The Chicago Bears are in a position to draft a safety nearly every year, and this trend figures to continue in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
Since Mike Brown departed following the 2008 season, safety has quickly become a positon of horror for the Chicago Bears. Finding one competent safety — let alone two — has proven to be a difficult task for the team. Players such as Daniel Manning, Chris Conte and Antrel Rolle have all been seen as the “savior” at the position, only to fizzle out and be replaced shortly thereafter.
Entering the 2016 season, the Bears thought they finally had a building block in Adrian Amos. However, the more Amos played, more flaws were found in his game, and he eventually lost his starting job late in the season. In free agency, the Bears signed Quintin Demps, 31, to a three-year deal. A turnover machine, the Bears believe they have found one starting safety.
Now, the team has to try to find another one in the draft. Here are some of the team’s options:
Jamal Adams, LSU
A physical player, Adams intimidates any wide receiver or running back who crosses his path. Adams’ instincts are off the charts, and his athleticism allows him to cover tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield. Adams would immediately be the secondary’s most talented player, and using the third overall selection on him isn’t out of the question.
Malik Hooker, Ohio State
Hooker is a true “centerfield” safety who covers ground with ease and has the playmaking ability to regularly create turnovers. While he won’t help much in run support (his tackling is suspect), Hooker will help take away the deep pass. For a defense that lacks playmakers, Hooker would be a welcomed addition to the Bears secondary. Hooker could be a top-10 selection.
A physical specimen, Melifonwu caught the attention of the Bears’ coaching staff at the Senior Bowl. Melifonwu, 6-4, starred at the Scouting Combine, topping all safeties in the forty-yard dash (4.40 seconds), vertical jump (44.0 inches) and broad jump (141 inches). He’s a solid tackler, has good coverage range, and with his size, has the versatility teams covet. Melifonwu is expected to be drafted in the late first-round, but the Bears could hope he falls to them in the second round.
Budda Baker, Washington
Baker displays great speed, instincts, and agility, which allows him to be a very competent player in coverage. Despite being undersized, Baker is like a missile against the run, attacking downhill and making sound tackles. While his ball skills are questionable, Baker should be drafted by the conclusion of the second round, if not earlier.
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Not really having a position, Peppers’ main strength is his versatility. Peppers played safety, linebacker, and running back in college, showing the athleticism and competitiveness to star at all three. He’s projected to be a “box safety” in the NFL, as his one career interception in college has some teams wondering if he has the ability to cover effectively. There’s some risk drafting a player with no true positon, but creative defensive coordinators (like Vic Fangio) could make it work. Peppers is a fringe first-round pick.
Justin Evans, Texas A&M
When you watch Evans play, his coverage skills stand out. However, his slim frame and poor angles make him a liability as a tackler. Evans show the willingness to be physical, but quite frankly, he cannot finish the tackle. Some scouts project Evans to be a free safety/slot cornerback at the next level, and he should be drafted in the third round.
While not flashy, Williams is a dependable player against both the run and pass. Possessing excellent instincts, Williams seems to always be in the right position to make a play. He’ll likely will never be a Pro Bowler, but Williams could be an above average starter from Day 1. Williams is projected to be a second or third-round pick.