Now that Super Bowl XLVIII is over and the Seattle Seahawks have been crowned champions after their 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos, all teams in the NFL will be working in overdrive leading up to and through free agency and the NFL draft.
Teams have been scouting particular players for months, if not years, and hope they know something about a player that no one else does. Often times, teams like to look at prospects while comparing them to others around the NFL and use those comparisons to see how a player will fit on their team.
Chicago Bears' general manager Phil Emery will have a tough task in trying to improve a defense that ranked dead-last against the run in 2013 and struggled mightily with injuries and depth.
Here is our latest Chicago Bears 2014 mock draft with player scouting profiles.
One thing we have learned during Phil Emery's tenure as the Bears' general manager is that he covets athletic players with high ceilings in the draft and is not afraid to go against the norm in order to get the player he wants.
In 2012, Emery reached on Shea McClellin at No. 19, considering most others saw him as a late first-round pick. In 2013, he reached again for Kyle Long at No. 20, but Long finished his rookie season having started all 16 games and was named to the Pro Bowl. The one consistent trait between both McClellin and Long was their athleticism and high-ceiling.
It is hard to gauge what direction Emery will go with his first pick in May, but Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman fits the bill of what he has done in the past.
At 6'6" and 311 pounds, Hageman has an unbelievable combination of size and athleticism. He shows a great burst off of the football and has the ability to play nose tackle or the three-technique, and he could even play the five-technique in a 3-4 defense. Considering the Bears have hinted at a move to a more hybrid defense, Hageman's versatility would be tough to pass up at No. 14.
He does need to work on his pad level against the run, as he is often caught standing up. However, his biggest contribution to a team will be his ability to get pressure, no matter where they line him up along the defensive line.
The safety play for the Chicago Bears in 2013 was one of the worst in recent memory. The combination of Major Wright and Chris Conte struggled against both the pass and the run, and the team was also not given the luxury of consistent play along the defensive line.
Wright is set to become a free agent this offseason, and his future with the team remains a question, while Conte is still signed through the 2014 season. Expect the team to address the position via free agency and the draft.
USC's Dion Bailey may be the answer they are looking for.
Bailey has the ability to play either the strong safety or free safety position, and his lanky, athletic build lends well against bigger, stronger wide receivers. He has good instincts and awareness and has the ability to read plays quickly.
He played some outside linebacker while at USC and has shown the ability to play well against the run. He has the speed and athleticism to matchup against most wide receivers but can play stiff at times, and that will be an area that coaches at the next level will emphasize.
He showed a knack for the football while at USC, finishing with 11 career interceptions, and he only missed one game during his three-year tenure as a starter.
Drafting Bailey does not automatically solve the Bears' issues at safety, but he would bring a versatility to the secondary that it has not seen in some time.
The Bears recently locked up cornerback Tim Jennings for the next four years, but the future for Charles Tillman in Chicago is still up in the air.
Per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Tillman said late last week, "I don't know (if I will reach the open market). You think about it, but if it's meant for me to be back, I'll be back. If it's not, we'll move on. I don't take it personal because it's all business."
Regardless of whether or not Tillman re-signs, the Bears still need to find a young cornerback in this year's draft.
Not as flashy as the cornerbacks projected in the first two rounds (Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert), Missouri's E.J. Gaines has been steady and reliable throughout his tenure in Columbia.
Gaines has excelled in man coverage, and while he only notched seven interceptions in four years, he rarely gives up the big play and has played consistently throughout his career. He can step up and play well against the run, and despite not having elite speed, he does a nice job of staying with his man up the field.
His lack of flashy plays may drop him in the draft, but for teams looking for a cornerback that can contribute from Day 1, Gaines could be a great player opposite of Jennings or play the nickel if Tillman returns for at least one more season.
There is no bigger question mark for the Bears heading into 2014 than their defensive line. Henry Melton, Nate Collins, Jeremiah Ratliff and Corey Wootton are all set to become free agents; Shea McClellin is set to move to linebacker; and Julius Peppers' contract may be too much for a guy that lacked productivity in 2013.
The team will undoubtedly look for help in the draft. Taking a guy like Hageman in the first round helps solidify the middle of the defense, but the team still needs an impact player that can rush from the edge.
South Florida's Aaron Lynch has had an up-and-down collegiate career. Initially enrolled at Notre Dame in 2011 as freshman, he recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble but transferred to USF to be closer to his family. He was forced to sit out his sophomore year due to NCAA rules, and despite a subpar junior season, he opted to declare for the 2014 draft.
He has good speed and length and plays well against the run. One of his biggest flaws is his over-aggressiveness, as it tends to get him flagged for dumb penalties.
His drop in production against lesser talent at USF compared to Notre Dame will likely drop his draft stock, but he has the potential and the tools to become an elite pass-rusher with proper coaching.
Getting to the quarterback and forcing pressure is always at the top of the list for a defensive line, but stopping the run can be just as important.
In 2013, the Bears' defense ranked dead-last against the run, allowing an average of 161.4 yards per game, nearly 30 yards more than the next-closest team. Injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins did not help the situation, but the team was unable to find reliable tackles in the middle of their line that could be a force against the run.
Stephen Paea currently holds down the role as the team's best run-stopper on defense, filling the team's need at nose tackle, but they could look to draft a guy like Cal's Deandre Coleman.
The Bears have not addressed whether or not the team will strictly be a 4-3 defense in 2014, as the team could look to work as a hybrid between the 4-3 and 3-4. Coleman has the versatility to play inside at the nose tackle position or work as a five-technique defensive end in the 3-4.
He plays quickly off of the ball but does not possesses the lateral agility and quickness that allows others to get to the quarterback. Still, he does a good job of maintaining his gaps and has the right size in his upper body to help clog up running lanes.
He does have the versatility to play defensive end and compares similarly to former Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije, although he is not as great of a pass-rusher.
Due to the fact that more teams are concerned about getting after the quarterback, a guy like Coleman may drop considering that his best traits are suited against the run. He could be a solid backup behind Paea and have the ability to play outside if the team opts to move to the 3-4 in the future.
In 2013, the Chicago Bears finally found a legitimate all-around tight end. Martellus Bennett finished the season with career highs in catches (65), yards (759) and tied his career high in touchdowns with five.
Bennett gave quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown a reliable target in the middle of the field and helped open holes for Matt Forte in the running game. He will once again be a big part of the Bears' offense in 2014, but the team still lacks depth behind him.
Oregon's Colt Lyerla was once viewed as a dynamic pass-catching tight end who could become a force in the NFL until he was arrested and plead guilty to cocaine-possession charges in October and left the team.
Lyerla is built like the new-age hybrid tight ends that are becoming the norm in the NFL and is similar to former Bears draft pick Evan Rodriguez.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com said of Lyerla, "He has the speed to blow past defenders on vertical routes and displays the short-area quickness and burst to run away from linebackers out of breaks."
He showed his versatility at Oregon, being used both as a tight end up on the line of scrimmage and even lining up at running back at times.
He has all of the potential to be a playmaker in the NFL, but due to his off-the-field issues, the Bears would have to look long and hard at him to determine whether or not he is changed and can help the team on the field.
After a terrific career at Michigan State, senior linebacker Max Bullough was suspended for the Rose Bowl and has not spoken about why he was not allowed to play the final game of his collegiate career.
He was invited to the East-West Shrine game earlier this month but weighed in at 265 pounds, 20 pounds more than his listed playing weight at Michigan State.
He finished his finished his senior season with 76 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 10 passes defensed and a forced fumble. He was known for his hard-hitting, downhill style of play and excellence against the run.
The Bears started the 2013 season with D.J. Williams manning the inside linebacker position, but he was injured in Week 6 and finished the year on the injured reserve with a ruptured pectoral tendon. With Williams' injury, rookie Jon Bostic was thrust into the starting inside linebacker role and struggled.
In late December, general manager Phil Emery told "Waddle & Silvy Show" (h/t Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago), "(Bostic is) at middle linebacker; maybe in the future his best position might be at one of those outside spots where he is filling from the backside and able to use his unique talents to the best of his ability.”
The team will likely try and address the middle linebacker position via free agency and could bring Williams back in 2014, but the team clearly lacks depth at the position. While Bullough can struggle against the pass, he's the type of player that can excel on first and second downs against the run and could immediately be a contributor on special teams.