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.
On first glance, most would not consider this a need position for the Bears, with the success of signing Julius Peppers last year, and the success of first-year, full-time starter Israel Idonije last year. However, there are some reasons to think the Bears would draft a defensive end early in this draft. Firstly, the success of the cover-2 scheme the Bears run is predicated on being able to get after the QB. From Simeon Rice to Leonard Little to Dwight Freeney, a DE that can get around the edge is paramount. Secondly, with a gaping hole at the 3-technique tackle left by Tommie Harris’ departure, coupled with Israel Idonije and Henry Melton’s experience at the DT position, it makes sense that if a better DE prospect is available than at DT, you draft the DE and move Idonije and/or Melton back inside. Thirdly, while Peppers and Idonije played well last year, they are both on the other side of thirty, and we did not get to see enough of Corey Wootton to know if he is a long-term answer. So here are the prospects, as ranked by CBS draft Scout—remember, we only list the DEs who fit our scheme—no 5-technique DEs—and as always, click on the player’s name to link to a full scouting report:
I think a) the Bears need to come out of the first two rounds with an immediate-starting, impact player at either DT or DE. Again, if they go with an edge rusher, expect Idonije and/or Melton to slide back inside to tackle. If the Bears go with a DT in the early part of the draft, I still expect them to add a project/potential sleeper in rounds 5-7. A couple of those guys I really like are Greg Romeus and Cliff Mathews. Romeus was rated as first-round talent in 2009; but is currently hurt (Back surgery). He is definitely worth taking a 5th or 6th-round flyer on, seeing as how you could pretty much redshirt him this season, with Peppers and Idonije entrenched at either DE spot. Mathews doesn’t have the ideal measurables; but was a 4-year starter at South Carolina, team captain, and had his biggest games this year against teams like Florida and Auburn—the teams with the NFL-type talent.