According to Pro Football Focus the Bears had two of the seven worst starting safeties in the NFL and by far the worst starting combo. Thankfully Major Wright is gone and was replaced by former NY Giant Ryan Mundy. Unfortunately last year’s starting free safety, Chris Conte, is still on the roster and in the mix for the starting job. The Bears singed M.D. Jennings in free agency, but he was barely better than Conte last season. As things stand now the Bears starting safety combo of Mundy & Jennings is only a slight improvement over last year’s pathetic group. The position is a clear need for the Bears and I wouldn’t be surprised if they used two of their first four picks on safeties. I’ve listed my favorite free safety options in each round below.
Over the next two days I will be listing the players I like the best for the Bears in every round at each position of need.
FS Depth chart:
Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray
DT | FS | CB | SS | LB | QB | RB | TE | RB
Round 1 (#14) – Calvin Pryor, Louisville (5’11, 207): Pryor has the versatility to play either safety position and is solid against both the run and pass. He’s also a big hitter with good range in coverage and a play-maker at either safety spot. Right now Pryor is better against the run than the pass, but his coverage skills have improved every year at Louisville. The Bears haven’t had a play-making safety since Mike Brown and while Pryor is a little rough around the edges, he has more than enough potential to become a Pro Bowl caliber safety in a couple of years.
Round 2 (#51) – Terrance Brooks, Florida St (5’11, 198): Brooks has elite speed (4.37) and is a big hitter despite being a bit undersized. He has a tendency to go for the big hit a little too often which leads to some missed tackles, but he usually finds a way to take down his target. Brooks has great range in coverage and can cover slot receivers when needed. His height isn’t ideal but his excellent vertical leap (38″) adds an inch or two. One knock on Brooks is his hands. He only had 4 interceptions in 2 years despite putting himself in position for at least double that many picks. Brooks only played safety for two seasons, so he is still learning the position and could get considerably better with more experience.
Round 3 (#82) – Antone Exum, Virginia Tech (6’0, 213): Was a top 50 prospect before subsequent injuries to his ACL and ankle kept him on the sidelines for most of his senior year. Exum is a versatile defensive back; He played slot corner as a freshman, free safety as a sophomore, and was an outside corner as a junior. His junior year he had 5 interceptions, 16 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, and was considered a better NFL prospect then CB Kyle Fuller who I have as a late first round pick. Do to his injuries, it’s doubtful he has the same quickness and explosion he had as a corner, but Exum is built like a safety and that should be the position he ends up at in the NFL. He can be a big-hitter in run support and an aggressive coverage guy with good range and the size to match up with the league’s taller receivers. The Bears zone scheme is a perfect fit for Exum’s skill set.
Round 4 (#117) – Marqueston Huff, Wyoming (5’11, 196): Three year starter at safety before switching to CB his senior year. It’s unclear what his best pro position will be, but he has NFL speed and athleticism, so Huff will get a chance somewhere. He helped his stock at the combine with a 4.49 40-time and at the Senior Bowl showcasing sticky coverage ability and the wheels to turn and run with any receiver on either roster. Huff can hit and tackle a little too, racking up 127 tackles as a senior at Wyoming. Interesting small school prospect who also returned kicks and could be a force on coverage teams right away. He has better speed than Conte or Jennings, is more aggressive and instinctive in run support, and can help out in the return game. That is a lot of value from a 4th rounder.