Why Bears Must Think Cornerback in Round 2
History, need and the basic laws of supply and demand are pointing toward the Bears using one of their two second-round draft picks on a starting cornerback.
Whether they trade down with the other pick for extra picks or keep it to pick a player of need at wide receiver, guard or safety doesn't matter. One use of the two second-round picks has to be a cornerback.
Since becoming Chicago Bears general manager in 2015, Ryan Pace has drafted three cornerbacks.
In 2016 he selected Deiondre' Hall in the fourth round and last year took Kansas State's Duke Shelley in Round 6 and Valdosta State's Stephen Denmark in Round 7.
Denmark might actually be a safety, but he has been buried on the practice squad. Hall played in 10 games but never started, got suspended for a substance policy violation and was traded away in 2018 to Philadelphia for a seventh-round draft pick. Shelley is a player who is probably too short to play outside at cornerback but could man a slot cornerback spot in the distant future.
The Bears have been dependent on free agency to supply starting outside cornerbacks or slot cornerbacks since Phil Emery drafted Kyle Fuller in Round 1 of the 2014 draft.
In the NFL, six years is a long time to pass without drafting a potential starting cornerback, one of the most important positions on the team. You don't get starting cornerbacks in the sixth and seventh rounds, and it's difficult but not impossible to find them in Round 4, like when they took Hall.
Here are the chief reasons the Bears need to be looking at a cornerback with their second-round pick.
It's Cost Efficient
Wide receiver is a relatively easy position for teams to find top talent even late in the draft or in free agency. The player learns the route trees, runs the routes and looks for the ball.
Cornerback requires a unique set of skills. They have to run backwards, turn and stay with fast receivers all while knowing how to use their hands to avoid pass interference calls. It requires more athletic ability.
The skill level requires more cash.
As of Monday 26 cornerbacks had signed free agent contracts to date in which the contract terms have been reported and they averaged $12 million total cash per deal.
The Bears also need a safety and wide receiver.
There have been 22 safeties signed with reported cash figures at an average contract of $5.3 million
Toss in guard because the Bears need one of those. The figures are sketchy here because many of the lower-cost free agent deals haven't been reported yet or are unsigned, but the top 13 guard contracts signed so far have gone for $17.5 million. The top 13 cornerback contract contracts signed averaged $22 million.
Pro Football Focus constantly says pass coverage is more important than pass rush. But you need both to have a defense, not one or the other. However, the coverage aspect is critical, and it's cornerback and not safety where top money has to be spent for top talent with top draft picks.
Taking cornerbacks later provides greatly diminished athleticism and skill level.
Draft picks cost very little compared with free agents, so taking the cornerback early in lieu of signing free agents makes so much sense.
The Draft Pool
This year's draft has so many talented wide receivers in it and as a result there will be a glut of them taken in Round 1.
It's been speculated in many mock drafts seven or eight receivers could go in Round 1. There have been projections of four or five quarterbacks going in Round 1, as well.
As a result, some position groups will get pushed down. So talent high-level talent will be available in Round 2 at other positions. One of those positions is cornerback.
ESPN's Todd McShay ranks only two cornerbacks among the top 32 and then four in the next group of 32 players. If that's close to accurate, the Bears could be looking at the fourth- or fifth-ranked cornerback in the draft in Round 2, and someone with better skill level than the position normally holds just because of the quarterbacks and receivers being taken in Round 1.
They need to take advantage of a rare opportunity. for what might be real late first-round talent in a need position.
At least at guard, the Bears covered the position with a free agent who had four years of full-time experience. Sure Germain Ifedi was practically run out of Seattle after committing 13 penalties, but at least he was there starting four years.
At wide receiver, the Bears have a need for a deep threat. Yet, they do have a go-to receiver in Allen Robinson and three young promising receivers in Anthony Miller, Javon Wims and Riley Ridley.
It's cornerback and safety where they've left themselves exposed the most, and Deon Bush has proven himself capable of playing if the need presented itself. The same can't be said about the backup cornerbacks. Undrafted free agent Kevin Toliver II has been around two years and didn't leave much of an impression. Tre Roberson is a CFL player and has already failed in the NFL once. And Artie Burns is a failed Steelers first-round draft pick.
The Bears have shown a keen interest in Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn in the draft process and it's possible they could select him with the 50th pick. Or they could even trade down and have a chance to take him.
They could always get a safety later in the draft. Remember how little safeties are valued in free agency. It's the same way in the draft.
They've come up with starting safeties in Rounds 4 and 5 in the past. Eddie Jackson is an All-Pro.
They need a speed receiver, their own Tyreek Hill to run the Kansas City offense. But Hill was a fifth-round draft pick. They can find speed at receiver later in the draft.
Finding a cornerback later is much tougher.
Considering they haven't selected one with starting ability since 2014, it's high time they did.