For the first time since 2001, the Bears will have a different person pulling the trigger for this year's draft. Phil Emery takes over for Jerry Angelo as General Manager and the man in charge of drafting talent going forward.
Emery has made some impressive moves thus far via trade and free agency, but it will be his draft picks that people ultimately judge him by. For the the first time since 2008, the Bears will have a pick in every round this year. The team has multiple needs to fill, and Emery along with Lovie Smith have done their due diligence in evaluating talent.
The 2012 NFL draft is on the horizon, and the team will have to decide in which direction to go starting with the 19th overall pick in the first round. Where do they go? Does the team go after the impact pass-rusher or choose a wide receiver to stretch the field? Offensive line, secondary and linebacker are all positions of need.
The Bears have been fairly tight-lipped about their draft intentions, but there is still plenty to talk about. Here are some of the rumors, speculation and news associated with the Bears and this year's draft.
There is a lot of attention around what the Bears will do with their first-round pick. However, the team has seven picks in this year's draft, and they have been doing their homework around each pick. Not just the first round.
Head Coach Lovie Smith and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli went to see Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus work out on March 12. They seemingly have a special interest in the sack artist as this visit was held six days after the school's pro day.
Last season Mercilus exploded on the scene leading the nation in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with nine. All indications point toward the Bears drafting Mercilus in the first round if he is available at 19.
Offensive line is a position the team has publicly said is not a need, but that has not stopped them from checking out late-round prospects.
The team has held private workouts with Oklahoma's Donald Stephenson and Ronald Leary of Memphis. Stephenson is a 6'6", 312lbs tackle with solid speed and athletic skills. The 6'3", 315lbs Leary is a guard who played most of his career at tackle. He could provide solid depth and value as a late-round pick.
The team has already had West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin in for a workout. In addition to Irvin, the team has held private workouts with Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson, Purdue tackle Dennis Kelly and West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy.
The Bears seem firmly set to stay with their 19th pick in the first round. There will be a multitude of options for them at that spot.
They could go pass rush with Whitney Merculis, fill a hole at wide receiver with Baylor's Kendall Wright, look toward the secondary with Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina or Dre Kirkpatrick out of Alabama. The offensive line could be addressed as well with Stanford's Jonathan Martin, Georgia's Cordy Glenn or Mike Adams from Ohio State.
Even though there are not many viable trade rumors, there are still a couple of scenarios in which the Bears might be tempted to make a move.
This is purely speculation, but the Matt Forte situation could force the Bears' hand towards a different direction. They found Forte in the second round and could move him again for more draft picks if they don't feel a long-term deal can be made.
Virginia Tech's David Wilson and Boise State's Doug Martin could be options if they gain another late first-round or early second-round pick due to a Forte trade.
The team needs to find a pass-rusher in the draft. There are many to choose from, and some could fall for some particular reason. If a player like Quinton Coples out of North Carolina falls past 15, the Bears might have to explore trading up a couple picks to get a top 10 talent.
The best available might not be a need for the Bears but could be for another team. Don't be surprised if a team like Cleveland or New England, who both have two first-round picks, calls to trade up from their late spots in the first round because a player they want is still on the board.
It might be a foregone conclusion the Bears will take defensive end Whitney Mercilus with their first-round pick, but maybe we shouldn't count out wide receiver Kendall Wright just yet. The team has kicked the tires on both players, and it could come out to who has the better draft grade.
For the first time in years, the Bears have made offense a focus in their offseason. The additions of Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush, Jason Campbell, Devin Thomas and Eric Weems have proved the team wants to get better on that side of the ball.
The team has given Lance Briggs an extension, brought back Israel Idonije and signed corners Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite, but they still have needs on defense.
There's no doubt the pass-rushing ability of Mercilus would fill an immediate need. His ability to get to the quarterback opposite side Julius Peppers could level the playing field for the Bears in a division where they see Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford twice a year.
The defensive minded Lovie Smith would have to revel at the idea of seeing a consistent pass rush again.
The defensive end position is also a very deep one in this year's draft. Players like Vinny Curry out of Marshall, Andre Branch from Clemson and Chandler Jones from Syracuse could all be available in the second round by the time the team picks again. This leaves the door open for a play-making wide receiver.
Kendall Wright struggled at the combine, but he is the kind of player whose speed shows up in the game and not a drill. His numbers don't lie. Pairing with Robert Griffin III, Wright had 108 receptions with 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
There is still a big question mark with the health of Johnny Knox, and the team could use another big-time threat opposite Brandon Marshall. By the time the Bears draft, they would have seen Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd come off the board. Can they pass on the third best option?
There is also some good receiver depth in this year's draft too. Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech is rising up draft boards. Options in the second round could be Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina, Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers or Ruben Randle out of LSU.
Having a need at two of the deeper positions in the draft creates an interesting dilemma. Knowing you have the ability to fill that void in a late-round pick means the Bears will draft whoever they evaluate is the best player of the two. The question is whether it's Mercilus or Wright?
The second and third rounds have been an area of trouble in terms of drafting for the Bears. Last year they selected Stephen Paea in the second round and Chris Conte in the third. While Conte provided some solid safety plays, Paea struggled out the gate due to an injury but showed flashes.
The jury is still out on both players. They look to have bigger roles in this upcoming season. However, there has been a trend of misses in these two rounds.
Major Wright was drafted in the third round in 2010. He has been inconsistent and injuries have slowed him. The year before that the team completely missed in the third round with Juaquin Iglesias and Jarron Gilbert.
The new Phil Emery regime needs to draft impact players in the second and third rounds this year. There are players out there who not only fill needs but can come in and be quality assets to the team right away.
Jayron Hosley is a speedy defensive back from Virginia Tech. He surprised people when he declared for the draft after his junior season despite being slowed by injuries. He had two interceptions last season but led the nation in interceptions the year before with 10. He has the necessary ball and tackling skills to thrive in Lovie Smith's cover two defense.
In the third round, the Bears could look back towards offense. If they take the pass-rusher in the first round, corner in the second then how about another weapon for Jay Cutler?
Dwayne Allen, tight end out of Clemson or Juron Criner, wide receiver from Arizona would make an immediate impact. Allen had 50 catches for eight touchdowns last year and could be another big target for Cutler in the red zone.
Criner is also another big target at 6'3", 224lbs. He ran an unimpressive 40 time at 4.68 but could serve as a big target in the red zone and third down situations. Criner gets open, has good hands and can block very well.
Players drafted in the first three rounds are supposed to make an impact early on. The Bears have struggled to find players who can do so over the last couple years, but there could be a changing of the guard starting this year.