The 2021 NFL Draft is fast approaching. And it’s a big one for GM Ryan Pace, who enters the final year of the extension he signed in 2018. The same can be said for Head Coach Matt Nagy, the NFL Coach of the Year for his efforts in 2018, who aims to fix an offense that has been spinning its wheels since the start of 2019. Starting today, we’re looking at some of the best prospects at various positions leading up to the Draft in search of fits for the Bears’ needs.
Today: Defensive backs
Need: Pretty darn high, especially when you consider they’ve lost two starting cornerbacks this season and haven’t adequately replaced either.
Currently on the Roster (2020 PFF Grade):
CORNERBACKS: Jaylon Johnson (54.9), Duke Shelley (57.9), Kindle Vildor (47.1), Xavier Crawford (55.0), Desmond Trufant (38.4), Artie Burns (N/A), Tre Roberson (N/A), Michael Joseph (N/A), Teez Tabor (N/A)
SAFETIES: Eddie Jackson (59.5), Tashaun Gipson Sr. (72.0), DeAndre Houston-Carson (89.9), Marqui Christian (60.0), Deon Bush (57.9), Jordan Lucas (N/A)
BN’s Composite Ranking
Ranking prospects is difficult, in part, because no one publication has the same set of fundamentals or preferences. In an attempt to work through that noise, we’re using a composite ranking based on opinions from PFF, ESPN, The Draft Network, and Pro Football Network and adapting them to a points scale. The best of the top-10 prospects gets 10 points, the 10th ranked prospect gets 1, and prospects outside the top-10 get 0. From there, the prospects are ranked by total points.
Here’s how the defensive backs stack up (points in parenthesis):
1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (39)
2. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (35)
3. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (33)
4. Greg Newsome II, Northwestern (29)
5. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State (22)
6. Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky (14)
7. Eric Stokes, Georgia (11)
8. Tyson Campbell, Georgia (8)
9. Aaron Robinson, UCF (7)
10. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (7)
10. Elijah Molden, Washington (7)
Best of the rest: Tay Gowan (UCF), Paulson Adebo (Stanford), Trill Williams (Syracuse), Ambry Thomas (Michigan)
1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU (40)
2. Richie Grant, UCF (33)
3. Jamar Johnson, Indiana (27)
4. Javon Holland, Oregon (25)
5. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State (12)
6. Ar’Darius Washington, TCU (11)
7. Tyree Gillespie, Missouri (11)
8. Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech (6)
9. Richard LeCounte, Georgia (6)
10. Caden Sterns, Texas (6)
Best of the rest: Joshua Bledsoe (Missouri), James Wiggins (Cincinnati)
So long as the NFC North’s top contenders have multiple receiver threats, the Bears need to load up at cornerback. And while Chicago’s desires revolve around improving the offense, it shouldn’t do so while ignoring the defense. One particular area that shouldn’t go ignored is the secondary. I have nightmares about Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson lining up at several different spots and out-classing Bears defensive backs. Those nightmares could subside a bit if Chicago properly addresses secondary concerns.
Unfortunately, the needs are at boundary and slot corner after cutting Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine. With all due respect to Desmond Trufant, Kindle Vildor, and Duke Shelley, the more depth the Bears can get at the position, the better the group will be. This isn’t to say those players don’t have a role in Chicago. But pushing the envelope with a draft pick feels like a good decision to make at some point during on Draft weekend.
Most Likely to be Available When Bears Are on the Clock:
An early run at quarterback will push talented skill-position players down the board. And if that also happens along the offensive line, then top-tier cornerbacks could fall to where the Bears pick at No. 20. This is where it could get uneasy for fans who are desperate to immediately upgrade the offense. There exists a scenario in which an upper echelon cornerback prospect such as Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley or Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II is available at the same time when one of the best receivers can also be taken. If the Bears are truly committed to taking the best player available regardless of position, it could lead the team to take Farley or Newsome. And if things get really weird, perhaps Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) or Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) would be an option. Although, I don’t see either of those prospects falling too far.
Per Bear Report, the team has had virtual visits with cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida State), as well as safeties Trevon Moehrig (TCU), Jordyn Peters (Auburn), and Darren Hall (San Diego State).
If I Had to Pick One:
Caleb Farley’s pre-Draft arc reminds me a bit of Jaylon Johnson. At this time last year, many considered Johnson worthy of a first-round pick. But with lingering shoulder injuries being what they are, it scared teams off and pushed Johnson out of Round 1. Where other teams were afraid of taking a risk, the Bears saw a potential reward. And even though Johnson’s season ended with a shoulder injury, he enters the 2021 season as the Bears’ top corner.
Farley’s injury concerns are keeping him out of consideration from being this class’ CB1. But with the right team and system, Farley could star. And if he falls to pick No. 20 as the best player on the board, the Bears should have no qualms about phoning in the pick if it is Farley. But only if the medicals clear. Otherwise, it’s OK to look elsewhere later in the Draft. Perhaps a physical slot corner such as Asante Samuel Jr. is an ideal fit as a Day 2 candidate.