NFL Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears: Top 5 First Round Targets

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Chicago Bears' Top 5 First Round Targets

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On May 8 of this year, all of the teams in the league will begin to make the dreams of many college players come to reality at the start of the 2014 NFL Draft. Of course, this event is virtually four months away, and many mock drafts will change several times over this time span. However, for the Chicago Bears, the possible prospects for their 14th overall pick probably won’t change as much.

This past season, the Bears finally showed much improvement on the offensive side of the ball, thanks large in part due to offensive-minded head coach Marc Trestman. Chicago finished the 2013 campaign with the fifth-best pass offense, was eighth in overall offense, and surrendered the fourth fewest sacks in the league.

Unfortunately, the same production couldn’t be said about their defense. What was once considered one of the most rigid defenses in the NFL has proven to be one of the softest. The Bears’ average of 161.4 rushing yards allowed per game was dead last in 2013, and as a unit, they shared the title of “cellar dweller” with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the sacks category.

Most of the hard luck Chicago endured was due to injuries and old age. Three Pro Bowlers were sidelined for virtually the entire season, and aging veterans, like defensive end Julius Peppers, didn’t put up big-time numbers.

Obviously, the Bears’ main focus in the upcoming draft should be on the defensive side of the ball. There are a number of free agents Chicago has along the defensive line, and whether they will re-sign most of them or not is still a mystery. In addition, the play at both safety positions are in dire need of an upgrade.

With that being said, here are the top five players I think the Bears should target in the first round of the draft.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.

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5. Kony Ealy, Defensive End, Missouri

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Peppers, who started all 16 games this year, tallied his lowest number of sacks in a Bears uniform with 7.5. Missouri’s Kony Ealy could be the possible successor to Peppers. Ealy’s athleticism and speed, combined with his 6-foot-5, 275 pound frame, could be what the Bears need to bolster their pass rush.

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4. Calvin Pryor, Free Safety, Louisville

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t be surprised to see Chicago use their 14th overall pick to replace their last line of defense. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is a hard-hitting safety that can make his presence made across the middle.

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3. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Free Safety, Alabama

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been a ball-hawking safety for Alabama. He has the size (6-foot-1, 208 pounds) and skillset to compete against Chris Conte for the starting spot in 2014.

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2. Timmy Jernigan, Defensive Tackle, Florida State

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago’s biggest weakness was stopping the run, and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan could be the answer to that problem. Jernigan was a huge part of FSU’s National Championship run, and could bring that winning mentality to team that’s been in search for a title.

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1. Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There's still no answer to whether the Bears will switch defensive schemes after cutting ties with their linebackers and defensive line coaches. Regardless of what Chicago does, Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III will be a perfect fit. In either the 4-3 or the 3-4, Nix’s 6-foot-2, 345 pound frame can eat up most of the interior, leaving open pastures for Bears linebackers to make tackles.