Larry Mayer of Chicago Bears.com recently posted an article revolving around an interview with Tim Ruskell, the Bears' director of player personnel. In it he mentioned one of the reasons Chicago scouts and coaches meet individually with prospects that may go undrafted is to make a good impression on those players once free agency begins.
From the article:
"The message that any team wants to get across to a guy that's coming in for a visit is that, 'We really like you and we see a fit with you,'" Ruskell said.
"That's an important message with what's going on in football right now. In the case of a guy falling to free agency, [the Bears want him to know] 'there would be a home for you.'"
Being attractive to prospects is all the more important given the uncertainty of the lockout. Normally, the day after the draft ends, undrafted free agents can begin signing with teams. That won't happen this year until the league goes back to work.
Until then, prospects that don't hear their name called next weekend will have to sit and wait. During that waiting time, it would be beneficial for Chicago to be front of mind for the players the team covets. In that way, when the lockout is lifted, the Bears can quickly sign the players they think can contribute. There will most likely be a chaotic free-for-all of signings once free agency begins, so the faster a team gets its roster re-built, the quicker it can begin molding a contender.
Delaware prospect visits Halas Hall
Anthony Walters was an All-American his senior season at Delware. The 6-0, 204-pound defensive back bounced between cornerback and safety during his collegiate career. He's projected as a safety at the NFL level. The Bears scouted him at the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game and chose to recently bring him in for an individual workout.
At Delaware's pro day, Walters ran a 4.50 40-yard dash, had a 36-inch vertical and a 10-6 broad jump. He bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times. In his senior season he racked up 41 tackles and four interceptions, giving him 12 total for his career. His head coach at Delaware, K.C. Keeler, called Walters the "single brightest" player he's coached.
Walters is projected as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent. He has the versatility teams like the Bears look for in their defensive backs. He has good size and speed, with plenty of starting experience. Match that with his intelligence and you've got a potential late-round sleeper that could provide depth for Chicago's secondary.
Walters has also had meetings with Green Bay, Seattle, Batlimore and San Francisco.
Bears interview Bryan
Chicago scouts on Wednesday flew to Dallas to meet with former Baylor cornerback Antaries Bryan. At 6-1, 195 pounds, Bryan has a body type similar to Charles Tillman. Both are big for the position, which is a necessity in Lovie Smith's defense, which puts a premium on run support.
Bryan recently ran a 4.34 40-yard dash. He measured 42 inches in his vertical jump and had a 10-8 broad jump. Those numbers have the Bears intrigued. Players of his size don't normally have that type of blazing speed.
Athletically, he's off the charts, yet he's inexperienced. He played in 34 games during his four-year career at Baylor, but started only seven of those. He missed six games in 2009 with a broken foot and three games last year with a hamstring injury.
A player with little experience and durability concerns typically doesn't warrant a personal visit from NFL teams. Yet Bryan' natural talent is creating a buzz. The Bears will be the fourth team to meet with him individually – the others being Green Bay, Dallas and Houston.
He won't likely earn a draft pick but he'll easily be worth an invitation to training camp. GM Jerry Angelo isn't afraid to take a risk on an athletic player with an injury history. If Bryan doesn't pan out, so be it, nothing's lost. Yet if he ends up being a diamond in the rough, it could impact the secondary for years to come.
QUICK NOTE: In nearly all the research I have conducted regarding Chicago's due diligence in evaluating defensive-back prospects, nearly every player that has visited with the Bears has also visited with the Packers. Both teams utilize bigger players in the secondary and it seems they are interested in a lot of the same players. The Bears and Packers have only two picks between them in each round of the draft, so look for a chess game of sorts to play out during the draft.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.