Chicago Bears Draft 2012: What Positions Do They Need to Address in the Draft?

Dave Gilbert@@davegilbertnflContributor IIIApril 6, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 20:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws a pass against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field on November 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Chargers 31-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears recently added to their free-agent signings this year with the acquisitions of corner backs Jonathan Wilhite and Kelvin Hayden. Wilhite spent last season with the Denver Broncos and was signed to a one-year contract, whilst veteran Hayden, who has played seven years in the league, also inked a one-year deal.

The Bears have been busy throughout the free-agency period, with their highest-profile signing being ex-Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall

Also added to the ranks were backup QB Jason Campbell and running back Michael Bush, who some feel might have been signed as an insurance policy if Matt Forte decides to hold out. Wide receiver Devin Thomas was also brought in to bolster the roster, and Eric Weems looks set to possibly take up some of the return duties.

Along the way, they have let several players go, such as defensive tackle Anthony Adams and offensive lineman Frank Omiyale. Add to this the surprising retirement of RB Marion Barber at just 28 years of age.

So, heading into this year's NFL draft, what positions do the Bears need to focus on?

I have been saying for a long time that the the offensive line needs the most attention. It has gone through many combinations over the last couple of seasons, and has still not managed to offer Jay Cutler an adequate pass protection. It is all well and good having a star quarterback and now an elite receiver; but if the line can't give Cutler the time to make the throws, then it all counts for nothing.

There is depth on the offensive line in this year's draft class. I feel that players such as Cordy Glenn, Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin could come in and make a difference right away. 

Chicago's first-round pick last year was offensive tackle Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Carimi was injured early on in the season and never got the chance to show what he can do. The Bears figure to have him back to full strength this year.

Coupled with a solid rookie, the Bears offensive line could improve immediately. 

Linebacker is also a position that the Bears need to really think about. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs will not be around forever, and although they have at least a couple more good years left in the tank, Chicago needs to start to considering future replacements for their Pro Bowl linebackers.

Luke Kuechly looks to be the best LB in this year's draft, but he will most likely be gone towards the top of the first round. Other first-round prospects such as Dont'a Hightower from Alabama should still be available by the time the Bears have the 19th pick.

Before Brandon Marshall was signed, it looked almost certain that the Bears would use draft a wide receiver in the first round. Michael Floyd was the name that was first mentioned, but his stock has risen significantly, and he could well be a top-10 pick.

Would Chicago consider someone like Baylor's Kendall Wright as a possible choice? He has great speed and can make plays after the catch, as well as possibly contributing on special teams. 

It looked at one point that Chicago were close to signing free-agent defensive end Mario Williams. Although Williams eventually signed with the Buffalo Bills, this highlighted the fact that new general manager Phil Emery feels the position needs some depth.

The Bears have one of the league's best defensive linemen in Julius Peppers, and adding another player with the same kind of ability as Peppers would definitely be desirable.

Whitney Mercillus (Illinois) is one such player that could help the Bears. He is a quick edge-rusher and has the ability to make big plays. He may be slightly undersized at 261 lbs and he only started one complete season at college, but he is someone who could develop into a strong player in the league.

Speculating who any one team will draft is just that: speculation. But it is fair to say that the Bears have obvious needs that Phil Emery and head coach Lovie Smith will be hoping to address in this year's NFL draft.