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
Tracy Porter would merit heavy consideration as Bears defensive MVP for 2015, apparent by the priority the organization placed on re-signing the veteran cornerback right at the outset of free agency. The three-year contract secured one starter, after he recovered from missing much of training camp and preseason with injuries, and Porter led the Bears with 22 pass breakups, high-pointed with five and an interception in the Thanksgiving night win at Green Bay.
Opposite Porter, Kyle Fuller has established himself with two seasons of 16 games, including 30 straight starts. Fuller struggled early last season, was admonished by veteran safety Antrel Rolle for his study and preparation habits, and finished the season strong, albeit with just two interceptions on the season.
The upshot is Fuller’s arrow pointing continually up heading into his third season, with a growing professionalism in the company of Porter and Rolle.
“[Fuller is] getting better and better,” GM Ryan Pace said during last month’s NFL owners meetings. “When we talk about Tracy, I think Tracy had a positive influence on Kyle. I feel like Kyle’s a guy that got more comfortable in the defense and got more confidence, so we feel like he’s still an ascending player who’ll be better in year two in this defense.”
Bryce Callahan was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted free agent, coming off the practice squad in mid-season to start three games as a third corner. Demontre Hurst has teased the lineup, starting at Tampa Bay, but hasn’t secured a regular role in his opportunities.
The Bears re-signed Sherrick McManis and gave him a shot at the third corner job, which he eventually lost to Callahan. Alan Ball was a bust after signing a one-year deal worth $3 million, opening the season as a starter but losing that job after three weeks and playing just 24 percent of the defensive snaps.
Bears draft priority: Moderate/high
There are 15 undrafted free agents in the Hall of Fame. A handful of those are cornerbacks (Willie Brown, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Willie Wood among them). The hero of New England’s Super Bowl win over Seattle was one – Malcolm Butler. And Denver’s Chris Harris Jr. never got a “we’re taking you” call during the 2011 draft but has been to two Pro Bowls
But relying on found-money prospects like Callahan, Butler or Harris is the exception rather than the rule, and counting on leftovers for top cover backs in a league tilted increasingly toward passing is at the very least dangerous.
Add to that the fact that Porter will be 30 on opening day and has only once in eight NFL seasons played all 16 games (2013, Oakland). He is on the post-peak side of his prime but playing with a savvy and style that could give him several more very productive years (the Bears are counting on it, based doing that three-year contract).
The Bears will have several top options available at No. 11 and multiple projects have them going for a cornerback that could challenge Fuller or Porter, a situation that would give the Bears three solid corners, more or less the NFL minimum given the volume of nickel snaps.
Keep an eye on ...
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: Whether he’s the next Deion Sanders out of FSU remains to be seen but Ramsey has been projected anywhere from No. 3 overall to 10th. Prototype big (6-1, 200) corner but just 3 INT’s in three years.
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida: First-round lock who also has been linked to Bears at No. 11. Consistent production through three seasons starting in elite SEC.
William Jackson III, Houston: Height (6+) and eye-popping speed (4.37 sec./40) may take him off the board before Bears’ turn in the second round.
Eli Apple, Ohio State: Another tall (6+) DB with mass (200) and production in two seasons starting. Expected to go in the first round after running 4.40.