Chicago Bears 2021 NFL Draft: 4 players now feeling the pressure

Chicago Bears - Syndication The Columbus Dispatch
Chicago Bears - Syndication The Columbus Dispatch /
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Chicago Bears, Duke Shelley
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Chicago Bears cornerback Duke Shelley should be feeling some pressure

One of those excellent late-round finds over the weekend was Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr., whom Pace selected in the sixth. Somehow, he once again found a steal in that round. Pro Football Focus had Graham as their number 76 player overall going into the draft, yet the Bears came away with him at number 228.

Chicago desperately needed another cornerback, whether it was someone who could play outside or inside. Fortunately, Graham can play both. But, he may fit best on the inside manning the slot. Over his last two seasons, Graham came up with 28 total passes defended. That type of ball production doesn’t usually fall this late in the draft, so Pace knew exactly what he was doing.

After the Bears cut ties with Buster Skrine, that job immediately went to Duke Shelley — for the time being, at least. Now with Graham on board, Shelley’s future as the starter is in doubt. Graham is a much better prospect coming out than Shelley was, and with his size, strength and ball skills, Graham should be able to overtake the starting slot cornerback job.

Shelley should still be able to contribute on special teams, but the idea that he belongs as the starting slot cornerback is likely going to fade away. Graham was such a phenomenal pick by Pace and should take that job away immediately.