PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Cornerback Darqueze Dennard #31 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates after a play against the Stanford Cardinal during the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bears hold the 14th pick in the NFL Draft in May, and among draft experts, the consensus seems to be that the team will either draft a safety or a defensive lineman with the selection (provided that they don’t trade down in the draft).
There are plenty of quality options at those positions, including Louis Nix III of Notre Dame, Timmy Jernigan of Florida State, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, and Kony Ealy of Missouri, but there are a myriad of other positions that the Bears need to strengthen via the draft, and after the NFL Combine, there is one that could be an attractive spot for the Bears to focus on.
That position is cornerback, and two players really stepped up their game at the Combine this week to warrant inclusion on the Bears’ draft board. Those two players are Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, and Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan State.
Both players set blistering times in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, with Gilbert posting two times under 4.4 seconds and Dennard not being hard behind at a 4.42 clip. That kind of speed is impressive for a cornerback, especially with the kind of zone packages that the Bears tend to run on their defense, but their impact isn’t just limited to speed.
Dennard especially made his mark at Michigan State as a player that could jam guys at the line of scrimmage, and when you combine that with his speed and his on-field intelligence, you have a player that could really help any team that drafts him.
Not to be outdone though, Gilbert is a guy that demands attention in both the speed and physicality categories. At 6-foot tall and 202 pounds, Gilbert is more than capable of getting his hands onto a guy at the line and slowing him down considerably, and even if he is beaten off the snap, he can still close out with his blistering speed, making him an attractive option.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Gilbert may not make it to them at the number 14 position. One or two teams could look at him in the top-10 of the draft, with a team like the Detroit Lions possibly snagging him. There are a few teams in between Detroit and Chicago in the draft order, but they’re more likely to draft at other positions, so the Bears very well could have a choice on whether or not to take Dennard at the 14th spot.
The question then of course becomes whether or not the Bears will draft a safety at that spot (there are thoughts that they could have their pick of the litter at the safety position), or if they’ll opt for defensive line help with the slew of mid-round talent available to them. When push comes to shove though, it’ll be hard to ignore a guy like Dennard if he is there at 14. The Bears need a cornerback that can play physically tough with speed to burn, and with Tim Jennings on the other side of the formation thriving more on playing off the receiver, it would be a boon to Mel Tucker’s defense to have a guy like Dennard who can muscle up at the line of scrimmage.