DMS, Danieal Manning Syndrome, is a process in which a physically talented athlete who plays football is constantly moved and plugged into different holes on the team in the hope that he blossoms into a very good football player. As a result, the player does not develop the proper skills & football I.Q. to excel at any one position.
Is Danieal Manning a free safety, cornerback, nickel back, career backup or just a kick returner? He's been all of the above during his short career with the Bears, and now he might even be the strong safety:
"He'll be a safety," [Lovie] Smith said. "We want to get him in one position and keep him there. He's not going to be flipping back and forth. Strong safety is an option; free safety is still an option." LINK
Newly acquired Tim Jennings and DJ Moore have been the two CB's playing the nickel, so it looks like Manning will be just a safety (and probably help return kickoffs no matter what happens).
What happens on Friday & Saturday during the draft might push Manning into one position or the other. What happens during the rest of free agency after the draft (and after June 1st...hello Atogwe?) might push Manning into one position or the other. I'm going to try and make a case for Danieal Manning to be our starting strong safety.
First, let's determine who is the competition. Craig Steltz, in my opinion, is just not that good. He's out. Josh Bullocks is in the mix for free safety, and that is and has been his primary position, so he's out. That leaves Kevin Payne and Al Afalava.
The tale of tape: (from chicagobears.com roster page LINK)
Al Afalava: 5' 11" , 212 lbs.
Danieal Manning: 5' 11" , 202 lbs.
Kevin Payne: 6' 0" , 212 lbs.
I really can't knock Manning too much here, he's the same height, but just 10 lbs lighter than the other two. If he wanted to sacrifice just a bit of speed (he has lots to spare) for a little bit more bulk, he could probably be just as heavy as the other two.
ProFootballFocus.com stats (For every game [they] analyze and grade every player on every play to provide you with the most in-depth statistics you can find anywhere outside the team's film room.): LINK
Overall Rank / Run / Rush / Cover / Penalty / Tackles / Total Plays / Plays per Tckl
Afalava: -8.4 -5.7 +1.6 -2.8 -1.5 42 834 19.9
Manning: -2.5 +2.4 -1.2 -2.7 -1.0 73 845 11.6
Payne: -7.7 -4.1 +0.3 -2.9 -1.0 36 550 15.3
Of Manning's 845 plays, 691 were at safety & 154 were at nickel back. His 1 interception was at safety (and boy was it a sweet play: LINK to the video).
Manning grades out higher than Payne & Afalava in run defense, overall rank, and plays per tackle. Their coverage & penalty grades are similar. Manning grades a lot lower rushing the passer; however, he did make a great play on Aaron Rodgers in the first game of the year when he sacked him for a safety (LINK to video @1:03 in).
Athletically, Manning has always been considered superior to most players on the Bears roster, which is primarily why he gets all the chances in the world to succeed. But if you don't have the athleticism (see Steltz), all the smarts & drive in the world won't get you on the field.
Statistically, Manning looks like he could be a good strong safety for the Bears. Because the Bears do play Cover-2 a lot of the time, whoever plays strong safety needs to be able to wear both hats. They must be able to move up in the box and play the run (Manning's numbers look good here). They also must be able to cover the deep 1/2 of the field on passing downs (he's got the speed, but sometimes lacks the instincts). Manning does have a lot of experience now compared to Payne and Afalava. By being a free safety and nickel back, Manning, as a strong safety, would be able to cover the deep 1/2 of the field when needed & cover guys 1-on-1 when asked.