Bears

Chris Conte draft capsule

Chris Conte draft capsule

Chris Conte, Safety
Height: 6-2 Weight: 197 College: California

What they say about Conte

CBSSports.com

Overview
Having spent the first three seasons of his career at California as a reserve cornerback, Conte's emergence last season as a first-team All Pac-10 free safety surprised many scouts. So too, did his physical, reliable play despite the relative in-experience. Conte has prototypical size and good athleticism overall for the position and proved to be a very reliable open-field tackler as Cal's last line of defense. Pessimists will argue that he's only been successful one season. Optimists will point out that it was his first year at the new position and that his blend of size and athleticism should translate into a more productive NFL career than the one he had in college. In a weak year for safeties, Conte's upside could ultimately earn him a top 100 grade.Analysis
Positives: A former cornerback with good balance, agility and speed for coverage. Improving instincts for the position, showing better awareness as he gained more experience. Reads the quarterback's eyes and has the range to get to the sideline. Long arms and good timing to break up the pass. Reliable open-field tackler. Breaks down in space and can make the one-on-one stop against the smaller, quicker athletes. Takes good angles in pursuit. Negatives: Developing instincts. Will take a false step toward the line of scrimmage when he reads run and can be caught out of position on play-action. Adequate ball skills. Has only two interceptions over his career. Has only one season as a starter and played behind an aggressive pass-rush.
Sideline ScoutingPositives: Has a very good frame, above-average height and good bulk... Has a strong upper-body, put up 18 bench reps at the combine... Had a very good senior season, recorded 72 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles as a starter... Has solid range when in a two-deep look, is adequate with deep-half responsibilities... Solid leaping ability, can hold his own in jump-ball situations... Is an adequate wrap-up tackler, not a big hitter, but does well breaking down in space... Has good agility and change-of-direction ability for his size.

Negatives: Did not get a lot of experience while at Cal, only started senior year and still looks a little raw... Instincts need some work, seem to be below-average at this point... Is a better run-stopper than coverage safety, not a good man coverage defender... Has somewhat stiff hips, overall body control is lacking... Is not a playmaker or ball-hawking safety, may be a better fit at strong safety in the NFL... Gets a little too high, backpedal is a bit sloppy. National Football PostA tall, upright defensive back who possesses a good-sized frame and above-average length and power for the position. Displays decent closing range on the ball carrier and does a nice job taking proper angles toward the football and is a solid wrap-up guy on contact. Isn't overly physical and doesn't generate a ton of force, but has the ability to get his man to the ground. Possesses above-average instincts when asked to read his runpass keys, locate the football and routinely is able to get early jumps on the play. Displays some natural coordination when asked to slip blocks inside the box. However, is a leggy defender who struggles to maintain balance and quickly get back up to speed.

Doesn't do a great job sitting into his stance in his back-pedal. Has a tendency to get bent over at the waist or will just allow himself to get too upright down the field. Struggles to cleanly break down and change directions quickly out of his breaks. Allows himself to get either too upright or leggy when asked to change directions and doesn't have the ability to generate a ton of burst for himself when closing on the football. Lacks a second gear to allow him to make up for a false step and doesn't have the closing range to routinely make plays on the football.

Impression: A nice-sized defender with some good instincts, but will struggle in the deep half and looks more like a special teams type guy and reserve DB.
Pro Football Weekly

Notes: Last name is pronounced CON-tee. Safety-receiver out of Los Angeles but began as a cornerback at Cal. Played in all 13 games in 2007, starting three, and recorded 32 tackles, zero pass breakups and zero interceptions with a tackle for loss. Played in 12 games in 08 (one start) and tallied 28-7-1 with a tackle for loss. Broke his thumb against Stanford and did not play against Washington. Played in all 13 games (one start) and managed 25-1-0. Transitioned to strong safety in 10 and produced 72-3-1 with two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a blocked kick in 12 starts. Was a 21-year-old senior.Positives: Good body length to match up with receivers. Runs well in a straight line. Plays with a sense of urgency and is quick to support closes fast. Takes good angles in pursuit. Aggressive, dependable wrap tackler plays full speed ahead. Has some upside and a frame to carry more weight.Negatives: Short arms. Builds up speed and is not sudden. Is leggy, pedals tall and sticks some when changing direction. Average flexibility and lateral agility. Range is just average and is too often a step late getting over the top. Still developing positional instincts is not anticipatory and does not show an understanding of route combinations. Not a punisher.Summary: Lacks starter-caliber burst and flexibility and has man-coverage limitations but tackles well and is athletic enough to make it as a fourth safety and core special-teams player.NFL Projection: Priority free agent.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.