Bears Draft Options: CB (Rounds 1-3)

The Chicago Bears are dangerously thin at cornerback and will soon need to address the position. Below is our Bears-focused breakdown of the top corners in the 2015 NFL Draft class.

As a member of the NFC North, the Chicago Bears square off against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions twice a year. The Packers have had one of the best passing attacks in football since trading for Brett Favre in 1992, while the Lions have more money invested in receivers than any other team in the NFL.

To shut down these top-tier passing attacks the Bears need strong cornerbacks. Charles Tillman was the focal point for 10 years in that effort, yet it appears he’s played his last snap in the Navy and orange. In addition, Tim Jennings is 31 and has no guaranteed money on his contract beyond this year.

Kyle Fuller still has potential but he played like the worst corner in the league for a six-week stretch his rookie year. And beyond that, the cupboard is relatively bare.

GM Ryan Pace has put a lot of effort into upgrading the defensive front seven, yet beyond signing 32-year-old Antrel Rolle, the secondary has been ignored.

Expect that to change in the upcoming draft, as cornerback is easily the weakest position on the roster.

With that in mind, let’s break down the top corners in this year’s draft to find best fits for the Bears.

Trae Waynes, Michigan State (6-0, 186)

Waynes is by far the best cornerback in this class and the only player at his position guaranteed to land in the first round. He has good size and quickness and ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest at his position.

Waynes is very solid in man sets and uses his hands well to redirect receivers, while showing aggressiveness when the ball is in the air. He’s also smart in zone coverage and is a willing tackler against the run.

The Bears would have to spend the 7th overall pick to acquire Waynes but he may be worth it. He has the potential to replace Tillman as a man corner who can square off against the likes of Calvin Johnson, Randall Cobb, Golden Tate and Jordy Nelson.

Projected: Top 15

Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest (6-0, 188)

Johnson had an exceptional combine, posting in the top three at his position in the vertical jump (41.5 inches), broad jump (10-10), 3-cone drill (6.79) and the 20-yard shuttle (3.89). He has exceptional explosiveness and quickness, as well as good size and experience (three-year starter).

Johnson was strong in press coverage last season, showing active hands, a smooth backpedal and the ability to quickly open his hips and accelerate down the field. He has a thin frame and is an inconsistent tackler but as a pure cover corner, he’s one of the best in this class.

Projected: Round 1-2

Marcus Peters, Washington (6-0, 197)

In 2013 and 2014 combine, Peters allowed just a 38.1 completion percentage against, with 24 pass breakups and eight interceptions. He has ideal size and a very physical style of play. He swallows up smaller receivers at the line of scrimmage and consistently outmuscled pass catchers with the ball in the air.

Peters has emotional issues, which surfaced during a sideline tirade following a personal foul penalty in one game last year. He was later dismissed from the program due to multiple run-ins with coaches. He’s a very talented player but he’ll likely be a headache for the team that drafts him.

Projected: Round 1-2

P.J. Williams, Florida State (6-0, 194)

Williams is a bump-and-run specialist with good size, strength and explosiveness. He was one of the top performers at the combine in the vertical (40.0) and broad jumps (11-0). He has length and strength, although he lacks ideal top-end speed (4.57 40-yard dash).

Williams is inconsistent on film but has all the traits to be one of the better man corners in this year’s class. The Bears had an official visit with Williams at the combine.

Projected: Round 1-2

Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH) (5-11, 195)

Rollins played four years of collegiate basketball and in 2014 decided to give football a shot. He was named the 2014 MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Obviously, he’s an amazing athlete, one who picked off seven passes last season.

Rollins is very raw but has a ton of upside. He must refine his technique and won’t be a plug-and-play starter at the next level but his ceiling is so high, he’ll be too good to pass up in the second round.

