Bears

Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Cornerback

Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Cornerback

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 2:24 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Seventh in a series

The defense had three players with four or more interceptions last season, the first time for that in a quarter-century and the only secondary with that distinction in 2010. The interception total jumped from 10 in 2009 to 16, and the Bears interception percentage ranked eighth in the NFL.

But passing yards per game allowed was 20th and there are issues looming in a key area of the Lovie Smith defensive scheme.
The Bears

The investment of a third-round pick last draft in Major Wright should take care of one safety spot for some years, and Chris Harris veteran presence was a positive at age 29. But Danieal Manning is intent on testing free agency after his best season and Craig Steltz was disappointing after having his best offseason, so starter-grade depth is missing at safety.

The bigger concern is cornerback, where Charles Tillman turns 30 after a high-impact career that saw him play 16 games for the first time since his rookie year. Zackary Bowman was given Tillmans LCB job but promptly lost it to Tim Jennings early in the year. Joshua Moore is a wild-card, a fifth-rounder last season who barely played but is considered to have real upside.

D.J. Moore justified Lovie Smiths belief in him and secured the nickel-back spot. But the falloff of Nathan Vasher over recent seasons set the defensive plan back substantially and the quest is on for a starting corner in an NFC North with Calvin Johnson in Detroit and a cluster of receiving talent in Green Bay.

Need: The Bears addressed cornerback with picks in a third round (Roosevelt Williams, 2002), second round (Tillman, 2003) and fourth round (Vasher, 2004). Since then only Moore (fourth round, 2009) came sooner than the fifth round. That is likely to change this year and could be a surprise first-round pick depending on the fall of the selections.

The 2011 draft

Two cornerbacks are expected to go inside the first 15 picks and then there are few sure things for various reasons. Chances of landing an immediate starter lower than the first 40 picks are doubtful but different systems require different player-types and at least one or two will be prime fits for the Bears.

Even Patrick Peterson out of LSU, the consensus top defensive back in the draft, comes with fit questions. Hes most comfortable in press-man, said NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock. If you try to play him in off-man hes going to struggle a little bit.

Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki projects Prince Amukamara from Nebraska going No. 11 to the Houston Texans and new coordinator Wade Phillips. Nawrocki also shows Colorados Jimmy Smith coming off the board No. 13 to the Detroit Lions, who, like the Bears, have some matchup problems to overcome in the NFC North.
The Best Bets:

(CSNChicago.com is taking Peterson and Prince Amukamara from Nebraska off the board far ahead of the Bears turn at No. 29.)
1. Aaron Williams, Texas Some mock drafts have the Bears taking Williams after the OLDL value is gone ahead of them. Williams has started at three DB spots and brings Tillman-like size (5-11, 204) to the CB spot.

2. Jimmy Smith, Colorado Some concerns about consistency but that applies to many, many collegians. Had some off-field issues but at 6-2, he is the physical prototype of the big corner.

3. Brandon Harris, Miami Size is a question after Harris measured sub-5-10 but has run 4.4 at 191 pounds and can play both cornerback and safety.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

NFL personnel compare Roquan Smith to Lance Briggs with speed

NFL personnel compare Roquan Smith to Lance Briggs with speed

Is Roquan Smith going to be the next great Chicago Bears linebacker?

Okay, draft night is probably too early to place such a hefty label on the No. 8 overall pick. Still, Smith will join a franchise with a rich history at the linebacker position.

From Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs more recently, the Bears have seemingly always featured other-wordly talent at linebacker. Smith's career is just beginning, but the comparisons are inevitable.

Laurence Holmes and Alex Brown discussed Smith's potential on NBC Sports Chicago Thursday.

"I had two NFL people with a lot of front office experience make this comp on Roquan, that he is Lance Briggs with 4.5 speed," Holmes said.

Brown took the conversation a step further, adding a player as talented as Briggs with Smith's speed is a Hall of Famer.

"Imagine that. We all know Lance Briggs without 4.5 speed and he was a monster, he said. "Lance Briggs with 4.5 speed is a Hall of Famer, in my opinion."

Ironically, Smith got the discussion going himself during a conference call after the draft on Thursday night.

"It’s a great franchise. A lot of rich tradition, especially on defense," Smith said. "From way back with Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, all of those types of guys. It’s insane and I’m excited.

Former NFL quarterback and current Bleacher Report analyst Chris Simms compared Smith to seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis. 

"He’s a little Patrick Willis-ish," Simms said. "This guy is a special guy, he really he is, he is one of the safest picks in the draft, there is no doubt about that.

“He doesn’t care, he’s going to knock your head off if you’re there to be had."

 

Roquan Smith 'beyond excited’ to be drafted by the Bears

Roquan Smith 'beyond excited’ to be drafted by the Bears

Roquan Smith was still giddy over being drafted by the Bears when he dialed into a teleconference with the media at Halas Hall Thursday night. 

“I’m beyond excited, I can’t put it into words how excited I am about this opportunity to be a Chicago Bear,” Smith said. “It’s insane and I’m ready to give the city of Chicago everything I have in me.”

Smith already spoke like a future team leader — a role he ably filled as a junior during Georgia’s run to the College Football Playoff title game — and like a player who can make the rest of the Bears’ defense better. 

“What they can expect from me when I arrive is a relentless guy on the field and off the field,” Smith said, “(and) going about my business the right way and going to do whatever it takes to put the Bears in the best possible situation every time I step on to the field.”

Smith said he enjoyed his pre-draft visit to Halas Hall (he even mentioned the ongoing renovations to the facility) and is looking forward to playing with Leonard Floyd again, his teammate at Georgia in 2015. And for a guy who’s spent his entire life in Georgia, he already knows plenty about the Bears’ historic success at his position. 

“It’s a great franchise,” Smith said. “It has a lot of rich tradition especially on defense from way back with Dick Butkus and then you have Mike Singletary, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, all those type guys, so it’s insane and I’m excited.”