Will the Bears draft a defensive end in the first round to pair up with Julius Peppers?
Will the Bears draft a defensive end in the first round to pair up with Julius Peppers? Reuters

The Bears looked ready to make a serious run in the playoffs last year. They were 7-3 through 10 games, with hopes of getting a first round playoff bye.

Then, everything fell apart.

Jay Cutler suffered an injury that kept him out of the final six games. Two weeks later, starting running back Matt Forte suffered a sprained right knee, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. The injuries were too much to overcome, and Chicago finished the season at 8-8, missing the postseason by two games.

With Cutler's thumb healing, and Forte back for another season, the Bears look to have an improved season in 2012. Chicago's injuries exposed a lot of the team's weaknesses, which they will look to address in the draft.

Here are the Bears biggest needs heading into this year's NFL Draft, as well as a few players they will be targeting.

Defensive End

The Bears have one of the best defensive ends in Julius Peppers, but could still use some more help on the line. Despite having Peppers, Chicago was tied with three other teams for 19th in the league with 33 sacks in 2011. The Bears are very intent on pairing up another great pass rusher with Peppers. They made a play for Mario Williams earlier in the offseason, before he signed with the Bills.

With the Bears desire to acquire another dominant defensive end, look for them to draft one with the 19th overall pick. Qunton Coples from North Carolina might be the most likely player to land in Chicago. Whitney Mercilus from Illinois is also on Chicago's radar as a first round selection.

Offensive Line

The Bears had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year. When he was healthy, Jay Cutler was under constant pressure when trying to throw the ball. Chicago was fifth-worst in the league, allowing 49 sacks a year ago. They drafted offensive tackle Gabe Carimi with their first pick last year, but still need some depth on the line.

Stanford's Jonathan Martin could be a good fit for Chicago if they decide to take an offensive lineman in round one. It's more likely that they go with somebody like Bobby Massie from Ole Miss at number 50 overall.

Wide Receiver

For yet another season, the Bears were without a top wide receiver in 2011. Jay Cutler's injury certainly played a role in the lack of production from the position, but so did a lack of talent. Johnny Knox led the team with 727 yards, followed by Roy Williams at 507. Chicago traded for veteran Brandon Marshall, but his off the field issues could hurt his play with the Bears.

Michael Floyd from Notre Dame would be a likely pick if the Bears decide to take a receiver at 19. If they wait until round two, Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers is an option. Chicago could also snatch up Stanford tight end Coby Fleener in the second round, but he probably won't still be around at 50.