Can Chicago find a safety in the draft?
We don’t talk about Lovie Smith’s Bears often when the NFL Draft is brought up.
That’s because Chicago doesn’t draft until the third round, the 75th overall selection. All the hype and buzz of Thursday night will have to wait for the Bears, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t get good value for their football team at No. 75, or even when they pick in the fourth round.
And that value should come in the form of a safety — a safety who can make plays on the football.
I understand what the Bears are doing under Lovie when we talk defense. They’re working front to back and believe their front seven will make enough plays to cover up for their average safety play. But it’s still a concern.
Think of Cover 2 football teams. They can rush the passer, have a middle linebacker who can run the vertical seam, a Will linebacker who can break on any underneath throw and two safeties who can get off the numbers and come downhill on any intermediate throw, such as the deep dig, or turn their hips and get over the top of the post route and the deep 7 route.
And the Bears might have part of that equation with the addition of DE Julius Peppers, DT Tommie Harris, WLB Lance Briggs and the athletic ability of a healthy Brian Urlacher at MLB.
But the safety spot is still in question.
Kevin Payne, Al Afalava, Danieal Manning, Craig Steltz and Josh Bullocks are the current group the Bears have to choose from. As special teams and situational players in certain personnel packages, these players have roles in Chicago, but they aren't playmakers. In fact, Chicago — as a team — had just one interception from the safety position in 2009.
Add to the equation that the Bears run their share of zone blitzes under Lovie, and the need for a playmaking safety in the middle of the field in these schemes should alert us even more that Chicago and GM Jerry Angelo should look to add a safety — a starting safety — with its first pick of the draft.
According to NFP scout Wes Bunting, there’s talent available at safety in the third and fourth rounds: Major Wright of Florida, Reshad Jones of Georgia, Darrell Stuckey of Kansas and Larry Asante of Nebraska. South Florida's Nate Allen is another name, but the Bears might have to make a draft day deal to move up some spots to take him off of the board.
Good talent. Not the same hype we see when we talk about first-round talents such as Tennessee’s Eric Berry or Texas’ Earl Thomas, but Lovie and Angelo have to work with the picks they have.
Make no mistake about it, this defense needs a rookie to come in and win a starting job at one of the safety positions. The Bears can find another starter out of their current safety crop in an August competition, but to win and play winning defense in the Cover 2 scheme, safeties have to make plays.
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