Overview: Even though the Bears re-signed both Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, cornerback is still a major area of concern. Neither of those players will be around forever and depth is needed immediately, which brings me to Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is a phenomenal athlete, and it shows up on tape. He recorded 7 interceptions for the Cowboys this past season and returned 2 of them for touchdowns. He is also an excellent kick returner and averaged 26.3 yards per return during his college career. Gilbert was voted 2nd team All-American and 1st team All-Big 12 in 2013. He was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award.
- Elite physical talent. Big (6-0, 202 lbs.), long armed (33 1/8 inches) and fast (4.38 40), players with Gilbert’s physical skill set just don’t grow on trees.
- Exceptional ball skills. Tracks the ball well and attacks it at its highest point.
- Good ability to recover. When a receiver gets separation, it doesn’t last for long.
- Superb return man. 6 kick returns during his college career don’t lie. Shifty and has burst to hit the seams.
- Elite skill set for man coverage. Has no trouble flipping his hips and transitioning from his back pedal. Sticks to receivers like glue.
- Can bait the quarterback. Has the ability to make a receiver seem open, but he’s not.
- Shutdown corner potential. Was a shutdown corner in college and has the physical attributes to do so in the NFL.
- Not physical. Doesn’t push opposing receivers around like you’d expect from a corner of his size.
- Not a willing tackler. Tiptoes around too much and is too willing to let others do the dirty work.
- Needs to refine footwork. Too much wasted movement, which won’t fly in the NFL.
NFL Player Comparison: Champ Bailey, New Orleans Saints. Gilbert isn’t nearly as refined as Bailey was coming out of college, but the potential is definitely there. This is high praise, I know, but I really think Gilbert can develop into the type of corner that can take away half the field. A lot of work will be needed working on tackling and perfecting his coverage technique, but with the right coaching staff Gilbert will be a star.
The Way I See It: I would be thrilled if Justin Gilbert made it to the Bears’ pick at 14, but I don’t think there’s much chance of that happening. Some team picking in the top ten (I’m looking at you, Lions) will fall in love with his immense physical traits and make him their pick. That having been said, having a cornerback of Gilbert’s caliber would help the Bears immeasurably, if he lives up to his potential. He would allow them to roll the rest of the coverage away from him, making the rest of the secondary look better. If Gilbert is still on the board, I think the Bears should sprint to the podium.