Projected: Round 2

Jalen Collins, LSU (6-1, 203)

Collins is a 6-1 corner who ran a 4.48 at the combine. That type of size/speed combination is rare. He has very good change-of-direction ability and foot speed, giving him a leg up in zone sets. He relied heavily on his great instincts and athleticism playing in the SEC.

Collins started just 10 games in his collegiate career and was benched after just two starts in 2013. He’s very much a work in progress but his skill set is off the charts. A patient coaching staff could turn him into a Pro Bowler.

Projected: Round 1-2

Byron Jones, Connecticut (6-1, 199)

A shoulder injury didn’t allow Jones to participate in field drills at the combine but he absolutely blew the roof off of Lucas Oil Stadium during his testing session, where he was one of the top performers in every drill. Most impressive was his 12-3 broad jump, which is not only the best combine number of all-time but is reportedly a world record. He also topped his position in the vertical jump (44.5) and was in the top three in the quickness drills as well (6.78 3-cone, 3.94 short shuttle).

Jones is by far the most explosive and athletically dominant player in this draft. He’s also a high-character athlete who plays with a lot of intelligence and instincts. He struggles in man coverage at times, which is concerning. but overall Jones would be amazing second-round value in this year’s draft.

Projected: Round 2

Ronald Darby, Florida State (5-11, 193)

A former ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, Darby was a three-year starter at FSU. A former track star, he ran a 4.38 at the combine, along with a very good 41.5-inch vertical jump.

Darby is quick and has great ball skills. He reacts quickly to plays in front of him and has the footwork and diagnostic skills to excel in man coverage. By the end of his career, opposing offenses were afraid to throw at him. His one knock is his tackling, which is arguably the worst of any corner in this draft, yet his potential in coverage could propel him into the second round.

Projected: Round 2-3

D’Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic (5-10, 187)

Smith does not have ideal size but he plays much bigger. He’s athletic with good foot speed and he tracks balls well in the air. He competes hard and gives good effort in run support.

Smith answered questions about his top-end speed with a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s not an elite athlete but his quickness and ball skills could make him a quality slot corner at the next level.

Projected: Round 2-3

Alex Carter, Stanford (6-0, 196)

Carter earned All-Pac-12 honors the past three seasons as a starter for the Cardinal. He’s a quality zone cornerback who sees the whole field and has the closing speed to be very effective in a Cover 2 defense. In addition, he’s a plus tackler who gives great effort against the run.

Carter doesn’t mirror receivers well and has the potential to struggle in a man-heavy system like Vic Fangio’s. In fact, he might be better off as a safety at the next level.

Projected: Round 3

Josh Shaw, USC (6-0, 201)

Shaw is a physical specimen with outstanding strength – his 26 bench-press reps were five more than any player at his position. He’s intelligent and has great closing speed. He also has starting experience at safety, so his positional versatility is a plus.

Shaw’s biggest concerns came off the field after lying about the cause of an ankle injury. He said it happened jumping from the balcony of his apartment trying to save his drowning nephew, which turned out to be false. He was suspended for all but three games last year, so character concerns are huge with Shaw.

Projected: Round 3

Doran Grant, Ohio State (5-10, 200)

Grant is a smart defender who tackles well and excels in zone sets. He worked some as a press corner in college but may not have the size to serve in that role at the next level.

A very good tackler, Grant will be a solid fit in a Cover 2 system or inside at nickelback.

Projected: Round 3

THE PICK: Trae Waynes

In our first Bear Report Mock Draft, I selected Waynes for the Bears at No. 7 overall, and I stand by that.

Cornerback is a dire need for the Bears and they don’t have the luxury to wait until the middle rounds to address the position.

Waynes is by far the best corner in this class, one who is equally adept in both zone and man sets. He shows great route recognition and awareness, while his top-end speed assures he won’t get beat deep.

Bears coordinator Vic Fangio asks his boundary corners to press out wide, an area in which Waynes excels. He’s the perfect fit to replace Tillman as the club’s No. 1 corner of the future.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.

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