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Chicago Bears' draft needs: Aaron Donald to join Jared Allen?

Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.



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The Chicago Bears' defense was hard to watch last season. They couldn't rush the quarterback or stop opposing running backs, tying for last in sacks and giving up a league-worst 161.4 yards per game on the ground. Signing Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen in free agency should help them address both issues.

While the Bears will be focused in May's draft on bringing in defensive starters, on offense they'll primarily be looking to add depth. Chicago tied for second in points per game (27.8) and had the fifth-most yards per game. With the Bears heading into their second year under Marc Trestman, I expect Jay Cutler and Co. to pick up right where they left off.

Here are four positions of need for Chicago -- and four prospects who could fill them.

1) Safety


The Bears' safety play last season was arguably the worst in the NFL, with every game seemingly featuring several missed tackles from the back end of the secondary. Chicago should have a chance to make a major upgrade at the position with the No. 14 overall pick, as Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor could both be available.

If the team passes on Clinton-Dix and Pryor, it might look for Dezmen Southward from Wisconsin. The projected middle-round pick has experience playing both corner and safety in college; he also has excellent size (6-foot) and speed. Though he showed some stiffness in his movements last season, I think Southward could be a value pick on Day 3.


Path to the Draft
Airing weekdays at 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network, "Path to the Draft" previews the 2014 NFL Draft by providing in-depth expert analysis of the top prospects and each team's needs.

» 'Path to the Draft' videos
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2) Defensive tackle


It was no surprise that the Bears brought in Allen and Houston, considering their non-existent pass rush in 2013. But the defensive line still has room to improve in between the two ends. There's a good chance the draft's top two interior linemen -- Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan -- could be available when the Bears are on the clock at No. 14. I give the edge to Donald because he offers more of a pass-rushing presence, while Jernigan is more effective against the run. Granted, the Bears' run defense was far from perfect last season, but in a division that includes Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, I like the pass rusher over the run stuffer.


3) Cornerback


Chicago locked up Tim Jennings at the start of the year, solidifying one corner spot for the future. The Bears then re-signed Charles Tillman to a one-year contract -- but it should be noted that the two-time Pro Bowler is entering his 12th NFL season. With a heavy dose of Rodgers and Stafford on the schedule, plus matchups against Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the Bears need to add depth and youth at the position.

That being said, I don't think they have to invest their first-round pick on a corner. A player I really like is Clemson's Bashaud Breeland, a second-round talent who could be available in the third. After posting a disappointing 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine, the 5-foot-11 defender was clocked at 4.57 seconds at his pro-day workout.


4) Running back


The Bears don't have much depth behind Matt Forte, so I see them finding a solid backup in May. There are plenty of quality running backs in this year's class -- many of whom will still be on the board in the third and fourth rounds. Terrance West from Towson is one example of a solid player who the Bears could pick up with their third-round pick (No. 82 overall). I don't think there's too big of a drop-off between West and more highly regarded backs like Ohio State's Carlos Hyde and LSU's Jeremy Hill. West has the same type of power and pass-catching abilities as his two big-school counterparts.

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If Chicago waits until Day 3 to select a runner, the team might look at Isaiah Crowell from Alabama State, who could be a value pick in the fourth or fifth rounds.


Projections


So what will the Bears do with their first-round pick (No. 14 overall)? Here's what NFL Media's analysts see happening, according to their mock draft projections (click here for full mock drafts):


Daniel Jeremiah: Aaron Donald

Bucky Brooks: Aaron Donald

Charles Davis: Timmy Jernigan

Matt Smith: Timmy Jernigan
 
Chase Goodbread: Aaron Donald

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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