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Bears Expected to Target O-Line, Linebacker In NFL Draft

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 25, 2013 3:20PM

2013_04_nfl_draft_logo.jpg The NFL draft kicks off tonight, with the first round beginning at 7 p.m. The second and third rounds take place on Friday evening, with rounds four through seven on Saturday afternoon.

In his second draft as Bears GM, Phil Emery again finds himself having to address some critical holes on the Bears' roster. Despite his off-season trades, free agent signings and draft last year, the Bears missed the playoffs and that cost coach Lovie Smith his job. To ensure his own job security, Emery needs to make sure the Marc Trestman era gets off to a good start. This year, the Bears have just five picks with which to work — their highest being the 20th pick in the first round. Can Emery and his staff address both the current ones and the ones likely to affect the team in the future?

When the offseason began, we would have suggested the Bears invest each and every pick in the offensive line. O-line was once again the team's most glaring weakness last season and its lack of protection for quarterback Jay Cutler limited the team's ability to score in spite of such weapons as running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. While the O-line still needs to be one of Emery's priorities over the next few days, he did address the position during free agency by signing two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson.

Bushrod's arrival should shift J'Marcus Webb over to right tackle. Gabe Carimi and Jonathan Scott remain in the picture, too, with those losing out at tackle in the mix at guard. But the team lost Chris Spencer, Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal in free agency, so the team is looking for both overall improvement along the line, as well as rebuilding depth on the roster. If players like Alabama's D.J. Fluker or Florida State's Menelik Watson, the Bears might grab an offensive tackle with their first pick, while guards like Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper could entice the team if they're still on the board when the Bears select.

But the Bears might instead turn their attention to replacing a legend with their top pick, and target a middle linebacker. With the Bears parting ways with future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, the team needs to address the position for the long term future. The Bears also lost starting linebacker Nick Roach to the Raiders in free agency. To replace the two departing starters, the Bears signed Denver's D.J. Williams and James Anderson from Carolina. But is the next face of the defense out there? The Bears could find Georgia's Alec Ogletree an attractive target.

The name that seems to be linked to the Bears at the 20th spot more than anyone is Manti Te'o. The Notre Dame middle linebacker finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting and has been noted as a leader in the locker room, but gained even more notoriety for his fake dead girlfriend. One has to question whether Bears fans will be receptive to a player who is either a hapless victim hooked by a catfish or somebody who created a massive con to boost his exposure ... unless he quickly proves his worth on the field. Should the Bears wait until the second round, they might target players like Oregon's Kiko Alonso, Kansas State's Arthur Brown, or Missouri's Zaviar Gooden.

Another area the Bears are expected to target is cornerback. While the duo of Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings was perhaps the best set of corners in the NFL last year, Tillman is reaching his mid-30's and the team's top four defensive backs are all free agents after next year. But with their current strength at the position, we don't expect this to be addressed until Saturday, if at all. We might also see the Bears show interest in adding a defensive end, a speedy wideout or project QB in the later rounds, as well.

We'll be back tomorrow to provide our take on the Bears first round pick, and what that pick might predict for the rest of this week's draft.