Prized free agent pick-up Julius Peppers proved to be worth the hefty investment during his first season in a Chicago Bears uniform. Although Peppers finished with a modest eight sacks, opponents were forced to double-team and chip the perennial Pro Bowler on almost every snap, which freed up Israel Idonije on the other side. But even though Idonije is coming off a career year, the Bears could use another body to jump in the rotation at defensive end.
Here's a quick look at our top 20 at the defensive end spot, and what round they're projected to be taken:
The next 10: 11. Christian Ballard, Iowa, 6-4, 283; 12. Pierre Allen, Nebraska, 6-4, 273; 13. Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State, 6-3, 278; 14. Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh, 6-5, 264; 15. Ugo Chinasa, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 264; 16. Cliff Matthews, South Carolina, 6-4, 257; 17. Brandon Bair, Oregon, 6-6, 276; 18. Ricky Elmore, Arizona, 6-5, 255; 19. Eddie Jones, Texas, 6-2, 258; 20. Markus White, Florida State, 6-4, 266.
Position grade: A
Analysis: It's going to be awfully tough for the Bears to pass up taking at least one defensive end out of this stellar group. The organization used a fourth-round pick on Corey Wootton in 2010, but the Northwestern product was unable to stay in the rotation. Plus, there's no guarantee Idonije will have the same type of impact or numbers opposite Peppers the second time around. The Bears supposed defense end of the future, Mark Anderson, was released mid-season after failing to secure a starting job despite numerous opportunities.
Premiere pass rushers are tough to find, and if the pre-draft projections are any indication, the 2011 draft class is already being coined "the year of the rush end." The Bears need to get younger at the position, and what better way to start than selecting an end in one of the three opening rounds.