Position Battle (53-man Roster):
The Bears managed to nab a couple of excellent corners in the undrafted free agent portion of the draft. I had both Kevin Peterson (4th round) and Tavese Calhoun (5th round) graded as early third-day picks with the ability to play in the NFL. They also signed 6’2 corner De’Vante Bausby off the Chiefs practice squad, giving the Bears three corners that I think are good enough to play in the NFL sooner rather than later.
Cornerback was one of the Bears biggest weaknesses going into the off-season and while I was surprised to see them use only one draft pick on a potential corner, I think the Bears addressed it well with a handful of high upside undrafted free agents. I’ll break down all three below:
Tavese Calhoun (6’1, 188) was a three-year starter in the SEC who consistently locked down the best receiver on opposing teams. Calhoun is a physical corner who excels in press coverage and disrupts players at the line of scrimmage which is a skill that most Bears corners have lacked the last few seasons.
He fights for every inch on the field and has already made an impression at Bears training camp, routinely frustrating Bears receivers. He lacks elite ball skills and isn’t smooth flipping his hips and running with speed receivers, but in the Bears hybrid man/zone defense Calhoun could earn snaps as a rookie.
He’s fearless against the run and uses his size and strength to punish receivers who catch the ball on short routes in front of him. If any of the Bears starting outside corners struggle early, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Calhoun in the lineup by the 2nd half of the season.
Kevin Peterson (5’10, 190) doesn’t play with the physicality of Calhoun, but is much smoother as a cover corner. In the pass-happy Big 12 Peterson shut-down top receivers in the conference for the first half of the season. He played well against Sterling Shepard, Josh Doctson, and Corey Coleman early in the year, before an ankle injury slowed him down during the second half of the season and made him a liability late in the year. If the season had ended at the half-way point, Peterson might have been a third round pick, instead his injury kept him from competing in the combine and dropped him out of the draft completely.
A healthy Peterson could remind Bears fans of Tracy Porter as they have the same sticky coverage skill and instincts that make up for a lack of size and bulk. It may take Peterson longer to crack the Bears 53-man roster due to his thin frame, but a year getting stronger in the weight room could give the Bears another competent rotation corner in 2017.
Lastly, De’Vante Bausby has excellent size (6’2, 190) and has already had a year on the Chiefs practice squad to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. Realizing the need for tall corners, the Bears tried to sign one last year in 6’2 Alan Ball, who was an embarrassing failure who was glued to the bench the second half of the season. The Bears changed their tactics this year and have tried to develop their own tall corners in Bausby, Calhoun, and Hall under the tutelage of DB coach Ed Donatell who is considered one of the best in the league.
Like most tall corners, Baubsy’s speed is a question mark and he’s been timed anywhere from a wind-aided 4.42 to a Seger-ish 4.74. With a 37.5″ vertical and an 11′ broad jump Bausby has NFL athleticism, but coming out of DII Pittsburgh St where he had 11 interceptions playing on the same squad as Cardinals WR John Bown, he’ll have to adjust to a much faster NFL game.
Bausby has some similarities to Bears rookie Deiondre Hall in that they are both small school players better suited to zone coverage and perhaps safety, but until he improves his ability to turn and run with receivers he could be used as a match-up weapon against tight ends and bigger wide receivers. Either way,
Either way, Bausby is a unique talent who should at least end up on the Bears practice squad and is a player worth putting the time in to develop. He needs to get stronger, get more comfortable with his back to the ball, and get tougher in run support, but there aren’t many 6’2 corners with his mix of athletic traits and the Bears could eventually have a useful player in Bausby.
Next: Player to Watch