The Chicago Bears must provide Jay Cutler with help in the 2013 NFL Draft.
NFL mock drafts have long been used to hold off fans' appetites in the weeks following the season, leading up to April's draft.
Although the draft is something of a pseudoscience with too many factors involved to accurately predict more than a few picks, the desire to know who your favorite team might select keeps passionate enthusiasts (of which Bears nation does not lack) coming back for more.
This 2013 NFL Mock Draft is from a Chicago Bears perspective. It will take a look at each round and the likely selection that fits the team's needs while also taking into account the best player available.
First, some housekeeping...
For the purposes of this mock draft, the following players are assumed to be off the board by the time the Chicago Bears pick at number 20 in the first round: Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M), Eric Fisher (OT, Central Michigan), Lane Johnson (OT, Oklahoma), Jonathan Cooper (OG, UNC) and Chance Warmack (OG, Alabama).
In addition, the central focus of each pick will be on how the player that is selected can help Jay Cutler reach his maximum potential as the starting quarterback in the Windy City.
At the end of the day, the Bears will only go as far as Jay Cutler takes them.
Let's take a look at the Chicago Bears and their 2013 NFL Mock Draft.
Menelik Watson would instantly become the Chicago Bears best offensive lineman.
In the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State.
Yes, the Bears take a player who has only played 12 games of big-time college football. Yes, he would instantly become their best offensive lineman.
Selecting an offensive tackle in round one should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched a Chicago Bears game over the last three years. Jay Cutler has been sacked 113 times since 2010, with a recurring theme of poor protection that will continue if the Bears fail to grab an offensive lineman at the top of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Insert Watson who, after studying his game film, has as much upside as any other offensive tackle in the entire draft.
Menelik Watson’s collegiate career has largely been on the right side of the offensive line. While he is an inexperienced player, his athletic ability suggests that he will be able to play on the left side in the NFL.
In fact, had Watson returned for his Senior season at Florida State, we might be talking about one of the first 10 players off the board.
Pretty good value for the Bears at pick number 20.
Watson will come in and be a plug-and-play starter from day 1. Whether it's on the right side or the left, he will enhance the team's ability to pass protect.
This all equates to better pass blocking and, in turn, more success for Cutler.
Zach Ertz would provide Jay Cutler with another big, reliable red-zone target.
In the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select: Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford.
The tight end position has been undervalued by the Chicago Bears ever since the day Mike Martz became their offensive coordinator in February 2010.
Martz's offense wasn't known for involving the tight end in the passing game and, as a result, Greg Olsen (tight end, now Carolina Panthers) wasn't used properly. Olsen was ultimately traded to Carolina in 2011, leaving a void at the position in Chicago.
Fast forward to 2013 and the tight end position has become a necessity for a successful passing attack.
It's likely that the Bears will kick the tires on a few of the veteran tight ends. But none will offer the upside of Ertz.
With Ertz in the fold, the red-zone options for Jay Cutler would be the best he's had during his tenure as the starting quarterback of the Bears.
Brandon Marshall (6'4"), Alshon Jefferey (6'3"), and Ertz (6'5") would create matchup nightmares for even the most talented of defenses.
Ertz will likely be available at pick 50, even though a few weeks ago, he was considered a potential first-round prospect. His disappointing performance at the Scouting Combine has caused his stock to suffer a bit. Chicago may reap the benefits of his mediocre showing in Indy.
That said, Ertz's arms measured in shorter than you'd like for a tight end and he didn't blaze in the 40-yard dash.
But the film doesn't lie.
He's a true threat in the passing game and he will provide the Bears with the offensive weapon that they've lacked at the position for the last couple of seasons.
Chris Faulk, a first-round talent, would be a great pick for the Bears in round 4.
In the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select: Chris Faulk, offensive tackle, LSU.
Sense a theme here?
Selecting one offensive lineman in this year's draft won't be enough to fix the Bears' problems up front. Not having a pick in round three will hurt their chances of adding two starting-caliber linemen in the first two days of the draft.
Faulk decided to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft rather than return for a senior season, even though his draft stock would have benefited from a full year of health. The risk of another injury, however, was too great to take.
Faulk likely projects as a right tackle early in his career while he gets his legs back under him. In addition, his game film shows some athletic limitations that will likely limit him to the right side.
That said, he is a top-tier talent and was in the preseason debate as the best offensive tackle entering the 2012 college football season.
Faulk would be a candidate to start at right tackle or even at offensive guard for the Bears. Regardless of where he fits, this LSU Tiger would be a big piece in the rebuilding efforts of Chicago's offensive line.
And that would be music to Jay Cutler's ears.
Nico Johnson would provide youth and talent to an aging linebacking corps.
In the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select: Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama.
Brian Urlacher is one of the greatest players to ever wear a Chicago Bears uniform. He's become part of Bears mythology, and his impact on the team and the city has been immeasurable.
But Urlacher is human. And his NFL mortality is showing.
The Bears need to start bringing youth into the linebacker unit. The duo of Urlacher and Lance Briggs can't play forever, so Johnson would be a nice fit in the fifth round for Chicago. He's a tough, physical, point-of-attack linebacker that can sit and learn for a year behind Urlacher (assuming he signs a new contract).
In a mock draft full of offense for the Chicago Bears, Johnson comes in as the only selection on the defensive side of the ball.
Lattimore to the Bears would be a perfect fit in day three.
In the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina.
In the sixth round?
Yes, in the sixth round. Lattimore's unfortunate knee injury has knocked this once first-round player's draft stock into a state of flux, with a wide range of opinions regarding where he should be selected.
If Lattimore slides deep into day three of the draft, the Chicago Bears will have to take a long, hard look at him. Matt Forte is entering the second year of the four-year deal he signed last summer and, with the shelf life of an NFL running back not expected to include significant production into their 30's, the reality is that the clock is ticking for Forte, who turns 28 this year.
The Bears could draft Lattimore and stash him on injured reserve for a season. In 2014, Lattimore will be at full health and would have role in the Bears' rushing attack. By 2015, the Forte-era might very well be over, and the reigns can be handed to this sixth-round pick.
Providing Jay Cutler with a consistent rushing attack is almost as important as giving him time to throw the ball. Adding a talent like Lattimore in the 2013 NFL Draft will go a long way toward ensuring that.
With only five picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears could very well end up with something like this:
First Round: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Second Round: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Third Round: N/A (Brandon Marshall trade)
Fourth Round: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU
Fifth Round: Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama
Sixth Round: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Seventh Round: N/A (Brian Price trade)