NFL Chicago Bears

2014 NFL Draft: Ranking the Chicago Bears’ Top 5 Needs

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Chicago Bears' Top 5 Positional Needs

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, NFL teams populated Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to watch the league’s next crop of stars workout to improve their stock for May’s draft. The next step in the drafting process includes players who have opted to workout at their respective schools in front of NFL scouts and front office personnel.

There's no doubt about it; the Chicago Bears have major holes to fill. For them and a plethora of other teams around the league, the process of who to take when and where will be directly derived from their free agent situation. Some very talented players from last year's team will have to be allowed to walk or have been asked to take a substantial decrease in pay to reduce their cap hit on the team.

While it may be important for the Bears to find quality players wherever they can in free agency, their base for building toward the future has to be met in the draft. The realization is that they will need to get younger at key positions to improve for the future.

In essence, the Bears could spend every one of this year’s draft picks on defensive players after their performance this past season. It’s certainly warranted but very unlikely to occur. There will be a great deal of value throughout the entire draft at nearly every position compared to last year’s draft class.

Taking into account that the period for signing free agents begins on Mar. 11, here are the Chicago Bears’ top five positional needs in this year’s draft.

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5. Tight End

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Crazy to think that the Bears need to draft anything on offense after the numbers put up last season. Every position needs depth to provide support and rest for the starters.

The Bears recently re-signed tight end Dante Rosario to a one-year deal. The problem is that he was the only other TE behind Martellus Bennett on the roster to haul in at least one reception, and Rosario only made one catch.

Bennett had the tendency to get nicked up going for jump balls and yards after the catch. It’s imperative that they develop solid backups to relieve him should he need to leave the field for a rest or injury.

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4. Quarterback

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Chicago would certainly love to bring back Josh McCown as the backup QB to Jay Cutler. He will command some interest in free agency for the way he revitalized his career under Marc Trestman.

The knock of relying on McCown returning is that he will be 35 years old in July. QB is one of the few positions where players are supposed to get better with age, but this has turned into a young man’s game. Teams want to find players they can commit to long-term. Who knows when McCown will decide to hang up his cleats?

With all the talk of the top three QBs in the class (Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles), the rest of the crop goes vastly undervalued. They probably shouldn’t jump at the chance to steal a quarterback in the earlier rounds, but drafting quality in the later rounds is certainly welcomed.

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3. Cornerback

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Tim Jennings is locked up into a new deal for the near future. Charles Tillman is still questionable to return at this point. The secondary flat out needs to be rebuilt.

With their first-round pick, it wouldn’t be shocking if they want to pursue a fast, big play corner in Justin Gilbert. His combine numbers pushed him up in several mock drafts a few selections before the Bears' first-round pick. If he was to slip down to around the No. 14 pick and Tillman doesn’t re-sign, then go after him by all means. That’s speaking in hypotheticals of course.

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2. Safety

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Safety play was flat out dismal last season. Both Chris Conte and Major Wright struggled in run and pass coverage last season. The team has already gone on record as saying that Conte will have to win the starting job in a training camp position battle. Wright is still an unrestricted free agent.

The top two safeties in the draft class are Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Behind them, there is value in players projected to go from rounds 3-5. Craig Loston and Terrence Brooks are two other players to keep your eyes on.

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1. Defensive Line

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Let's just label the entire defensive line as the major need in this year’s draft. Part of the defense’s struggles was predicated on a lack of penetration into the backfield in stopping the run and pressuring the QB.

Timmy Jernigan is the type of nose tackle that the Bears are looking to add opposite another one of their veteran interior lineman. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald also deserves a look. The pass rush off the edge will need to be bolstered since Julius Peppers is aging, Shea McClellin is no longer a defensive end and the depth at the position severely lacks.

At the defensive end position, I have my eye on Jackson Jeffcoat as a second-third round possibility at DE. He was one of the best rushers in college football last season. If he can improve against the run and at shedding blocks, he could be a steal for the Bears.