The 2013 “draft” began for the Bears some weeks ago when the signing period began -- actually, even before that, when decisions like franchise-tagging Henry Melton addressed a “need” at defensive tackle.
But as April opens and the draft looms less than four weeks away, the Bears begin the next stage of the offseason personnel process with an eye toward using the draft to address needs left after free agency and re-signing some of their own.
GM Phil Emery already has added starters are virtually every true need position going into the offseason: left tackle (Jermon Bushrod), right tackle (shifting J’Marcus Webb there after the Bushrod signing), No. 3 tackle (re-signing Jonathan Scott plus Webb), guard (Matt Slauson), two linebackers (James Anderson, D.J. Williams), and tight end (Martellus Bennett).
If the 2013 season started today, and the Bears begin their offseason program tomorrow, the Bears’ starting lineup would be set with the exception of one guard spot (James Brown, Gabe Carimi, Edwin Williams?) and possibly right tackle if Scott beats out Webb.
All of which takes pressure off Emery to draft for need, as the Bears did for tackles like Carimi and Chris Williams, quarterback Cade McNown and others who did not fill the need and were not the true best players available on draft boards at the times of their selections.
Emery declared his openness to trading down to add picks after the Bennett and Bushrod signings, and that was even before the Anderson, Slauson and Williams signings.
Oversimplifying a bit here for sake of brevity: Part of the Bears’ draft process is establishing a cadre of players determined to be right at No. 20 in the draft. That typically is four to six players ideally; the further down in the draft a team is, the wider the net of options needed.
Once the first round begins unfolding, the Bears will know how many of their identified players are there at No. 20. If a call comes from a potential trade partner, the Bears can decide how far back in the draft they can move and still be assured of landing a targeted player.
In the meantime, the Bears will work through draft scenarios. And so will draftniks and draft experts. Some already have, although many with understandable accuracy difficulties this far in advance.
Myriad projections had the Kansas City Chiefs selecting Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckl No. 1 overall. Others projected West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
Mike Florio and the folks at ProFootballTalk.com tapped Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones for the Bears at No. 20.
PFT is not alone in suggesting that the Bears draft at a position they ostensibly addressed in free agency.
“I think Jonathan Cooper, if he’s there at 20, he’s a great pick, and I don’t say that a lot about guards,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay last month.
“My question for the Bears is: Do they need a guard? Is that really the issue?”
McShay projected Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o going to the Bears at No. 20. But with the signings of Anderson and Williams, linebacker is not a 2013 day one need, and the Bears were not heavily represented at Te’o’s Pro Day workouts, for whatever that might mean.
McShay altered his projection to Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert based on a critique of Bennett as “not a consistent commodity.”
Colleague Mel Kiper also projected a position already seemingly addressed, giving the Bears Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker, too good to pass up at No. 20, if the Bears are still there.