The dust has finally started to clear from a busy beginning to free agency for the Chicago Bears. They were quick out of the gate, signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett on the first day off free agency.
Along with the signings of Bushrod and Bennett, the Bears have inked deals with linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson, defensive lineman Turk McBride and Nate Collins, cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Kelvin Hayden, guard Matt Slauson, safety Tom Zbikowski, tackle Jonathan Scott and quarterback Josh McCown.
Despite the numerous free-agent signings, the Bears still have plenty of holes to fill via the draft later this month. Their ability to add quality free agents with the potential to be starters in 2013 has given the team flexibility in the draft.
Here is the latest Bears mock draft following the first wave of free agency:
So far in the 2013 offseason, the Bears have started to address their needs along the offensive line, signing a former Pro Bowl left tackle in Jermon Bushrod, a veteran guard in Matt Slauson and re-signing veteran right tackle Jonathan Scott.
Despite the improvements along the offensive line, the team still needs help in the interior, and Jonathan Cooper would help provide that.
Cooper is looked at as one of the top interior lineman in the upcoming draft alongside Alabama's Chance Warmack. Some have speculated he could go in the top 10, but considering that so few interior offensive lineman go early in the draft, the Bears may luck out and have him available when they select 20th overall.
He has tremendous footwork and fluidity out of his stance and does a great job of getting to the second level. He has above average quickness for the position, and his long arms help him to engage his defender.
One knock on him is his tendency at times to struggle with his pad level, allowing bigger stronger defensive lineman to push him backwards.
Cooper is viewed as a guy who has the ability to become a perennial Pro Bowl caliber player and be a mainstay in the league for years to come. If he was to slip to the Bears in the first round, they would finally have the makings of a legitimate offensive line to protect quarterback Jay Cutler.
Despite the fact that in 2012 the Chicago Bears sent their two starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings to the Pro Bowl, the team still lacks youth at the position.
The team recently re-signed veteran Kelvin Hayden to play nickelback next season, but with the Tillman and Jennings' contracts set to expire after next season, the team needs to find potential replacements if one or both move on.
In 2011, North Carolina State's David Amerson was one of the most highly touted cornerbacks in college football following a season in which he intercepted 13 passes and was awarded the Jack Tatum Award for being the nation's top defensive back.
He was expected to improve upon his solid sophomore season in 2012 but struggled at times with getting beat deep but did finish with five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
At 6'1" and 205 pounds, Amerson has ideal size for the position. He plays aggressively in pass coverage and epitomizes the ball-hawking cornerback stereotype. He was burned at times last season because of getting caught trying to make a jump on a play and was subsequently burnt deep on double moves.
He would benefit from playing in a Cover 2 system like the Bears plan on doing under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, as his lack of elite speed does not allow him to match up well with receivers in man coverage.
Amerson has all of the tools to be an elite cornerback and prior to this past season, was regarded as the best cornerback prospect heading into this draft. If he can learn to harness his over aggressiveness and improve his defense on the double move, he could become one of the steals of the draft in the second round.
Despite the terrific production from Brandon Marshall in 2012, the Bears receiving core left plenty to be desired. The team saw Johnny Knox retire earlier this year after not being able to return from a devastating back injury in 2011 that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season.
The team lacked a speedy deep threat, and Jay Cutler was forced to rely on Marshall on what seemed to be every pass attempt. The 2013 draft has plenty of solid options at the wide receiver position, and the Bears could get lucky if Kenny Stills is still around in the fourth round.
Stills ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February and finished last season at Oklahoma with 82 catches for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He is quick off the ball and runs solid tight routes. He uses his quickness to get past defenders but also has excellent body control and has the ability to go up and get the football. He has experience both lining up on the outside and on the inside as a slot receiver.
The Bears could utilize his speed opposite of Marshall on the outside or create mismatches against slower defenders in the slot.
He does have some off-the-field issues, with a DUI on his record from 2011, but if he is still available in the fourth round, he would be a great value pick for Phil Emery and the Bears.
In March the Bears were not able to come to terms with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher and also saw veteran Nick Roach leave for the Oakland Raiders. General Manager Phil Emery wasted little time signing veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson to fill the void.
Both Williams and Anderson were signed to one-year deals, leaving open the possibility for the organization to look to the draft to develop their eventual successor.
A consensus All-Big 12 player and conference co-defensive player of the year in 2012, Iowa State's A.J. Klein has the potential to be a late-round steal in the 2013 draft.
Klein started at middle linebacker for the Cyclones from 2010-2012, and despite not having household recognition, he was one of the most consistent linebackers in the country during that time. He reads and reacts to plays very well and is terrific in his pursuit to the football. He is above average in his pass coverage skills, having returned four interceptions for touchdowns during his collegiate career.
His size (6'1" 250 pounds) is what will likely drop him to the later rounds as teams may view him as a bit of a "tweener". He struggles when placed in one-on-one coverage and would benefit more from a zone coverage scheme.
Selecting Klein in the fifth round would give the team the ability to utilize his solid tackling skills on special teams and to groom him behind Williams as the eventually successor at the middle linebacker position.
Despite franchise tagging Henry Melton and re-signing Nate Collins, the Bears currently only have three defensive tackles (Stephen Paea being the third) signed for the 2013 season. Amobi Okoye and Israel Idonije both could be re-signed, but the team could look to the late rounds of the draft to find some depth.
South Florida's Cory Grissom is not the flashiest of players, but he started each game in the last three seasons for the Bulls and finished 2012 with 38 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two-and-half sacks.
He has a quick first step and is often able to get low on blockers to create his own leverage. He has a relentless playing style, a high motor and rarely takes himself off of the field. He plays well against the run and is an underrated pass-rusher.
He does play too out of control at times, and although his high motor can be an asset, it can also be a detriment to his game. He will need to work on his upper body strength and improve his balance as he has a tough time against strong, physical interior lineman.
Grissom could be looked as a value pick in the sixth round because of his durability and would provide solid depth behind a relatively young defensive tackle core.