LSU linebacker Kevin Minter (46)
Since the end of the season earlier this year, speculation has run rampant on who the Chicago Bears will select in the 2013 NFL draft. In one week, all the speculation will be over once the draft begins on April 25 in New York City.
General manager Phil Emery has done a nice job of adding contributors through free agency with guys like linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson, defensive linemen Turk McBride and Nate Collins, cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Kelvin Hayden, tight end Martellus Bennett and offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson.
While Emery's new additions are certainly a welcomed sight to Bears fans, the draft can offer not only long-term help but hopefully they can make an impact in the short term.
Here is the latest Bears' full seven-round mock, one week ahead of the draft:
In the early stages of the 2013 offseason the Bears have partially addressed their needs along the offensive line by signing a former Pro Bowl left tackle in Bushrod, a veteran guard in 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 could help provide that.
Cooper is looked at as one of the top interior linemen 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 linemen 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 linemen to push him backward.
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, Cooper combined with new additions Bushrod and Slauson could form the best offensive line that Jay Cutler has had during his time in Chicago.
Despite the additions of D.J. Williams and James Anderson to the linebacking corps to replace Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, the Bears still are in need of youth at the position.
The expected starting linebacker trio of Anderson, Williams and Lance Briggs has the potential to be one of the most solid starting groups on the 2013 defense, but they lack depth and experience behind those three.
Currently, the team has six other linebackers signed; Blake Costanzo, Dom DeCicco, Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas, Patrick Trahan and Lawrence Wilson, with only Costanzo having having any experience as a starter (one game).
LSU's Kevin Minter's aggressiveness and ability to read offenses effectively have scouts believing he can be solid contributor right out of the gate.
He is an effective blitzer and shows great timing but also has the ability to drop back into coverage. He shows a willingness to attack blockers and shows off a good swim move and uses his hands well to beat them.
He needs to work on improving his tackling and needs better hip fluidity to cover quicker and faster tight ends and running backs in the NFL.
Minter has the intangibles of playing for an LSU program that has year in and year out been one of the best defenses in the country.
If selected in the second round, it would be unlikely that he would vie for much playing time behind Williams in the early going, but he could use the opportunity to better understand the position. With Williams signed to just a one-year deal, he could be in position to be the starter in 2014.
Only two offensive linemen started all 16 games last season for the Bears—J'Marcus Webb and Roberto Garza. While Webb got his fair share of criticism, Garza went much of the year without much criticism placed on him despite having a down year.
Garza played well in 2011 when moved from guard to center but struggled in many areas in 2012. With him having turned 34 earlier this year, the team will need to look to the draft to get younger at the position.
Cal's Brian Schwenke showed off his versatility throughout his time with the Golden Bears, seeing extended time at both guard positions before becoming the team's starter at center this past season.
He possesses a quick first step off the football and uses his quick hands effectively. His low center of gravity lends well to the position, and because of his versatility, he could compete for some playing time at guard. He has a terrific low pad level that allows him to be effective against stronger defensive tackles.
He will need to improve his shotgun snaps and also work better at maintaining his blocks when he gets to the second level. He struggles at times sitting back in pass protection and will need to improve how he engages as a pass blocker.
Schwenke has the potential to be selected as early as the third round, but considering that most centers are mid- to late-round selections, he could be a steal for the Bears in the fourth round.
Despite having a defense that was fifth in the league in yards allowed and eighth in sacks (41), the defensive line heading into 2013 is still an area of concern.
The Bears took a step in the right direction in helping to solidify their defensive line for the 2013 season by placing the franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton. Other than some under-the-radar additions this offseason, the defensive line has not added much in terms of potential and could use the draft to bring both youth and depth to the group.
Often overshadowed by guys like 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram and sophomore sensation Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina's Devin Taylor used January's Shrine Game to help bolster his own draft stock.
Measuring in at over 6'7", he has imposing height, but because of that, he tends to be a bit stiff in the hips and does not possess the type of bend that most look for in defensive ends. He weighed in at 266 pounds at the combine, and some still think he'd be better suited to put on more muscle.
He registered a forced fumble during the Shrine Game and showed off his athleticism and speed throughout his week in St. Petersburg leading up to the game. He performed well at the combine with terrific results in the three-cone drill, vertical jump and the broad jump.
His strong showing has allowed his stock to rise from a guy once viewed as a late sixth-round pick to a possible fifth-round pick. If he is available in the fifth round, he could find himself, along with Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin, as a good, young defensive end corps to go alongside perennial Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.
Other than the great season from Brandon Marshall (118 catches, 1,508 yards, 11 touchdowns), the Bears wide receiving corps was anything but impressive.
Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery all struggled with injuries at some point throughout the season, and when actually on the field, many struggled to make an impact.
The Bears have yet to make any additions to the wide receiving corps this offseason and could look to the draft to help add depth to the position.
Virginia Tech's Marcus Davis has had his share of ups and downs, but he finished the 2012 season with 51 catches for 953 yards and five touchdowns, leading to an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game.
He finished the Shrine Game with just one catch for 16 yards, but in fairness, the quarterbacks struggled all game to get themselves into a rhythm.
At 6'3" and 230 pounds, he is a physical specimen who has all the looks of a talented NFL wide receiver. He is great at going up to get the football and has impressive speed for someone of his size. He has struggled with concentration at times and lacks the desire on occasion to run block.
His numbers at the combine were not spectacular but were overall solid. According to NFL.com, he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash and recorded the best vertical jump amongst wide receivers with a 39.5" leap.
If drafted in the sixth round, expectations for Davis will be low, possibly giving him the motivation to improve in many different aspects of his game. He could push for the fourth wide receiver position in camp and, with a strong showing, could see valuable playing time in 2013.