The Chicago Bears are sitting on the 20th overall pick in Thursday's draft and the possibilities for General Manager Phil Emery are wide open.
Emery has done a nice job of plugging holes during the offseason so far, and he now has the luxury of taking advantage of the opportunity he has created for himself. There's plenty of areas the Bears could use help, but there is no real urgent need on the roster. Combine that with the deep pool of talent in this year's draft, and it will be tough for Emery to select a bust. Sure, it could happen, but he might have to look really hard to seek one out. Even former GM Jerry Angelo would have a hard time screwing up a first round pick this year.
Since Brian Urlacher has parted ways with the Bears and Nick Roach signed with the Raiders, the Bears could use a linebacker. Alec Ogletree of Georgia, Arthur Brown of Kansas State, Kevin Minter of LSU and, yes, Manti T'eo all could be waiting for Emery at 20. I think Olgetree and Brown fit the Bears' scheme the best of the four. Both move sideline to sideline very well. Ogletree might be more athletic and versatile, but Brown might be better at dropping back into coverage. Either would work.
The Bears have signed offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and guard Matt Slauson, but that doesn't mean the team can't use more help to protect Jay Cutler. There's plenty of talented offensive linemen in this draft who could drop to 20. D.J. Fluker from Alabama could drop, or Jonathan Cooper from UNC. These might not be the most exciting names in the draft for Bears fans, but it's a real possibility.
Cornerback Charles Tillman is getting long in the tooth, but still is effective. His counterpart Tim Jennings will hit age 30 before the season starts and his contract is up when the season is over. It might not be a bad idea to take a cornerback with the 20th pick and guys like Xavier Rhodes of Florida State or Desmond Trufant of Washington will most likely be available. It wouldn't be stretch to take these guys, based on their talent even if it isn't the biggest need on the Bears' roster.
It also couldn't hurt to give Cutler more weapons. I say it is unlikely Emery selects a wide receiver in the first round as Bears brass seems to be high on last year's second round pick Alshon Jeffery. But if Tyler Eifert is sitting there at 20, I wouldn't be shocked Emery snagged him. The Bears had a difficult time scoring touchdowns in the red zone last year, and having another big target down there would be a help to Cutler. Although Emery made a large commitment to Martellus Bennett on the first day of free agency, there is still room for Eifert on this roster. Remember when the Patriots drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the same year? How's that working out for them, you know, when one of them isn't too busy dancing?
You don't have to look hard to find a dizzying array of mock drafts out there, as the NFL draft has evolved into a prime time spectacle. I breezed through too many of them before putting this piece together, just to try to get sense of any kind of consensus at pick number 20. There is none, probably because of the reasons I've stated earlier. I've seen people predict the Bears selecting linebackers, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and defensive linemen - basically everything except a running back or quarterback.
However, my best guess is the Bears trade down in this year's draft. Emery is in rebuilding mode with this team, and the way to build a football team is through the draft. Emery has just five picks in the draft this year, including none in the third round. There will be plenty of talent tempting another GM at 20, and I'll bet someone will bite and give Emery a deal he likes.
Consider the Bears have contracts expiring on about a dozen starters after the 2013 season ends, and it's easy to see why more draft picks would be appealing to Emery.
As stated earlier, the Bears have no immediate needs at any one position, but they can use youth and depth at just about all of them. Emery should be able to find NFL-worthy talent in later rounds. There will be good picks for linebacker, offensive line and the secondary past the first round. He even can find a speedy receiver the Bears currently lack late in the draft. I have confidence Emery can find what he's looking for after the high profile prospects are taken from the board.
I suspect the Bears will have that 20th pick up until they are on the clock. So, Bears fans might stay up late Thursday in anticipation only to discover the pick has been traded and the team will make no selection until Friday.
Sorry Bears fans, but I predict there will be no excitement for you Thursday night.