A safety at No. 3? Historically it's a reach, but maybe not for Bears in 2017

A safety at No. 3? Historically it's a reach, but maybe not for Bears in 2017

Since 1991, only eight safeties have been among the first 10 players selected in the NFL Draft. Of those, only three have been top five picks.

With the Bears having across-the-board needs, grabbing a safety with the No. 3 pick in three months may seem like a stretch. But ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Jacksonville Jaguars nabbing LSU safety Jamal Adams with the fourth overall pick, and mentioned on Thursday that the Bears could be in the mix for him as well. If Ryan Pace & Co. are looking for the best available player, Adams could wind up being that guy. 

Adams' versatility, notably, would answer a question Pace will have to pose when looking at a safety: Would he prefer a safety who can be a rangy cover guy, or does he want a physical, downhill player who can line up closer to the box? 

"He can do anything you want," Kiper said. "He can cover on the back end as a center fielder, he can come up in the box, he tackles well, he works hard. He's going to be a premier player."

The 6-foot-1, 213 pound Adams totaled 76 tackles his junior year at LSU, with 7 1/2 tackles for a loss, one interception, one sack, one forced fumble and four pass break-ups. Kiper has him ranked sixth on his big board, though with the same grade as the third-best player on it. Scouts Inc rates Adams as the fourth-best player in the 2017 draft class. 

As things stand in January, Kiper has the Bears selecting Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen at No. 3. A defensive lineman would be a far more conventional pick at No. 3, where a franchise-altering talent can be plucked (the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers took defensive end Joey Bosa there in 2016). 

[MORE: A list of players drafted by those who coached them in the Senior Bowl]

The last safety taken in the top five was Eric Berry, who the Kansas City Chiefs took fifth overall in 2010. Since 1991, only one safety has gone higher than that — Eric Turner, who was the No. 2 pick in the 1991 draft by the Cleveland Browns. The success rate of top 10 safeties in the last 25 years is high, too. 

Turner led the NFL in interceptions with nine in 1994 and made two Pro Bowls, though his career was tragically cut short when he died of stomach cancer in 2000. Berry is widely regarded as one of the best safeties in the NFL and is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All Pro. 

Roy Williams (2002 No. 8, Dallas) was a five-time Pro Bowler for the Cowboys; Sean Taylor (2004 No. 5, Washington) was a two-time Pro Bowler who died far too young at the age of 24 in 2007; Donte Whitner (2006 No. 8, Buffalo) made three Pro Bowls, though none with the Bills; and LaRon Landry (2007 No. 6, Washington) reached the 2012 Pro Bowl but was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in 2015 for a third violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug testing. 

Stanley Richard (1991 No. 9, San Diego) and Michael Huff (2006 No. 7, Oakland) are the only players among those eight top-10 safeties who didn't go on to reach a Pro Bowl.

Those eight players, though, only represent 3 percent of top 10 picks since 1991. Conversely, 20 percent of the top 10 picks in the last 25 years have been defensive linemen. 

Or, to put it another way, only 2 percent of top five picks since 1991 have been safeties. That would signal that, most years, taking a safety at a pick as high as the Bears have is a reach. 

Still, Kiper doesn't necessarily see Adams like that at No. 3. But given the recent history of success with highly-picked safeties, perhaps the Bears will wind up considering him with such an critical selection. 

"Chicago certainly could use a player with his capabilities," Kiper said. "He's going to go very high. … Anywhere in the top five, he could go."

Pro Football Focus ranks Bears' O-line fourth in fewest pressures allowed


Pro Football Focus ranks Bears' O-line fourth in fewest pressures allowed

On Saturday, Pro Football Focus released their fewest pressures allowed offensive lines through two weeks of NFL action.

According to the list, the Bears offensive line has given up the fourth-fewest QB pressures (10) through week 2. 

The statistic shows off the improvement of the young Bears O-line, one that only recently came into focus. Franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky should be able to continue his upwards trajectory this season if that protection persists.

Trubisky has shown off an impressive ability to run, but it won't be needed nearly as much if he gets better at working through his progressions down the field. He has been the recipient of a clean pocket often this season, a situation in which he thrived in last year. 

The Bears would appear to have a relatively easy win on their schedule against the Cardinals on Sunday, but if they can continue to keep pressure off the QB, there is no team that will be able to match their dominance at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball.

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals


Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

1. Explosive passing plays. The Seahawks didn’t respect Mitch Trubisky’s ability to do this on Monday night, leading to the dollar store version of the Legion of Boom stacking the box and successful selling out to stop Jordan Howard. Perhaps if Trubisky connected with Allen Robinson on an early deep ball that was picked off, or to a wide-open Gabriel over the middle, Seattle would’ve had to back off from frequently dropping safety Bradley McDougald into the box. 

The point being: The best chance the Bears’ offense has of success, even against a defense that’s allowing a touch over six yards per play, is for Trubisky to link up with a receiver for a big-chunk play. It could be on a downfield throw, or maybe a catch-and-run to Gabriel or Tarik Cohen. Either way, Trubisky and this offense needs to quickly establish that they can make big-chunk plays through the air. Consistency, otherwise, may be hard to come by on Sunday. 

“Just (Matt) Nagy, he’s a great mind and just scripting those things,” Gabriel said. “When the deep ball is there, I’m pretty sure this week we’re going to take it. But at the same time the deep ball, it opens up a lot of things.” 

2. Leonard Floyd winning his one-on-one matchup with left tackle D.J. Humphries. A couple of factors in favor of Floyd: First, he’s no longer wearing a club on his right hand, and his smaller brace allows him use of his fingers. Second, Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries has allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps this year, according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it’d be unfair to make any conclusions about Floyd’s season based on two relatively quiet, club-inhibited games. Sunday will be a good opportunity for Floyd to get after Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford, just as he did last year for two sacks (one of which was a safety) when a banged-up Bradford came to Chicago with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5. 

3. Finish in the fourth quarter. The Bears’ defense has dominated for six of the eight quarters it's played this year, but of the 41 points it’s allowed, 35 have come in the final 15 minutes. Granted, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are two of the more clutch late-game quarterbacks in the NFL, while Bradford has been horrendous this year (maybe the fourth quarter quarterback will be rookie Josh Rosen, for all we know). Either way, this could mean a few things: Kyle Fuller making a play on a would-be touchdown — this after getting beat by perfect throws for scores against the Packers and Seahawks — or, like last week, a couple of players coming up with game-sealing interceptions or forced fumbles. 

Prediction: Bears 20, Cardinals 9. The Cardinals’ defense might be better than its early-season numbers suggest, but Arizona’s offense will struggle to move the ball with any consistency against the Bears’ defense. We’ll say the Bears keep everything in front of them and allow only three field goals (hey, Arizona has to kick one at *some* point this year, right?) while Mitch Trubisky leads a pair of touchdown and field goal drives each to pace a comfortable victory.