With the 19th pick ...
BEARS NEED ANOTHER WR THREAT TO COMPLEMENT MARSHALL
It's widely believed the Chicago Bears are leaning toward fortifying the defense with a pass-rusher at No. 19. But the team shouldn't think for a minute it suddenly solved issues at receiver with the trade for Brandon Marshall.
During free agency, when the club was believed to be in hot pursuit of a legitimate No. 1 receiver, multiple NFL scouts said Chicago wouldn't be able to fix issues at the position with one player. Their rationales were that teams could simply double the top target and eliminate him from the game. So if there wasn't another receiver who could step up and make plays, adding an elite No. 1 would prove an exercise in futility.
Well, outside of Earl Bennett -- who was basically neutralized by teams once Jay Cutler went down with the thumb injury -- the Bears don't really have many bona fide threats to pick up the slack when teams focus on eliminating Marshall. As exciting and explosive a player as Devin Hester is, he's not that guy; nor are new acquisitions Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, who combined for 14 catches in 2011, and appear at this point to be larger contributors on special teams than offense.
Uncertainty concerning the timetable of recovery for Johnny Knox intensifies the need to add at receiver. It's actually somewhat of an unknown whether even a healthy Knox could adequately contribute as the No. 2 opposite Marshall.
Although defensive end and help along the offensive line would serve the Bears well with the 19th pick, the NFC North has quickly developed into a division in which teams must score to consistently win. The Bears need another game-breaking receiver to do that.
It's unlikely, but if Notre Dame's Michael Floyd fell to the Bears at 19, the team should run to the podium to hand in the card to select him. More realistic options include Baylor's Kendall Wright (don't buy the pre-draft stuff about him falling to the third round), LSU's Rueben Randle and Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, all potentially dynamic complements to Marshall.
BEARS NEED TO GET YOUNGER ON DEFENSE WITH ILLINOIS DE MERCILUS
Behind almost every successful defense is a successful pass rush. For all the wonderful contributions made on the Chicago Bears' defense by veterans Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers, the unit still needs to do a better job of generating consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Peppers hasn't showed any sign of slowing down, but he is 32 years old, and eventually will not be a dominant defensive end. That's why it's paramount for the Bears to add a younger, dynamic defensive end with the ability to wreak havoc when teams decide to double-team Peppers.
Unless a player with a much higher grade unexpectedly falls in the first round, the Bears should use the No. 19 overall selection to take Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus if he is still on the board when general manager Phil Emery and his staff go on the clock Thursday night.
Mercilus is the exact type of defender that should thrive in Lovie Smith's defensive scheme. He's athletic, quick, long and displayed a propensity for getting after the quarterback last season, when he led the nation with 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles and 22.5 tackles for a loss.
The fact Mercilus' first two seasons in Champaign were relatively quiet should not deter the Bears from taking the player voted the top defensive end in the country in 2011.
However, in the event Mercilus is off the board at No. 19, the Bears should not take a defensive end just for the sake of taking one. If Emery isn't sold on the other available pass-rushers, then he needs to explore wide receiver, offensive tackle or another spot on defense where he feels he can find an immediate contributor.
But if Mercilus is still around at No. 19, the Bears need to pull the trigger and never look back.