The Biggest Questions for the Chicago Bears Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft
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This is the time general manager Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman and the rest of the Bears brass put all their questions on the table and start to mold the plan they want to execute come draft weekend.
With the draft less than one month away, these are some of the biggest questions on the table for the Bears as the time approaches.
Should the Bears Draft an Offensive Lineman in the First Round?
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The Bears have enhanced their offensive line with a couple of free-agent signings. Bringing in Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson goes a long way towards improving a struggling line from last year but they still need more.
There is a flux of offensive line talent but will a quality player still be there by the time the Bears draft in the first round? Players like Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack and maybe Jonathan Cooper are projected to be off the board by the 20th pick.
The next man up would be D.J. Fluker. He is projected to play on the right side of the offensive line in the NFL either at tackle or guard. Fluker's upside isn't that great and would likely prompt the Bears to pass him by for more of an impact player.
When Should the Bears Draft a Linebacker?
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Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach are gone and have currently been replaced by James Anderson and D.J. Williams. Both Anderson and Williams are viewed as short-term solutions, and the Bears do not have any long-term answers at linebacker.
Even Lance Briggs is looking into the twilight of his career. It is evident the Bears need to draft a linebacker or two but when should they do it?
Over the next couple of weeks, the great debate between Arthur Brown and Alec Ogletree will heighten. At 6'0'' and 241 pounds, Brown is a stout instinctive linebacker who can start immediately. At 6'2'' and 242 pounds, Ogletree is a gifted athletic specimen with some baggage who would likely be a better player on the outside.
Should the Bears choose to pass on a linebacker in the first round, they can look at players like Kevin Minter or Alex Okafor.
What About Manti Te'o?
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Manti Te'o has been under the microscope since shortly after the new year. He's been ridiculed, belittled, questioned, made fun of and analyzed. He improved on his combine performance recently at his pro day but is he worth the pick?
Everybody knows the Te'o story by now. The weird fake girlfriend saga played out on every media outlet for what seemed like weeks. He was the butt of many jokes but that wasn't the biggest concern from scouts.
Te'o's performance in the National Championship Game was poor at best. He struggled to make tackles, penetrate the line of scrimmage and seemed outmatched by a team full of NFL talent.
Here's the thing about Te'o. He will most likely go in the first round. He's likely to start getting looks right around when the Bears are scheduled to draft. Considering they need a linebacker, the team must do their due diligence and fully evaluate him.
There are many factors you now have to consider when drafting Te'o. Not only do you want to know if he can compete physically, but you must wonder if can he hold up mentally to what he is going to have to endure in the locker room and on the field from other players.
What Are the Depth Concerns That Can Be Filled Later?
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The Bears don't have a third or seventh round pick thanks to trades for Brandon Marshall and Brian Price last year. The team should be able to find two starters in the first two rounds but that means they only have three picks after to fill in holes on the depth chart.
In order to get the most value out of those late picks, the Bears must identify their biggest holes and draft towards their needs.
Currently the team is a little long in the tooth at cornerback and have some interesting decisions to make with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings in the near future. Kelvin Hayden is back for one more year but they would really love to have a young corner emerge as the next nickel man.
Corners like Dwayne Gratz from UConn, B.W. Webb from William & Mary and of course Tyrann Mathieu from LSU are viable options.
Wide receiver is a thin position as well. Brandon Marshall is elite and Alshon Jeffery has a bright future but there isn't much there after them. Josh Boyce from TCU is a speedy option while Chris Harper from Kansas State and Kenny Stills are athletic targets.
Should the Bears Draft a Quarterback?
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Yes, the Bears need to use their late-round picks on depth, but Phil Emery has shown you he has no problem shocking the world. Drafting a quarterback would do just that.
Jay Cutler is entering the final year of his contract. New coach Marc Trestman has yet to call Cutler a franchise quarterback and may think he can turn one of these late-round guys into a star.
This year's quarterback crop is not as talented as last year's, but there are some interesting players that will go anywhere between Rounds 2-7.
Tyler Bray from Tennessee has a canon for an arm but can be a little erratic. Trestman has been known to improve quarterbacks' accuracy. Matt Scott is a dual threat who can help implement a read-option system, while Zac Dysert and Landry Jones are accurate options.
As it sits now, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard are the backups for Cutler. The Bears could look for a more talented upgrade at that spot who could eventually be the lead signal-caller should the team not be able to get a manageable long term deal done with Cutler.
Should the Bears Trade Down to Accumulate More Picks?
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As mentioned earlier, the Bears are without a third- and seventh-round pick. They could look to trade down from their 20th overall pick to reacquire a third-round pick.
On draft day, desperation for teams can set in. All of a sudden it means the world to a team to move up two or three spots to get the player they want. If the Bears are not happy with what is available at 20 they can move down in the first round and gain another pick.
If the Bears can do this, they can look at linebacker Kiko Alonso from Oregon. His off-field troubles and past injuries are well documented but when healthy and set straight his talent and motor is very high. He can bring a lot in special teams and as a potential starter at inside linebacker.
Teams can't be scared to pass on troubled kids if they have a strong organization. Vontaze Burfict went undrafted last year but went on to have a stellar first year for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Draft a Need or Take the Best Player Available?
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The great debate at every draft is whether a team should draft based on need or take the best player available. What makes it a great debate is that both strategies have worked. So how do the Bears fall in line?
Last year they drafted a need in the first round with Shea McClellin, but took Alshon Jeffery in the second round because he was the best player available.
What if Tavon Austin from West Virginia, Bjoern Werner from Florida State or Jarvis Jones fall to number 20? Do you pass up top 10 talent just because you need a guard or middle linebacker?
It will be interesting to see what Phil Emery does if faced with that dilemma. Just seeing Emery's actions leads us to believe he will take the most talented player on the board no matter what position he plays.