Tim Jennings was a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Bears last year. After being cast off by the Indianapolis Colts, he stepped in and admirably filled the cornerback gap left by the poor play of Zack Bowman. At 5-8, 185-pounds, Jennings doesn't possess the ideal body type for a Cover 2 corner, most of which are taller, more physical players. Yet he played well during the regular season.
Then came the NFC Championship, where Aaron Rodgers and his cadre of talented receivers M.D. Jennings look foolish. On nearly every third down, the Packers targeted his side, with great success. If the coaching staff looked upon that performance as an indicator of things to come, they will surely be looking to grab his replacement this offseason.
Additionally, coach Lovie Smith mentioned at the Scouting Combine the possibility of moving Charles Tillman to safety. For these reasons, the Bears would be wise to grab one of the following cornerbacks early in the draft.
Patrick Peterson, LSU & Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
The top two players at the position will be long gone by the time Chicago picks in the first round. Peterson looks to be a once-in-a-decade talent, while Amukamara has the physical skills and intelligence – he had the seventh-highest Wonderlic score at the combine – to be a shut-down cornerback for years to come.
Jimmy Smith, Colorado
Questions about Smith's character could drop him out of the first round, yet many pro scouts are salivating at his talent. He had minor brushes with the law and four failed drug tests during his collegiate career. Yet his size (6-2, 211) and ability in man-to-man coverage, where only 11 passes were completed to his receiver the last two years, may allow teams to look past his personal issues. If Chicago feels all of the first-round worthy linemen are off the board come pick 29, Smith would be a solid Plan B.
Brandon Harris, Miami
Harris (5-9, 191) may be the best pure cover corner in the draft. He's a little smaller than Chicago would like but what he lacks in size he makes up for in experience – he started 32 games at Miami – and athletic ability. His zone coverage game is lacking though, which could be a turn off for the Bears. Many teams are falling in love with Harris, so he could even go in the first, which would be too early for Chicago.
Aaron Williams, Texas
Williams (6-0, 204) has decent size and questionable speed – his 4.55 at the combine was 0.15 faster than his 4.40 at his pro day. He is solid in zone coverage and very aggressive in run support, a quality necessary for a Bears corner. He needs to become more physical at the line and utilize his strong upper body. He's not outstanding in any area of his game but is as consistent as they come.
Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
Dowling (6-1, 198) has good size and speed (4.37 40-yard dash at his personal pro day). He has plenty of experience and is very good in zone coverage. He's a very good tackler as well. A series of leg injuries, including a hamstring pull at the combine, may drop him down to the late-second/early third round. He would make a solid pick for Chicago in the second and a no-brainer if he's still available in the third.
Davon House, New Mexico State
House (6-0, 200) has the size to be a Cover 2 corner. He ran a 4.44 40 at the combine, but improved that to 4.37 at his pro day. He plays with outstanding game speed and is a true ball hawk. He returned three of his 11 career interceptions for touchdowns. A four-year starter, he has the experience and natural talent to come in and be a contributor right away. Bears defensive backs coach Gill Byrd put House through a workout at the Aggies' pro day.
Curtis Brown, Texas
Brown (6-0, 185) is a former wide receiver who is outstanding at mirroring opposing pass catchers. He played mostly man-to-man in college but he breaks on the ball very well, which could translate to success in zone coverage at the next level. He's not the fastest at the position (4.51 40) but he does have experience (28 collegiate starts). He's not very physical in the run game, which Bears coaches will frown upon.
Johnny Patrick, Louisville
Patrick (5-11, 191) was a first team All-Big East selection last year. He led the Cardinals with five interceptions and tied for the conference lead with 17 passes defended. He doesn't have great speed (4.59 40 at the combine) but the Bears don't need burners at the position. He's very physical and should excel in zone coverage at the next level. Reacts quickly to the ball and is a very good tackler.
Brandon Burton, Utah
Burton (6-0, 190) has long arms and quick feet. He excelled in man coverage but was only average in zone. He has decent speed (4.50 40) and strength but he needs to be more physical on the field. His tackling is about average. His read-and-react time is very good and many scouts feel he has the most potential of any corner in the draft.
Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
Chekwa (6-0, 191) is a former track star that, despite 39 career starts, still needs some refining. He reads the quarterback's eyes very well and his speed allows him to make up for positioning mistakes. He's better in zone than man coverage. As a tackler, he's below average. Needs to work on consistency. He has a ton of potential.
Shareece Wright, USC
Wright (5-11, 185) was academically ineligible in 2009 and has had some injury issues during his career. He only has 13 career starts under his belt, so he won't be a starter right away. He was outstanding in the Senior Bowl and has a lot of potential. Could be a draft sleeper.
The Bears would be wise to shore up the offensive and defensive lines in the first two rounds. Of all the third-round cornerbacks, Patrick is best suited for zone coverage and is outstanding in run support. His lack of ideal speed won't hurt him in the Cover 2. He's a ball hawk who creates turnovers. His game compares favorably to that of Charles Tillman.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.