Phil Emery inherited a better roster than most first-year general managers -- if not for Jay Cutler's fluke injury, there's little doubt the 2011 Bears were an 11-5 or 12-4 playoff team. That's not a very big "if" either.
That said, because the Bears' core is dominated by players 30 and older, Emery not only has to find a player or two to maintain the Bears' standing as an NFC contender, he also needs to start building a foundation for the future if he intends to avoid a precipitous fall when Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman no longer are Pro Bowl players.
You can't do that in one draft, but you can try. Here's a projected Bears draft that could fill immediate needs and long-term needs at the same time:
First round (19th overall pick): WHITNEY MERCILUS, DE, Illinois
He has everything the Bears are looking for in a pass-rusher. With Israel Idonije in the fold, Mercilus would have a great opportunity to step in as a pass-rush specialist. Moves very well in a straight line. Alternate pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford.
Second round (50th pick): JEFF ALLEN, OT, Illinois
Higher than he's projected to go, but the Chicago native (King High School) has a big upside and has the right temperament to be better than people think. Also projects as a guard. Quick learner. Alternate pick: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall.
Third round (79th pick): BRIAN QUICK, WR, Appalachian State
He's raw but he has all the tools to be a great NFL receiver, hasn't really been coached yet and he learns well. Won't have to step in right away. Unique hand-eye coordination and body control. Alternate pick: Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma.
Fourth round (111th pick): JAYE HOWARD, DT, Florida
Talented three-technique is a little rough around the edges, but he's got too much ability to pass up here. There are no sure things in the fourth round. Can track down plays outside the box. Alternate pick: Senio Kelemente, OT/G, Washington.
Fifth round (150th pick): JUSTIN BETHEL, SS, Presbyterian
At the very least, he's Corey Graham on special teams, with a better chance of being a contributor on defense. Bears type of guy. Covers ground with a smooth, gliding stride. Alternate pick: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas.
Sixth round (184th overall): MILES BURRIS, LB, San Diego State
Has the athleticism, versatility and high motor that could turn into something. Could learn a lot from Lance Briggs. Flattens and closes hard down the line. Alternate pick: Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina.
Seventh round (220th pick): MIKE DANIELS, DT, Iowa
Underrated prospect might not last this long. He's a great athlete with a big chip on his shoulder after a subpar senior season. Terrific balance and agility. Alternate pick: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois.