CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2016 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need, and what draft day and after could have in store.
Bears pre-draft situation
When the Bears secured veteran safety Antrel Rolle early last offseason, then struck gold with Adrian Amos as their fifth-round draft choice, the turbulence that has plagued the Bears at safety appeared to be quieting. But then Rolle, who had missed just one game in nine NFL seasons, was hobbled by ankle and knee injuries that left him inactive for nine games.
The injuries had the Bears scrambling for alternatives, starting Harold Jones-Quartey in four games and Chris Prosinski in five, with decidedly mixed results. The Bears are set with Amos at one safety spot, and with Jones-Quartey and Prosinski as depth, but Rolle at age 33 (34 in December) is nearing a fork in his road, although the hope is he can get in touch with his inner Charles Woodson.
“It was a difficult [post-season] evaluation on him because of the [knee] injury,” GM Ryan Pace said at last month’s NFL owners meetings. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the evaluation on him with him being injury but we were satisfied.”
How satisfied is a significant question. Rolle is due $2.7 million in 2016, not a cap-breaker, and the Bears did not cut ties early in free agency as teams sometimes do out of respect for veterans no longer in the plan. But the Bears will not start training camp or the regular season without added insurance, particularly at a position very much involved on special teams.
Bears draft priority: Low/moderate
With added picks in rounds four and six, the Bears will begin the draft with excellent options in the range where bargains at safety can be had (see: Amos). The Bears have a need in the position area, just not at the level of some others. The draft class is adequate, meaning not a lot of, if any, first-rounders, leaving possibilities in the range the Bears may be shopping.
If there’s a problem it is in that something in the water at Halas Hall has skewed evaluations of safety prospects. Over the past 15 years or so, some have come in third rounds (Brandon Hardin, Chris Conte, Major Wright), some have come in fourths (Brock Vereen, Craig Steltz, Todd Johnson), some have come in fifths (Amos, Kevin Payne, Bobby Gray), some have come in sixths (Al Afalava, Chris Harris).
But very few from the seemingly endless list have amounted to enough beyond the occasional Amos or Conte or Harris, usually for a year or two. The Bears project more than that for Amos, and they hope for whomever else they add to that list this draft.
Consensus is that the safety class is less than stellar “but there’s more depth in this class than people are preaching,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who added that as many as 10 safeties could be selected in the draft’s first three rounds.
Keep an eye on ...
Vonn Bell, Ohio State: Solid pass defender rather than just a box player. Had nine interceptions, eight over last two years, plus 15 pass breakups. Could fit at CB with coverage skills.
Karl Joseph, West Virginia: Among best cover safeties in the class before tearing his ACL mid-2015. Four-year starter who went against Kevin White in practice; possible bargain late. “Joseph is the most complete safety in the draft,” McShay said.
Jayron Kearse, Clemson: Had seven interceptions in three seasons, with strong a strong 2014 season and size (213 pounds) to be a Kam Chancellor type.
Elijah Shumate, Notre Dame: Physical tackler (136 over last two seasons) with size (6-0, 210). Not a top cover safety but may be ideal fit as nickel LB.