All week Scouts Inc. has been taking a look at how the NFC's divisions have been affected by this year's free-agent shuffle. After tackling the East, South and West, the old Black-and-Blue Division, the NFC North is up.
Kevin Weidl examines the thinking these teams may have going into the 2013 NFL draft.
General manager Phil Emery was one of the more active players in free agency this year. The Bears have made three key pickups so far. None of those acquisitions were bigger than signing LT Jermon Bushrod from New Orleans to try to solve their offensive line woes and help prolong the career of franchise QB Jay Cutler, who was sacked 44 times and knocked down 87 in 2012. Chicago also upgraded at TE with Martellus Bennett and made a great move by keeping DT Henry Melton, who is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the league.
Looking toward the draft, the most glaring need now appears to be at middle linebacker. Talks have fizzled with Brian Urlacher and it appears his days in Chicago are more than likely over.
With the 20th pick in the first round, the Bears could have a few options at inside linebacker. Georgia ILB Alec Ogletree would be the first that comes to mind. From a talent standpoint, this would be a steal for Chicago at 20. In my opinion, Ogletree is one of the most athletically gifted prospects on tape in this class. Similar to Urlacher, Ogletree is a former safety who moves well in space, covers a lot of ground and holds a tremendous amount of versatility. He is a flat-out playmaker in every sense of the word.
Ogletree has his flaws. He needs to continue to get stronger at the point of attack and can do a better job of using his hands when taking on blocks. In addition, he comes with some character baggage that teams must take a hard look at it. Reports are, however, that his football character is strong and on tape he's a potential top-10 talent who could end up being a steal for a team like Chicago in the back half of the first round.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o is another option at this point. Te'o has taken an absolute beating from the media since a poor national championship performance, the bizzare girlfriend scandal and a subpar combine showing where he clocked a 4.82 40-yard dash. For me, the latter of the three is the most concerning because on tape, Te'o doesn't show great range in coverage. This brings up concerns for Te'o in terms of scheme fit with the Bears, who asked their mike linebacker to do a lot and cover a lot of space. Make no mistake though, Te'o is a quality football player who possesses outstanding instincts and would bring a lot of toughness and leadership to a Bears defense that has hung their hat on those traits for many years.
To read the rest of Weidl's take on the Bears and the other three NFC North teams, click here.