Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 3/20/12
Bears’ Season Summary
The Bears struggled out of the gate to a 2-3 record and were in danger of dropping out of the playoff race early as the Packers and Lions both started 5-0. With their playoff lives on the line, the Bears came roaring back with a five game winning streak, starting with a Sunday night 39-10 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings. They were playing their best football of the season when Jay Cutler dislocated the thumb on his throwing hand during a 31-20 shoot-out win over the Chargers.

With the Bears only needing three wins in their final six games, Caleb Hanie stepped in as the No. 1 quarterback. With Hanie at the controls the season and its playoff possibilities collapsed. The Bears limped into the offseason to watch the playoffs on television.

2011 Record
Regular Season: 8-8 Third in the NFC North
Playoffs: Missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons (or the first time in two seasons if you’re Lovie Smith).

Positions of Need
Offensive Line: Bears’ quarterbacks were sacked 56 times in 2010 with Cutler accounting for 52 of those and they were dropped 49 times last season. The problem areas on the offensive line are at right tackle with Gabe Carimi who will be coming back from a dislocated knee he suffered in week 2 against New Orleans. Carimi should be completely healthy for 2012 but that remains to be seen. His replacement was rookie Lance Louis whose play deteriorated as the season went on. There has been speculation the past few days that Chris Williams will be moved from left guard and given another opportunity at left tackle in 2012 in place of J’Marcus Webb, who looked overmatched at the position the entire 2011 season.

If Jay Cutler is going to have the time to get Brandon Marshall the ball while staying healthy in the process, the Bears need a lineman who can step in and start from week one of 2012.

Linebacker: Brian Urlacher is 33 years old and 2012 will be his twelfth NFL season. Lance Briggs is 31 and will be playing his tenth season in 2012. The third starting linebacker for the Bears is undrafted free agent Nick Roach, who’s been with the team since 2007.
While Urlacher and Briggs are still performing at a high level, both were named to the Pro Bowl last season, at some point their skills will begin to slowly diminish. Since 2003 when they selected Lance Briggs in the third round, the Bears have drafted six linebackers. Most of those picks didn’t make it out of training camp and only one lasted longer than one season. Add four more linebacker “busts” since Urlacher was drafted No. 1 in 2000 and it equals a depth problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

Defensive Line: In case nobody’s been paying attention, Julius Peppers has been around for a while too. The team re-signed Israel Idonije to continue playing the other defensive end spot. Sorry, not much else to say there in regards to that. The defensive tackles have a lot of potential, but none of them have reached it during the time they’ve all spent in the league. Lovie Smith’s defensive philosophy begins with strong defensive line play to pressure the quarterback and create mistakes and turnovers so if one is available, a player here would have to be considered.

Between offensive line, linebackers and defensive linemen, the best player available in those position groups would become my first pick if at No. 19 if I were the general manager.

First Round Targets
David DeCastro, Guard (Stanford) – My original projection at the No. 19 spot but it looks like his draft stock has improved and he will be gone well before the Bears pick.

Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle (Ohio State) – This guy is a monster at 6’ 8” and he can move. He’s strong and has the arms to push defensive ends out of their rush lanes. Mike Tice is probably salivating at the chance to work with someone with his kind of size and talent.

Courtney Upshaw, Linebacker (Alabama) – In mock drafts I’ve seen him picked anywhere from No. 9 to No. 29. If he’s on the Football Nation board at 19 I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears grab him and feel good about their first day of the draft.

Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle (Mississippi State) – He’s had a better track record of results than Whitney Mercilus of Illinois and I believe he has better potential to contribute in his rookie season and develop into a quality starter.

Vultures
I think Adams will get through unless someone ahead of the Bears on the board decides he would make a better tackle prospect than Riley Reiff of Iowa.

Courtney Upshaw will almost definitely be picked off before he gets to No. 19. I’m sure the Bills would love to bring him in to add to the defense with Mario Williams. Still, stranger things have happened, especially if a player begins to fall a bit.

Fletcher Cox could be snapped up by Carolina, who needs to drastically upgrade their defense. He could also be picked by the Seahawks or the Jets; both need to upgrade their defensive lines for the 2012 season.

Trade Winds
It’s highly doubtful the “Windy City” will be affected by Trade Winds heading into this draft. There are a number of positions on the team that need to be addressed and any attempt to trade up would require surrendering another draft pick, likely a third at the very least. They don’t need to trade up to find a contributing player, or even an every down starter at No. 19.

It would likely be as futile to attempt to trade down in the draft and acquire more picks. The Bears need to draft a player that will be, at minimum, a contributor during the 2012 season. They’re also not in a position in the draft where another team would find it of dire importance to trade up into their spot.

Draft History
2011: 1.29 – Gabe Carimi, Offensive Tackle (Wisconsin)
2010: 3.75 – Major Wright, Safety (Florida)*
2009: 3.68 – Jarron Gilbert, Defensive Tackle (San Jose St.)*
2008: 1.14 – Chris Williams, Offensive Tackle (Vanderbilt)
2007: 1.31 – Greg Olsen, Tight End (Miami, FL)

* First round picks traded to Denver as part of the Jay Cutler deal

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