Chicago Bears fanatics have a great deal to be excited about, now that the Marc Trestman era is underway. While there are multiple holes to fill, the Bears have the kind of pieces already in place to be one good draft from being Super Bowl contenders.
The Bears offense shackled the team last season, and with an offensive-minded head coach, expect Chicago to break the Lovie Smith trend of drafting an endless supply of defensive lineman. However, one intriguing focus of this year's draft will be whether general manager Phil Emery looks to find Brian Urlacher's replacement.
Additionally, the Bears will need to upgrade the offensive line, add another member to the secondary and find a quarterback-friendly tight end. Prioritizing those needs and finding the best value in each round will be the key to what the 2013-14 Bears look like when they take the field in September.
Despite missing the first four games for disciplinary reasons, linebacker Alec Ogletree was a beast for the Bulldogs in 2012-13; leading the team with 98 total tackles.
The junior linebacker also added 3 sacks, 1 interception and a blocked field goal return for a touchdown in the SEC championship.
Ogletree found himself behind Manti Te'o in many of the early mock drafts, however, thanks to Te'o's performance in the national championship game and his off-the-field drama, Ogletree will likely be the first linebacker taken off the board.
Te'o is the more natural fit at middle linebacker, but Ogletree's athleticism—at 6'3", 234 pounds—blows his competition out of the water. In fact, since Jadeveon Clowney is required to return to South Carolina for his junior season, there may not be a better athletic specimen at any position in the draft than Ogletree.
Given the opportunity, should the Bears pull the trigger on him? They could look for the next Greg Olsen in the form of Tyler Eifert. They also couldn't go wrong with taking the best available offensive lineman. But it's time for the Bears to find Urlacher's replacement, whether he is coming back next season or not.
No one wants to see a Bears defense without No. 54 in the middle, but that time is knocking at the door. In order for the Bears to keep up their level of excellence on the defensive side of the ball, Emery needs to find a game-changer to fill the big shoes that Urlacher will be leaving behind.
If Ogletree is on the board at pick No. 20, the Bears should make the pick as soon as they're on the clock.
Jay Cutler has been acquainted with the ground enough times the past three seasons that he could be head of the Soldier Field grounds crew.
The Bears can be excited about what Trestman's creative offensive mind can bring to Chicago next season, but it will all be for nothing if the Bears can't keep Cutler upright in the pocket.
There are some viable left tackles who are set to become free agents (Ryan Clady, Jake Long and Brandon Albert), but if the Bears can't reel in one of those, then Oregon's Kyle Long would be a good option. Long was part of an offensive line that allowed only 19 sacks all season.
Long's 6'7", 311-pound frame would be a great roadblock for speed-rushers like Clay Matthews and Jared Allen.
There is no doubt that it will be someone other than Kellen Davis as the Bears' starting tight end next season.
Cutler has surely missed Greg Olsen since his departure to Carolina, and Davis' tendency to drop passes has not made things any better.
Having a threat at tight end can transform an offense—see Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. The Bears could look to fix their tight end ineptitude in the first round with Eifert or Zach Ertz, but with other glaring needs, waiting on Travis Kelce in the fourth round appears to be a smart choice.
No tight end had a better end to his season than Kelce, who caught 17 passes for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns in his final three games. Kelce's big frame (6'6", 260 lbs.), decent speed and soft hands made him a quarterback's best friend in his final collegiate season—and he can do the same thing at the next level.
This is bargain shopping at its finest.
Terry Hawthorne went relatively unnoticed in 2012-13, thanks to Illinois' abysmal season.
However, it won't be long before draft scouts remember how good he can be.
Despite being somewhat undersized (6'0", 194 lbs.), Hawthorne can flat out cover opposing receivers. In his four years, Hawthorne registered 6 interceptions, including two for touchdowns.
With his speed and quickness, Hawthorne is a pure athlete who can thrive at the nickel position right away. Bears fans still remember how Randall Cobb abused D.J. Moore in the slot this season, but by adding Hawthorne, that may be a thing of the past.
The cornerback position is extremely deep in this year's draft, allowing teams to find some real steals in the later rounds. With his covering skills—in addition to capabilities in the return game—Hawthorne would be an outstanding pick if he falls late in the draft.
The Bears mightily underachieved in the running game in 2012-13, despite having one of the most talented one-two combos at running back in the NFL.
Chicago will want to find someone who is an experienced run blocker to line up opposite from Lance Louis next season (assuming the Bears re-sign him), and they won't find a better late-round option than Omoregie Uzzi.
Coming from a run-heavy offense at Georgia Tech, Uzzi has as much experience as anyone at firing off the ball and leading the way for ball-carriers. The 6'3", 300-pound guard started the past three seasons for the Yellow Jackets—helping them to rank in the top-5 in the country in rushing yards each season.
Uzzi was also named a second-team All-American by Sports Illustrated in 2011, and he could provide as much value as you can find in the sixth round.