From now until the 2013 NFL Draft in late April, much of the NFL talk will revolve around the first round selection of each team. Ideally, first rounders are the game changers, the guys around whom you can build a franchise.
Choosing correctly in the first round is crucial in today's NFL, as first-round homeruns lead to wins, playoff appearances and championships. When you miss more than you hit in the first round, you set the team back significantly.
Just ask former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.
New GM Phil Emery didn't hit a slam dunk in his first draft as head of the team. Shea McClellin was not an impact player his rookie season and it remains to be seen if he'll ever live up to his first-round status.
If Emery misses again this year, it puts the team in a tough hole to crawl out of. Getting it right with the 20th overall selection in 2013 will go a long way toward steering Chicago back on the path toward a championship.
There is no doubt the Bears need help along the offensive line. Pass protection has been at near the bottom of the league the past three years, which has been a major reason the passing game has stagnated. The run blocking has been decent but far too inconsistent.
Yet the club also has big needs at tight and linebacker. And if Henry Melton leaves via free agency, and the Bears choose not to tag him, then defensive tackle becomes part of the first-round conversation.
According to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock - on a conference call with national media - first and foremost, Chicago must shore up the offensive line.
"I think [the Bears] have to take an offensive lineman," Mayock said. "I think they've got to protect their quarterback much better than they have. When Jay Cutler is protected, he's one of the top quarterbacks in football. When he's not protected, you can't win football games.
"So from my perspective, it's got to start up front. When you're picking, I think they're No. 20, if I remember correctly, when you're picking in round No. 20 and talking about linemen, I think it's a good year to be at No. 20. Because Lane Johnson from Oklahoma could be there. D.J. Fluker from Alabama could be there. Two of the better tackles in the draft.
"Then when you're talking about the guards, if either Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper were available, you'd have to jump all over them. So I think there are four names right there who make a ton of sense for Chicago."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.