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Names to know for the Chicago Bears in this week’s Senior Bowl, including a top edge rusher and a bevy of centers and wide receivers

The quarterback conversation will dominate chatter for the Chicago Bears leading up to the NFL draft in three months, and that ought to be a major focus this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Even though top prospects such as USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, LSU’s Jayden Daniels and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy are not in the game, it will be a chance to get a close look at Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix.

Add Tulane’s Michael Pratt, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler and Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman — who aren’t candidates to be the No. 1 pick — and it would be an intriguing bunch of passers in any draft cycle.

The Bears will be able to see Penix and Nix up close four weeks before the scouting combine, and general manager Ryan Poles likely has a detailed plan to vet all options.

Penix threw for 9,504 yards over the last two seasons at Washington, and teams will have plenty of questions about knee and shoulder injuries that interrupted his first four years at Indiana. Nix also thrived after transferring, passing for 8,101 yards and 74 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions at Oregon the last two years after three up-and-down seasons at Auburn.

The Bears drafted four players who participated in the Senior Bowl last year, all in the first four rounds: right tackle Darnell Wright (first round, 10th pick), cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (second round), defensive tackle Zacch Pickens (third) and running back Roschon Johnson (fourth). They also signed undrafted quarterback Tyson Bagent, who improved his stock with a week in Mobile.

The Senior Bowl was loaded with talent last year, when 36 of the first 100 draft picks participated in the game. Overall, 100 players who were in Mobile were drafted, accounting for 39% of all selections.

While it’s unlikely the first pick in this year’s draft will be in Mobile, you can’t rule out the possibility the ninth pick — which the Bears also own — will be on display.

UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu is one of the highest-regarded prospects committed to the Senior Bowl. Latu had 23 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons for the Bruins, and NFL teams will have a chance to see him perform in practice and the game.

They will have a lot of medical questions for Latu that will require due diligence at the combine, as he briefly retired from football with a neck injury after beginning his college career at Washington. Latu proved to be durable at UCLA, though, and for teams comfortable with his health, he could emerge as the top edge rusher in the draft.

That’s certainly a position the Bears need to figure out as they seek a presence opposite Montez Sweat. It’s not a great draft for pass rushers overall, but Alabama’s Chris Braswell, coming off a 10 1/2-sack season, is regarded as a potential Day 2 pick and is playing in the Senior Bowl.

Center figures to be a primary need for the Bears, and there’s an interesting crop of hopefuls. Before we dive into the names, it’s worth wondering what philosophy the Bears will take. If they plan on drafting a quarterback, would they hesitate to have a rookie snapping the ball? Given the option, a lot of teams would prefer a veteran center to aid a rookie quarterback with pre-snap reads and calls.

But if Poles and the coaching staff believe there’s a savvy prospect who can be an asset to a young quarterback — assuming the Bears draft one — perhaps they like the idea of more youth on the line.

In that case, West Virginia’s Zach Frazier, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson and Duke’s Graham Barton — a left tackle in college who is expected to play center this week — are interesting possibilities. Add Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran and Wisconsin’s Tanor Bortolini, and there’s no shortage of options.

Top wide receivers rarely head to Mobile, and you won’t see any of the elite prospects such as Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabers or Washington’s Rome Odunze. But it’s not only a top-heavy wide receiver class; there’s also tremendous depth. And that’s where players such as South Carolina’s Xavier Legette, North Carolina’s Tez Walker, Arizona’s Jacob Cowing, Louisville’s Jamari Thrash and Western Kentucky’s Malachi Corley come into play.

The Bears, for the first time in a while, have the No. 1 receiver spot figured out with DJ Moore. With Darnell Mooney coming out of contract, they don’t have a No. 2 and could use some competition for Tyler Scott, who just completed his rookie season. Considering the wealth of options, the draft would seem to make more sense than a splurge in free agency, where proven options will be available.

Free safety looms as a question on defense, and Miami’s Kamren Kinchens will be in the spotlight as a potential late first-round pick. He made 11 interceptions the last two seasons for the Hurricanes, and while there are questions about his consistency, few draft options possess the kind of range he has.

Teams are always seeking talent for the defensive line, and Texas’ Byron Murphy is an undersized player (6-foot-1, 297 pounds) who could be a nice fit for the Bears as a disruptive interior player. He had 15 sacks in three seasons for the Longhorns with 8 1/2 this past season.

It might be more of a want than a need — and the Bears were pleased with the development of 2023 second-round pick Gervon Dexter — but there’s no such thing as too many quality defensive linemen.