The Bears have drafted a defensive lineman within the first four rounds of every draft since 2005. That is likely to continue this draft, particularly if they are able to trade down and add at least one selection.
Henry Melton and Julius Peppers were voted to the Pro Bowl after impact seasons. Stephen Paea settled in as a nose tackle with an arrow pointing up, and Corey Wootton had his breakout year to win the starting LDE spot.
Shea McClellin had a respectable rookie season and has spent the offseason working on adding muscle. The Bears need more from Phil Emery’s first No. 1 draft choice than 2.5 sacks and the lowest rating among Bears defensive linemen, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Nate Collins was re-signed for one year but he is the only roster depth with time in the Chicago defense. A one-year contract offer is out for Israel Idonije, who can start at either tackle or end. The deal hasn’t been enough to entice Idonije but both sides are likely waiting to see how the draft plays out for the Bears.
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The strength of the defensive-tackle class is rated nearly on par with the offensive tackles, and this is an area of annual priority, particularly for pass rushers. In the span of 11 picks from No. 11-21 last year, eight went for defensive linemen, including the Bears’ for McClellin. Nine defensive linemen were taken in the first 28 picks combined.
The 2013 class is stronger at tackle than at end, the reverse of last year. Defensive linemen could go 2-3 in this draft after presumably tackle Luke Joeckel, and multiple defensive tackles will go within the first round: Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson and North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams are all rated as first-round locks.
The immediate problem for the Bears is that they have just three experienced tackles on defense and will always look at adding pass rush. The needs for a guard, linebacker and young quarterback are arguably higher but the Bears are hoping the phone rings, possibly more than once, and defensive line upgrades improve every other area of the defense.
Likelihood to draft: High. Rounds 2-4.