Should the Chicago Bears draft Antoine Winfield Jr. a safety from Minnesota?
The name Antoine Winfield Jr. sounds familiar for good reason. The son of a long-time NFL defensive back, Winfield Jr. has spent years following his dad as he grew up. Winfield debuted as a freshman and excelled, however, his following two seasons were struck down early due to injury. Winfield finally broke out in his fourth season at Minnesota and declared for the NFL draft while the iron was hot.
Winfield Jr. is a rising name, and the Chicago Bears need to draft a safety at some point. The Bears met with Winfield, so the interest is clearly there. Would Antoine Winfield Jr. be a fit for the Chicago Bears?
Winfield Jr. is a smart, instinctive player. It is clear he is the son of a football player and a film room junkie. His seven interceptions showed anticipation and ball skills that are elite for the position. His ability to make plays on the ball deep down the field is impressive. Beyond that, he is a versatile, heat-seeking missile who fires down hill and can make plays against the run. His physical presence shows up in breaking up passes, as well as forcing fumbles. Winfield has also played deep, the box, and the slot in his career.
Winfield Jr. is a bit on the shorter side, but beyond that has less than ideal length. His overall size can be shown at times as he is inches away from plays on the ball or tackles. While his anticipation can lead to big plays, he relies on it, and can miss when he is not right on time with his breaks. Beyond that is the question of how much he can hold up in the box. He is a great safety with deep field range, but he has two years taken away due to injuries. He plays recklessly, but that has already come back to hurt him. Can this style maintain a long career?
NFL comparison for Antonie Winfield Jr.
When looking at a list of the best physical and athletic profiles that compare to Antonie Winfield, it is hard to get passed the name, Earl Thomas. Thomas has a bit longer arms but is under sized in general.
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He relies on his anticipation and understanding to break on balls. After years, his ball skills, and punishing hits to break up passes forced teams to avoid throwing deep on his watch. That is the type of impact Winfield Jr. can have. That is obviously a high ceiling comparison, but the understanding and physical demeanor are undeniable as a comparison.
Fit with the Chicago Bears
The Bears need a safety, the question is whether Antoine Winfield Jr. is the right for them. As mentioned, he can play in the box and his a heat-seeking missile downhill. However, his best NFL application may be playing over the top and making plays in the deep field.
Last year, Winfield Jr. played 399 snaps at free safety, to 284 in the box. He also played 85 in the box according to PFF. He is a versatile weapon, but the question is whether his best skills and application are the same as Eddie Jackson.
Winfield Jr. can play in the box, but playing him there full-time would be wasting his best skillset. However, most Bears fans want to see Jackson in the box much less than the season before. Antoine Winfield Jr. is a great player, and if he falls to the second round, he almost has to be taken on the merit of best player available. However, his skill set may be more similar to Jackson than complimentary to Jackson.