.

    There is also linebacker depth to address, as Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher aren't getting any younger.

    With all that said, let's get right to it and try to help Phil Emery address the Bears' remaining needs in the draft. Come join me, will you?

Wide Receiver

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    The Brandon Marshall acquisition solved a huge need, but the Bears should not stop there. We still need another receiver and the draft has to be the place where that gets addressed.

    The draft is deep in taller wideouts who will definitely make it to the second round, and possibly even the third. To be safe, I hope we draft one in Round 2, where the pickings will be better.

    In the second round, the Bears don't pick until No. 50, but players like the following could be on the board and would be solid selections:

    • Rueben Randle, LSU
    • Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
    • Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
    • Tommy Streeter, Miami

    All four are at least 6'2", so they would add even more height to the receiver rotation. Streeter, although the most raw of the group, is the tallest at 6'5". He displayed terrific speed at the combine.

    Randle was disappointing at the combine, and his 40 was slower than anticipated. Jeffery got his weight down for the combine weigh-in, but didn't run the 40 or participate in the receiving drills. Sanu also had a poor combine.

    In the third round, Nick Toon of Wisconsin, Marvin McNutt of Iowa, Marvin Jones of California and Juron Criner of Arizona could still be on the board.

    Toon has great lineage. His father, Al, played for the New York Jets. But he has battled foot injuries. McNutt ran faster than expected at the combine and performed well at the Senior Bowl.

    Jones is a sleeper prospect who had a great combine and Senior Bowl. Criner had an exceptional Senior Bowl, showing good separation skills and making difficult catches.

    In the fourth round, the Bears could even go for Illinois' wideout A.J. Jenkins or Appalachian State's Brian Quick. 

    Jenkins showed his speed with a great combine and followed that up with a strong pro day. Quick Quick was solid but unspectacular at both the combine and the Senior Bowl.

Offensive Linemen

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    The Bears have depth at the guard position, but not necessarily an abundance of talent. While I don't think it's a critical need, I like Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler, who has worked out at center for teams. Unfortunately, he will go in Round 2.

    Center is another position the Bears eventually will need, although the 34-year-old Roberto Garza is fine for 2012. However, taking one in the later round could help for 2013 and beyond. Or, if they drafted Zeitler, they could play him at guard and eventually move him to center like they did with Garza.

    But the main position on the offensive line that needs to be addressed is left tackle. J'Marcus Webb was one of the worst left tackles in the NFL last season.

    In the first round, the Bears could take Stanford's Jonathan Martin or Ohio State's Mike Adams. Zebrie Sanders of Florida State will be converted to right tackle in the NFL.

    Beyond that, the only other player I like who should stay at left tackle in the NFL is IIlinois' Jeff Allen, who might still be on the board in the third round.

    As a potential free-agent pickup, I like Purdue's Dennis Kelly. He hasn't received much publicity, but he was a leader on the offensive line.

Defensive End

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    The pass rush was very inconsistent last year, and at times it was Julius Peppers against the world. Yes, they re-signed Israel Idonije, but they could use an upgrade and the draft offers some talent at DE.

    In the first round, if South Carolina's Melvin Ingram is available, the Bears must draft him. If they don't, they will have to answer to me. (I know, that will really make them shake in their boots!)

    But he is expected to be taken in the top 15, if not the top 10, so they could either go with Illinois' DE Whitney Mercilus or they could wait until Round 2 and grab Marshall's Vinny Curry.

    Meanwhile, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is probably better suited for a 3-4 defense, and there have been questions about the motor of North Carolina's Quinton Coples. Both are first-round picks.

    USC's Nick Perry could last into the second round, but may be gone before No. 50 when the Bears pick. Connecticut's Kendall Reyes looks more like a three-technique in a 4-3, and the Bears have Henry Melton and Stephen Paea locked in at DT.

    Clemson's Andre Branch had a good combine but looks better suited at outside linebacker in a 3-4. Arkansas's Jake Bequette had a good combine and solid Senior Bowl and has really moved up his stock. He was once a seventh-round pick in one of my mock drafts, but now seems like a second- or third-round pick.

    Cam Johnson of Virginia looks like a value pick in Round 3. Nebraska's Jared Crick has too many injury issues, but California's Trevor Guyton could be a dark horse in the fourth or fifth round.


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    Charles Tillman is getting a little long in the tooth, but in the meantime, they still need someone to man the other corner position while Tillman is still a solid player. While they re-signed Tim Jennings, and I like that move, I would love to see a player drafted that could eventually take over opposite of Tillman on an every-down basis.

    In the first round, that guy could be Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. He did not look very good at the combine, however.

    But North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins, who was excellent at the combine, probably has had too many off-field issues for the Bears to risk a first-round pick on him.

    In the second round, the Bears could choose Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina, who showed good size and speed at the combine, though he could be gone before No. 50. Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard had a rough Senior Bowl but ran faster than expected at the combine. He should still be on the board at No. 50.

    Montana's Trumaine Johnson (6'2") is an interesting prospect, especially if he lasts until the third round. It is doubtful, however, that he falls far enough for the Bears to be able to consider him in Round 3.

Strong Safety

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    I know, you are sick and tired of the Bears drafting safeties all the time. While that was Jerry Angelo's M.O., Phil Emery does need to address depth at the position and possibly a starter at strong safety.

    Chris Conte may not be proven, but I feel he has enough upside for me to be comfortable with him as the starter at free safety in 2012. But Major Wright has issues. While he is also young and unproven, I would like some competition at the strong safety position.

    Alabama's Mark Barron is the best SS in the draft, but he isn't coming to the Bears. Harrison Smith of Notre Dame is the next best prospect, but he will go in the second round.

    So, since I don't feel the Bears need to spend an early round pick on a safety, enter Trumaine Johnson again. While he's listed here at the corner position, some scouts feel his hips are too stiff to play corner and that he would be better at safety.

    But the guy I really like in Round 3 is South Carolina's Antonio Allen. Though he didn't stand out at the combine, in 2011, he recorded 88 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, four forced fumbles, three interceptions and two passes broken up.

    A later-round possibility is Vanderbilt's Sean Richardson, who had a good combine with a faster than expected 40-yard dash.


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    The Bears have two linebackers in their 30s, and Lance Briggs (who, with Brian Urlacher, is one of those two), is unhappy with his contract. While I don't think he will hold out, there is a depth issue here.

    Luke Kuechly of Boston College is the top inside linebacker in the draft, and he could possibly be on the board when the Bears pick at No. 19, but I doubt it.

    Meanwhile, Dont'a Hightower of Alabama, another first-rounder, has the size of a defensive end with the speed of a starting linebacker.

    Utah State's Bobby Wagner couldn't work out at the combine due to pneumonia, but he's probably an outside linebacker in the NFL.  Mychal Kendricks of California is another outside LB who wowed everyone as a workout warrior at the combine. He could be there in the second round.

    But it's TCU's Tank Carder that I'd like to see the Bears take a gamble on in this draft. If he's on the board when the Bears pick in the third round, he would be a good value pick. He had a phenomenal combine and pro day, where he showed off more speed than many gave him credit for.

    Audie Cole of North Carolina State is a potential third- to fifth-round selection, though he had a disappointing combine.