Road to the Draft…Part Nine – Cornerbacks
One of the primary appeals for teams running the Cover-2 scheme is that it lessens the need for true, man-to-man, “shutdown” cornerbacks. In Tampa, they got by with Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly—good players, but they were never reminding anyone of Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey. Corners instead have to be able to tackle well, read quarterbacks, and force turnovers.
Virtually unnoticed, Charles Tillman has ably manned one of the corner spots for the Bears for the better part of a decade. He had one of his best seasons in 2010, and stayed healthy for the first time in a few years. However, he is getting older, slower, and more injury prone, and the need is here to find a capable successor. At the other corner, Zack Bowman lasted all of about 5 quarters as a starter in 2010. Maybe it was complacency, maybe an undisclosed injury—but he made enough bad plays for one season in the first game versus the Lions. Tim Jennings, picked up off of the Colts’ scrap heap, started the remainder of the season in Bowman’s spot, and was not terrible—but he is very small and is more suited to being a backup than a true starter in the NFL. DJ Moore had a good season in his first as nickleback; but again, his size may limit him from being anything more than that. Josh Moore was drafted in the fourth round in 2010, and was essentially redshirted while looking to improve on the World Record for Fewest Bench Presses at the NFL Combine. Other than Defensive Tackle and Offensive Line, this is probably the biggest position of need for the Bears in the upcoming draft. Here are the guys available:
1st Round: Patrick Peterson (LSU); Prince Amukamara (Nebraska); Jimmy Smith (Colorado); Brandon Harris (Miami); Aaron Williams (Texas).
2nd Round: Ras-I Dowling (Virginia); Davon House (New Mexico State); Chimdi Chekwa (Ohio State); Curtis Brown (Texas); Brandon Burton (Utah).
3rd Round: Shareece Wright (USC); Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson); Johnny Patrick (Louisville); Jalil Brown (Colorado).
4th Round: Curtis Marsh (Utah State); Brandon Hogan (West Virginia); Buster Skrine (Chattanooga); Rashad Carmichael (Virgina Tech).
5th Round: Cortez Allen (Citadel); Anthony Gaitor (FIU); Chykie Brown (Texas).
6th-7th Rounds: Chris L. Rucker (Michigan State): Ryan Jones (NW Missouri State); DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami); Kendric Burney (North Carolina).
The good thing about this draft is that it is loaded with bigger, physical, zone-type cornerbacks. It is highly doubtful that Peterson, Amukamara, or Jimmy Smith will still be on the board at #29 for the Bears. However, second-rounders like Dowling and House are big, fast, and physical—and could no doubt step in and play right away. Getting a guy that can step in and play right away could open the door for Charles Tillman to make a move to Free Safety—not only extending Tillman’s career—but teaming him with Chris Harris could give us the most impressive safety combos we have had here in some years. It is more likely that the Bears will address needs on both lines in the early rounds, and try to pick up one or two late-round prospects. Rucker and Burney had off-field issues while in school; but both had 1st-round grades as recently as 2009. Van Dyke was not a star at Miami; but he is taller and ran a sub-4.3 40 at the combine.
Fact is, the presence of Stafford/Megatron/Pettigrew in Detroit; and Rodgers/Jennings/Driver/Nelson/Finley in Green Bay dictates our need for cornerback depth.