Bears

Prince Amukamara not ready to crown Bears wideouts yet, but 'both have great potential'

Prince Amukamara not ready to crown Bears wideouts yet, but 'both have great potential'

Prince Amukamara returned to Bears practice Thursday after attending to his wife's emergency surgery the day before. For the most part throughout his first Bears camp, he'll line up opposite either Cameron Meredith or Kevin White. The same goes for the other projected starting cornerback, Marcus Cooper, when he's been testing a hamstring he's trying to get back to full strength.

Cooper had his practice time opposite the great Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona last season, while Amukamara had the same in his final two years with the Giants opposite Odell Beckham, Jr. before spending last season in Jacksonville.

I approached both on their impressions so far about Meredith and White, not because they compare, because neither is close yet to those other two star wideouts. It was more to envision how high the bar for the Bears tandem might be, because Fitzgerald and OBJ have certainly set a standard.

Cooper is massive for a corner, 6-foot-2, and signed a three-year deal based on Ryan Pace's belief he has a high ceiling of his own after four interceptions a year ago.

He expressed after Thursday's indoor walkthrough in Bourbonnais that the potential is high for both based on the physical tools Meredith and White possess. But both are still very young in the NFL maturation process. Amukamara agreed.

"Both have great potential. I feel like, so far, they're our number-one and two guys. Don't ask me which is which. Both are different guys," Amukamara said.

"I think Kevin for sure is more of a deep-ball, big-play receiver, and Cam is very elusive for how big he is. He can definitely play in the slot and run great routes. I think they've been getting a great test going up against us at practice, but looking towards that first exhibition, the Broncos have an elite tandem."

Chris Harris, Jr. and Aqib Talib this week were graded as the best cornerbacks in "Madden 18," which may be starting to be more significant that All-Pro or Pro Bowl selections.

So does a guy like Amukamara "help" young receivers? Hey, it's been a running narrative the past couple of days: Bears receivers and their position coach.

"Mmmm, not willingly," Amukamara said with both a slight grin and slightly downward eyebrows. "But if they ask, or if I make a play, I'll say, `Hey, this is what I play here.' Or I'll tell them, like, `This is what Odell does,' and stuff like that, just cuz I know Odell is well-respected around the league and I played with him. Like, `Odell probably would've done this.' Or how he would've run his route."

Of course, these could very well be just two fresh faces playing the good teammate, pumping the kids' tires.  It's sometimes a long way between potential and proof. It's certainly there for an odd couple - one a seventh overall draft pick in 2015, the other completely undrafted that same year. White and Meredith are in the process of earning and learning. Let's see them get to September 10th, and find out if they're "1-2" at the starting gate.

Here's where the Bears are selecting in the 2018 NFL Draft, from No. 8 to 224

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USA TODAY

Here's where the Bears are selecting in the 2018 NFL Draft, from No. 8 to 224

Ryan Pace and the Bears enter the 2018 NFL Draft with seven selections. And while it's unlikely they keep all eight picks exactly where they are, here's where those picks stand, from No. 8 to 224.

First round: 8th pick, 8th overall

Why the Bears should take Nelson | Why the Bears should take Edmunds

Second round: 7th pick, 39th overall

Fourth round: 5th pick, 105th overall

Fourth round: 15th pick, 115th overall (via ARZ)

Last year the Bears traded the Nos. 36 and 211 picks to the Cardinals in exchange for Nos. 45, 119, 197 and a fourth round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Fifth round: 8th pick, 145th overall

Sixth round: 7th pick, 181st overall

Seventh round: 6th pick, 224th overall

Best available or biggest need? Why the Bears should be careful picking at No. 8

Best available or biggest need? Why the Bears should be careful picking at No. 8

Picking at No. 8 can be great, but the Bears best choose carefully. David Terrell was their choice the last time they were drafting here.

The eighth overall selection has produced some solid players in the NFL. That's the good news. The bad news is the NFL Draft can make the most prepared and polished general managers look foolish almost every year.

Here's a few that got away:

In 2010, the Raiders selected Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain eighth overall. Nick Saban called him one of the best players he's ever coached. He turned out to be a bust with a long list of suspensions, arrests and disappointments for the Raiders, Ravens and Cowboys. It happens, but what makes it worse is when you look back at what the Raiders passed on to draft him.

Jason Pierre-Paul, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Patrick Robinson all went later in the first round. Rob Gronkowski fell to the second round. The Steelers finally picked star receiver Antonio Brown in the sixth round. Twenty-one receivers were picked in that draft before Brown.

In 2011, the Titans owned No. 8 overall. Five years after choosing Vince Young at No. 3, the Titans went with a "need" instead of the "best player on the board." Quarterback Jake Locker was their guy and he retired four years later after a short career filled with injuries.

Who could they have drafted? Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt was grabbed three picks after Locker by the division rival Texans. Ouch.

2012 was the draft the Dolphins used No. 8 to take quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was the next pick.

Even when the No. 8 pick turns into a solid choice there can be "what-ifs" in hindsight. The Rams are probably still happy with wide receiver Tavon Austin. He's good, but DeAndre Hopkins was around until the 27th overall pick. The Steelers found LeVeon Bell in the second round with the 48th overall. The Bears went with Kyle Long at No. 20 that year. 

I'm not an NFL expert. I didn't go to the combine. I don't have scouting reports. I'll simply give this advice. You fill your biggest needs as a franchise by drafting the best players. Putting too much weight on "need" can leave you with regrets.