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Despite loaded supplemental draft, Bears better off sitting out

This year’s group of supplemental draft prospects is easily the most talented in a long time, but it would be best if the Bears didn’t spend any draft picks on the bunch.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Southern California
Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal is a stud, but his draft stock is too high for the Bears to consider him.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL supplemental draft will be taking place on July 11, and this year’s group of prospects is much more talented than prospects to apply for the draft in recent years. The draft is especially deep at the defensive back position, where as many as three prospects could be selected.

Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal is the best supplemental draft prospect since Josh Gordon in 2012. The six-foot-one, 185-pound defensive back has a tantalizing blend of size, athleticism and physicality that projects him as a potential starter in the NFL. Although he has only played the cornerback position for two collegiate seasons - he was a wide receiver his freshman year - he has the ball skills and the ability to mirror routes of a seasoned pro. He struggles as a tackler, as one would expect from someone still learning the position, but his skills in coverage and his upside make him an intriguing prospect.

Outside of Beal, Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander is the consensus No. 2 supplemental prospect. At six-foot-three and 207 pounds, he has a frame that is perfect for today’s NFL, where many of the best wide receivers are well about six feet tall. Alexander is a physical corner who excels at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage in press-man coverage. He has good control over his body and can high point the ball like a receiver can. He also offers some value as a tackler: he’s a form tackler who takes good angles to the ball. Alexander lacks deep speed and has had off-the-field issues throughout his tenure at Virginia Tech; including a marijuana arrest, violating team conduct and being ruled academically ineligible to play in 2018, but his length and physicality make him a good fit in the modern game of football.

There are also a handful of other interesting prospects in this year’s supplemental draft. Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant is a hard-hitting and athletic defensive back who, despite a lack of instincts, has the physical tools to eventually develop into a contributing defender. Edge rusher Bright Ugwoegbu out of Oregon State is a reliable tackler who is good in coverage. Grand Valley State running back Martayveus Carter led all of Division II in both rushing yards and touchdowns with 1,908 and 20, respectively.

Despite all of this talent, the Bears shouldn’t use a draft pick on any of them.

Realistically, Beal and Alexander are the two players most likely to be selected, with Bryant a possible third. Beal carries a fringe Round 1 or early Round 2 grade, while Alexander a late Round 5 or early Round 6 grade. Since the Bears don’t have a second-round pick in 2019 due to the Anthony Miller trade, they will likely miss out on Beal. Even if he falls into the third round, though, it is highly unlikely that Chicago will spend a pick on him. Not having any picks on the second day of the draft is typically highly detrimental for any team, let alone one that isn’t quite a playoff contender yet.

Alexander figures to be available as a late Day 3 pick, and he would be a good scheme fit in Vic Fangio’s defense. However, his off-the-field issues are concerning. Ryan Pace has made 27 draft picks as general manager of the Bears, and not one of them was ever arrested or suspended. The character standard that he keeps for his draft picks would be unlikely to waver for Alexander, who doesn’t have quite the on-the-field promise to warrant that.

The last time the Bears made a pick in the supplemental draft, they selected Brigham Young running back Harvey Unga with a seventh-round pick in 2010. Unga hopped on and off of the team’s active roster for four years before being released for good in 2013. This remains the only supplemental draft pick the Bears have made since the concept was conceived in 1977. Although this year’s group of supplemental draft prospects is the most talented group in over a decade, that shouldn’t change.