This is a position that has been much maligned for the past few seasons; in fact, it seems that we haven’t had a pair of reliable safeties since the days of Mike Brown and Tony Parrish early in the decade. Last season, Danieal Manning was moved to SS, Chris Harris was brought back from the Panthers to play FS, and Major Wright was drafted in the 3rd round of the draft to spell both of those guys and develop into a starter. Manning and Harris played solidly, if not spectacularly. Wright showed flashes in the preseason, but was plagued by injuries. And when he was in there; he was rarely around the ball.
Going into this season, Harris will return to start at one safety spot. Manning turned down a contract extension offered by the Bears; he probably will not be back. reserves Craig Steltz and Josh Bullocks do not appear to be part of the team’s long-term plans. So that leaves Major Wright to start at the other safety spot, if by nothing else than the process of elimination. Veteran Free Agents such as OJ Atogwe and Bob Sanders have been passed over by the Bears, giving the indication that they feel good going into this season with Harris and Wright as the starters; or that the team has a guy targeted in the draft. So here are the prospects, as always, click on the name for a scouting video/report:
1st Round: None.
2nd Round: Rahim Moore (UCLA); Quinton Carter (Oklahoma).
3rd Round: DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson); Tyler Sash (Iowa); Chris Conte (California); Ahmad Black (Florida).
4th Round: Robert Sands (West Virginia); DaNorris Searcy (North Carolina); Chris Culliver (South Carolina);
5th Round: Jaiqwan Jarrett (Temple); Jeron Johnson (Boise State); Deunta Williams (North Carolina); Shiloh Keo (Idaho).
6th-7th Rounds: Jerrard Tarrant (Georgia Tech); Joe Lefeged (Rutgers); Mistral Raymond (South Florida); Jermale Hines (Ohio State); Nate Williams (Washington); Eric Hagg (Nebraska); Dom DiCicco (Pittsburgh).
I am not sure that the Bears spend a first or second day pick on this position; there is enough value at other positions of greater need that should be available then. But they should spend a third day pick on some depth and someone to help on special teams. Culliver, who should be available in the fourth round has a 40-time that really jumps out at you; he also has experience playing CB and FS in college—so you know he can matchup coverage-wise with slot WRs and TEs. Ahmad Black might slip into the third day because of a slow 40-time at his pro day; but he is a guy who could step right in and star on special teams and is a perfect match for a cover-2 safety, as far as his skill-set goes. If they Bears do not draft a safety at all; expect them to try to keep Steltz or Bullocks for depth.