Chicago Bears – Undrafted Free Agent Targets (Defense)

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Bear coaches are already talking about moving last year’s 2nd round pick Jon Bostic from the middle. If they are debating giving up on him in the middle after a little more than half a season of snaps then it’s a pretty good sign that he can’t handle it. The Bears will also need a replacement for Briggs in the near future and it’s not clear if Khaseem Greene is that guy or not. Here are a couple good linebacker prospects that could provide depth and special teams help in the short-term and eventually start down the road.

Boseko Lokombo, Oregon (6’2, 225) – Fast, aggressive outside linebacker, who is a bit raw and a little undersized but makes up for it with elite athleticism. Lokombo excels in coverage and with NFL offenses deploying 3 or 4 wide receiver sets more often, nickel linebackers are becoming more valuable. Lokombo has shown good blitz instincts and gives a good effort verse the run, he is just a little too small to shed blockers effectively. Lokombo’s mix of coverage skills, speed (4.66), and athleticism give him a shot to be a valuable sub-package contributor and a special teams ace.

Marquis Spruill, Syracuse (6’1, 229) – Intense player who is a violent blitzer and big-hitter all over the field. He’s small for an NFL linebacker, but he has played safety at times for the Orange so that could be an option at the next level. If Spruill stays at LB he will need to get a little stronger, but he is a max-effort player, who plays mean, and his solid instincts keep him around the ball consistently. Worst case, he’ll be a special teams standout.

Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma St (6’2, 235) – Not the most athletic linebacker but very productive last season (93 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 4 INTs, 3 FFs) and was consistently in the right place on defense. Good football instincts make up for a lack of NFL measurables. Lavey’s floor is an excellent special teams player but I think he has good enough instincts to be a solid WLB.


With both the Bears starting CBs and primary backup (Hayden) on the wrong side of 30, it makes sense to being in as many young corners as they can and hope to get lucky.

Travis Carrie, Ohio (6’0, 206) – A big, physical corner who is strong against the run, has good ball skills, great hands, and surprising straight line speed (4.47). Carrie isn’t quick enough to be isolated in man coverage against quality NFL receivers, but he’s a great fit for the Bears zone coverage scheme.

Carrington Byndom, Texas (6’0, 180)  – Good size, fast, and plays hard all the time. His technique needs work, but he has the physical traits and right attitude to become a starting corner in the league. A lot of draft sites had him on their top 5 CB lists going into the 2013 season, but like the rest of the Longhorns he had a mediocre year and his stock dropped. Byndom still has that top 5 potential, he just might need another year or two to develop. Great practice squad stash.

Nick Addison, Bethune-Cookman (6’2, 185) – Tall corner or safety prospect with excellent speed (<4.5) and very good ball skills. Addison had 9 interceptions in 25 starts and helped Bethune-Cookman win back-to-back MEAC titles. Addison is facing a big jump in competition but has enough talent to eventually contribute at corner or free safety. Good developmental prospect.

Free Safety

Right now Chris Conte is the favorite to start for the Bears at free safety in 2014. This cannot be. He has some competition already in free agent signing M.D. Jennings and from whatever safety the Bears select in the draft, but I think bringing in as many options as possible lessens the chance that Conte is on the field in week 1. Here are a few more guys who could give Conte a run for the starting job.

Nickoe  Whitley, Mississippi St (6’0, 205) – Ultra-aggressive safety who constantly goes for the big-hit. His violent play tends to get Whitley in trouble at times, he racked up far too many personal fouls, including one for punching an opposing player. He needs to get his emotions under control, but his fiery playing style does cause plenty of turnovers; Whitley had 15 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles during his time with the Bulldogs. He has been injury prone with a ruptured achilles in 2011 and a torn ACL in 2013. The ACL tear happened in week 3 last season and he played through it the rest of the year! That’s pretty impressive. Whitley has his share of warts, but the Bears need some toughness and Whitley has that in spades.

Pierre Warren, Jacksonville St (6’1, 202) – Small school prospect with good size and a lot of potential. Warren was very productive last season, leading his team in both tackles (76) and interceptions (5). The jump from the Ohio Valley conference to the NFL is steep, but Warren has NFL tools and should be able to contribute down the road.

Strong Safety

Ryan Mundy will be an improvement over Major Wright (anyone would) , but he’s not the long-term answer at the position. Here are a few underrated college options who could at least push Mundy for the starting job.

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Brock Vereen, Minnesota (6’0, 199) – Vereen was a long-shot to get drafted (late invite to both Senior Bowl & Combine) but ran very well at the combine (4.47) and had top five results among safeties in the bench press and both 20 and 60 yard shuttles.  He is a little under-sized for the strong safety position, but has good strength despite being just under 200 pounds. His athleticism will play well on special teams and he could be an upgrade over Steltz or McCray on coverage teams and can’t be any worse if Vereen is called on to play defense. I have Vereen being drafted late in the 7th round in my mock, but CBS and have him graded as a UFA and most safety rankings don’t have him listed at all. I think his speed and athleticism will get him a shot somewhere and he has the potential to be a solid back-up safety and an excellent special teams player.

Jerry “BooBoo” Gates, Bowling Green (5’11, 227) – You won’t find Gates on many prospect lists, but he is a well-rounded strong safety with enough skills to play at the next level. He’s a good hitter against the run, solid in coverage, and explosive enough to return two kicks and a punt for TDs during his college career. Gates will excel on special teams coverage off the bat, is a dangerous return man, and has the potential to develop into a starting safety down the road.

Twitter: @MikeFlannery_