Now that I have completed my wide receiver and offensive lineman rankings, the Chicago Bears’ next most important need is on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback. Yes, they have Jaylon Johnson who is growing into an elite #1 corner, but as the Ravens loss showed, they lack the depth to be consistently great on that side of the ball.
Now, I expect the Bears to take either a wide receiver or an offensive lineman with the 39th pick, so I centered my search on guys projected to go around pick 48 or below. Of the 30 guys I looked at, 6 should be legitimate targets for the Bears, with a few more being worthy under certain conditions.
I’ll break down those top 6 in detail and list some honorable mentions in case you guys want to check out their film, but with that said, let’s dive in, starting at the bottom this time.
6. Mykael Wright, University of Oregon
At #6 is Oregon’s Mykael Wright. Wright is much more raw than the upcoming prospects, hence why he is the clear #6, but he flashes enough elite play to where he could develop into something one day.
He has solid hips that allow him to detach and move with more fluidity from awkward positions, which maximizes his recovery speed. Speaking of recovery speed, he ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at the Combine but plays faster than that. Is he lightning fast? No, which is why he won’t be able to cover the Tyreek Hill’s of the world, but it’s good enough to where he’ll be able to hold his own against most receivers.
Technically-speaking, he mirrors well and maintains a strong base, which allows him to explode and break on the ball at a high level. However, he is very inconsistent with leverage and gets beat to the leveraged side far too often.
Additionally, he can mess up the rules of his coverage (i.e., doesn’t jump a quick out from the inside receiver in Cover 4 Palms), and his tackling needs quite a bit of work.
Overall, he is extremely raw, but flashes enough elite play to where he could grow into an excellent starting cornerback. If available in the late rounds, Wright would be a good value pick for the long-run.
5. Kyler Gordon, University of Washington
The first thing that pops out about Kyler Gordon is his size. He is listed at 6’0”, 200 lbs., and it’s legitimate due to his broad build.
Technically-speaking, he has an exceptional ability to mirror receivers at the line of scrimmage and has elite reaction time, which compensates for his solid but not special speed.
Physically, he has good strength, and his ability to flip his hips, accelerate, and explode from all body positions is significantly greater than that of Mykael Wright.
He also has phenomenal instincts, particularly in the running game, and thoroughly understands the rules and responsibilities of everybody in coverages.
Much like Wright, his tackling needs some work, but they differ in that Gordon’s film shows that he’s capable of tackling with great technique. He just needs proper refinement and coaching to get it out of him.
The only negative is his lack of elite straight-line speed. Again, he’s a guy that won’t be able to cover speed receivers man-to-man, but as far as everything else goes, he’s more than capable.
Currently, he’s projected to be a mid-second round pick, and if he falls to the Bears at 48, he’s definitely worth considering.
4. Jermaine Waller, Virginia Tech University
At #4 is Virginia Tech’s Jermaine Waller. I understand that this may be an unpopular ranking due to his lackluster 4.68 40-time, but allow me to explain.
First, the physicals. He’s listed at 6’1”, 180 lbs. but looks much bigger than that on film. He also has good acceleration and explosion with very fluid hips. Speed-wise, he plays significantly faster than his 40-time suggests in the short and intermediate games, and when you pair all of that up with his exceptional technique, he is as NFL-ready as they come.
Mentally, he has a good understanding of his responsibilities in the running and passing games, and has excellent instincts that qualify him as a bonafide “playmaker”.
There are a few negatives, though. The speed comes back to bite him in that he loses ground in the deep game. Obviously, this drastically limits his versatility. Like Wright and Gordon, he won’t be a consistent man-to-man cornerback due to that speed concern, but he would be exceptional in a zone corner role with some man capabilities.
Now, to that 40-time. It concerns me from this perspective: work ethic and preparation. The NFL Combine doesn’t completely show ability. Instead, it shines light on one’s work habits and preparation. It is this preparation factor that explains why there are many players who play slower than their 40-time suggests.
Waller - for lack of a better phrase - flunked the Combine. If I were a team, I’d take his interview very seriously to identify what type of guy I’m getting. Is he a guy that really is willing to put in the effort necessary to develop or is he a guy that relies solely on his natural talent to get it done? As of now, I’m giving the player the benefit of the doubt, hence why he would be a mid- to late-round target for me.
3. Marcus Jones, University of Houston
It is not often that I am a fan of small cornerbacks, but Houston’s Marcus Jones is the exception, and it’s mostly due to his elite athleticism.
He possesses phenomenal acceleration and explosion, good hips, and an excellent ability to move laterally when carrying the rails during outside leverage. All of these things enable him to play almost any coverage, even on the perimeter in certain situations.
Also, despite his lackluster size, he has excellent play strength and is extremely physical, which will irritate NFL receivers. Even more impressive is that despite his physicality, he rarely crosses the line and holds or commits pass interference. For a team as penalty-ridden as the Bears, that type of balance between physicality and discipline is critical.
His straight-line and recovery speed are both exceptional as well, as are his technique and instincts.
The only real weakness to his game is that lack of size. At 5’8”, 175 lbs., he is more so a slot cornerback than a perimeter guy. But with the advent of 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receivers), that type of player is still important.
He’s projected to be a late round 3 pick, which would be an absolute steal for the Bears.
2. Roger McCreary, Auburn University
This is more of a projection than the others, but if Auburn’s Roger McCreary slides to pick 48, the Bears would be foolish not to at least consider him.
He has a natural ability to stick to a receiver’s backside and is exceptional with mirroring at the line of scrimmage. Yes, he needs to work on playing through the hands of the receiver, and he can hold quite a bit, but he flashes enough proper technique to where he’ll pick things up with NFL-level coaching.
Size-wise, he looks bigger than his 6’0”, 190 lb. frame suggests, which manifests itself in his physical and aggressive play style.
The big question I have about him is his recovery speed. He lacks top-end explosion to recover when beat off the line of scrimmage, but he’s consistent enough to where he can still be a star-type cornerback.
He’s projected as an early second-round pick, but if he takes a bit of a slide, I’d pounce right away.
1. Josh Jobe, University of Alabama
At a standalone #1 comes Alabama’s Josh Jobe. My baseline comment with Jobe is that there are zero glaring weaknesses to his game.
Athletically, he is off the charts. He has phenomenal explosiveness, which allows to break on the ball and make a play on the ball in cloud coverage or when playing off man. He is a big and physical cornerback as well at 6’1”, 195 lbs., and has good play strength that enables him to reroute receivers in press coverage.
Even so, when he is beaten off the line of scrimmage, his elite recovery speed (he plays much faster than his 4.5 40-time suggests) allows him to recover in an instant.
But where he truly separates from the rest is with his movement from all positions. Where the others are good at exploding from weird positions, Jobe is great due to his ability to consistently maintain a sturdy base and elite foot speed (i.e., running with open hips in outside leverage or “Cover 4 Push”).
All of these traits will make him an excellent man-to-man corner in the NFL and a terrific #1a to Jaylon Johnson’s #1.
As a projected 4th-round pick, he’s the guy I would undoubtedly have my eyes on. Like I mentioned before, I expect either a receiver or offensive lineman at pick 39 and then the remaining of the two at pick 48. After that, I’d look to trade back from pick 71 to get two late third-rounders, one of which would be used to take Jobe and the other another receiver.
Regardless, considering the Bears’ current roster needs and draft positioning, he is clearly the guy, both talent-wise and in terms of value.