The Chicago Bears' 2012 training camp is just a few weeks away, and the Bears are preparing for one of their most anticipated seasons in recent years. New general manager Phil Emery has made some key acquisitions, and the Bears go into the 2012 season with playoff expectations.
It's very early in the process to be talking about the 2013 draft, but we'll take a look at some key positions where the Bears will probably still need help. These draft prospects could provide an immediate impact in the future and are guys that the Chicago coaching staff should keep an eye on during the season.
Note: Obviously much will depend on how the Bears and these kids play this season. Some of them are juniors and they will need to declare availability for 2013.
Offensive Line Depth
Chicago went into the 2012 draft with some serious question marks on the offensive line. Gabe Carimi is still unproven as the starting right tackle, and neither Chris Williams nor J'Marcus Webb excite anyone on the left side.
Chris Faulk from LSU, Taylor Lewan from Michigan and Luke Jockel from Texas A&M are three guys that could be available for the Bears in the first round. Adding any of these big physical guys to the offensive line would provide immediate help at the offensive tackle position.
Meanwhile, the Bears could definitely use more depth at guard as well. Both Barrett Jones from Alabama and Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina would be a big help there.
What is Chicago's Biggest Area of Need?
Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are both getting a little long in the tooth. The depth at linebacker gets pretty thin after that. Nick Roach has struggled at times, and Blake Costanzo has been more of a special teams player than an every down LB.
The Bears need to play for a future and provide depth and support for their aging veterans. Barkevious Mingo from LSU and Jarvis Jones from Georgia are both legitimate studs and could be starting for a few teams if they were playing this season. They will probably be outside backers who can also switch to DE when they make the transition to the NFL.
Manti Te'o from Notre Dame and Shayne Skov from Stanford would be great additions to the inside, and both should be available when the Bears draft next season.
Shea McClellin and Israel Idonije both should be solid complements to Julius Peppers from the outside, but if the Bears want to develop a fierce pass rush that strikes fear into their opponents, they need to upgrade their interior defensive line as well.
With pressure from the outside this season, the guys in the middle will face a lot of one-on-one blocking. Star Lotulelei from Utah was a solid prospect this season after winning the Morris Trophy, and by 2013, he could be a top-five pick. Johnathan Hankins from Ohio State would also be a solid upgrade at DT for the Bears next season.
Safety isn't as much of a concern for the Bears, but they head into the 2012 season with some question marks. Chris Conte ended the season on IR after posting minimal stats. Both Major Wright and Craig Steltz showed flashes of upside last season, but both will need to improve this season.
Rookie Brandon Hardin has the 'potential' label plastered all over his stat sheet, but he's a big question mark going into the season after missing 2011 with a shoulder injury. The Bears would be smart to scout guys like Eric Reid from LSU or T.J. McDonald from Southern California.
Hopefully some of the young prospects that were brought in will work out for next year. OL is easily the biggest area of concern, and the Bears could draft two or three rookie offensive linemen next year without surprising anyone. If that's all that they need though, things will be looking really good. If anything, some of the names on this list will be entertaining to hear every week.