OK, Bears fans, it’s time to get serious. We’re less than 10 days and counting until the Bears step to the podium with the 14th overal pick in the NFL draft.
Barring any trades, including the swapping of draft picks, the Bears also will pick 51st, 82nd, 117th, 156th, 183rd and 191st.
The plan heading into the draft should be to get players who can contribute immediately and eventually be starters for a number of years to come with their first three picks. At 117 and 156, they should find quality backups who can play special teams and perhaps eventually become starters, and at 183 and 191, draft the best athletes you can and hope you get lucky.
Up until now you’ve read and heard a lot about draft needs, but the reality is there’s not a position on the Bears' depth chart where they couldn’t conceivably get better beyond perhaps receiver.
To ultimately be successful in building a perennial contender that always has young talent in the pipeline, you always draft the best football player available regardless of position.
That should be the golden rule, but NFL teams rarely stick to it. In the “Not For Long” league, the pressure to win now often causes clubs to look at needs beyond even talent.
Just for now though, let’s stop screaming about the defense and see if the offense is really set?
Rather than just assume, as almost everybody is assuming that the Bears need defensive tackles, safeties, cornerbacks and linebackers in that order, let’s look at some facts.
Yes, believe it or not, the Bears were really good on offense last year and almost everybody is back. But let’s see where they need to get better.
Matt Forte was brilliant for the second straight season, but nonetheless the Bears finished 16th in the league rushing, 19th in first-and-goal-to-go situations and much worse than that in short-yardage situations.
Now the Bears have no proven NFL player behind Forte.
LeSean McCoy was one of only two backs in the league last year (Jamaal Charles) who were more productive than Forte. The Eagles went out and traded for Darren Sproles. What will the Bears do?
Martellus Bennett was much better than advertised in 2013, although his run blocking suffered because of nagging shoulder injuries. That probably was part of the reason the Bears were so bad in short yardage.
Now what if Bennett gets hurt and actually has to miss some time? Like Forte, there is no one to count on behind him.
Finally, the Bears must get better at quarterback. Because it’s gong to be Jay Cutler for at least three more years, let's just say Cutler must get better.
He finished 13th in the NFL last year in passer rating at 89.2, not bad and actually darn good for a Bears QB.
But among the top 25 passers last season, only Matt Cassell and Carson Palmer had worse interception percentages than Cutler while Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick tied with him for 21st at 3.4 percent.
Cutler must take better care of the football and one thing that might help is an improved running game, particularly in short yardage to help take pressure off the passing game.
The Bears have done a nice job of bringing in veteran wideouts to compete for backup spots, so I’m not as worried as I was about depth there.
If the Bears are to have a championship offense, they must find quality depth at running back and tight end.
Competition at offensive tackle would be a good thing as well. Although Jordan Mills earned a lot of points for starting every game last year as a fifth-round rookie, he didn’t earn many points at all for the way he played, and Jermon Bushrod was spotty at times.
Finally, at quarterback, I’m actually comfortable with Jordan Palmer in the Josh McCown role, but Cutler is going to have to really earn his guaranteed $54 million. A youngster behind them would be fun, but he won't make this team better.
We’ll talk defense next.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and ChicagoFootball.com. Write to him at [email protected]