Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 2016 Draft Preview: Safety (Rounds 1-3)

A detailed look at the top safeties in the 2016 NFL Draft, with a focus on which early-round prospects best fill the positional needs of the Chicago Bears.

The Chicago Bears landed a quality player in the fifth round of last year's draft in safety Adrian Amos. 

The Penn State product started every regular-season game his rookie season and led the defense in total snaps. He played with downhill aggressiveness and improved as the season progressed. 

Opposite Amos, there are concerns at the safety position. Antrel Rolle is 33 and played just seven games last season before spraining his MCL. Harold Jones-Quartey and Chris Prosinski had their moments but both are better fits in backup roles and as special teams contributors. 

These concerns will likely compel GM Ryan Pace to select a safety in this year's draft, potentially in the first three rounds. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at the top eight safeties in the 2016 NFL Draft. 

Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (6-1, 209)

Ramsey is arguably the top overall player in this year's class. An All-American athlete in each of his three years as a starter for the Seminoles, Ramsey showed outstanding speed (4.41) and explosiveness (41.5-inch vertical, 11-3 broad jump) at the scouting combine. His film is extremely impressive. Ramsey played a hybrid safety/cornerback role his first two years before committing to corner his junior season. He'll be able to play either position in the pros. This exceptionally athletic, physical, speedy defender will be an NFL asset for many years to come. If the Bears want Ramsey, they'll have to mortgage the farm to trade up in into the Top 5. 
Projected: Top 5

Von Bell, Ohio State (5-11, 199)

Bell was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes. He excels in man coverage, where he uses fluid hips, quick feet and solid instincts to mirror receivers. He has good centerfield awareness and commits hard to plays thrown in front of him. He's credited with 23 pass breakups the past two years combined. Bell is a willing tackler but his technique is inconsistent, and he's not an overly physical player. He's not an in-the-box option but Bell is outstanding in deep single coverage. He could immediately improve Chicago's pass defense. 
Projected: 2nd Round

Jeremy Cash, Duke (6-0, 212)

The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Cash earned multiple All-American honors after a senior year in which he tallied 101 tackles (his third straight season with 100-plus tackles), 18 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks. An Ohio State transfer, Cash is an imposing player near the line of scrimmage. Of his 101 tackles last year, 33 came after gains of 2 yards or less. He has size and long arms (32 3/8 inches) and looks like a small linebacker. He's not great in coverage and will struggle in man sets against quicker tight ends and running backs, but Cash could immediately upgrade Chicago's run defense. He's well worth a second-round pick. 
Projected: 2nd Round

Keanu Neal, Florida (6-0, 211)

Neal is a striking, downhill safety who lays the lumber against the run. A two-year starter for the Gators, Neal has ideal size and athleticism. He doesn't have great top-end speed but he's all-day explosive and closes with authority on ball carriers. He lacks anticipation and instincts in coverage, although he did improve in centerfield last season. He's still a project on passing downs but Neal is an immediate in-the-box impact player. 
Projected: 2nd Round

Karl Joseph, West Virginia (5-10, 205)

Joseph is an aggressive, playmaking safety who was a starter for West Viriginia the past three years - he led the team in tackles (109) his freshman season. He's one of the most physical players in the draft, as he flies around the field tracking both receivers and running backs. He's aggressive on 50/50 passes and uses his great leaping ability to make plays on the ball. He had five interceptions through just four weeks last season, which led the nation, yet a torn ACL ended his season prematurely. His medical exams will likely dictate where he's drafted. If Joseph returns to full health, the team that drafts him is going to end up with one of the best all-around safeties in this class. 
Projected: 2nd-3rd Round

T.J. Green, Clemson (6-2, 209)

Green started his junior year at Clemson, posting 95 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles. A receiver-turned-safety, Green has blazing speed (4.34 40-yard dash at the combine). He also his top-tier height, giving him the athletic skill set NFL teams look for in free safeties. He's good in man coverage and rarely gets beat deep. Green is tough to evaluate because he played a lot of deep coverage last year, which limited his playmaking opportunities. He has the range and speed to cover sideline-to-sideline in center field but his tackling is atrocious. He's a shoulder tackler who rarely wraps up and was credited with 17 missed tackles in 2015. He has experience as a kick returner. A one-dimensional safety with speed and return ability, Green has value in the third round. 
Projected: 3rd Round

Jalen Mills, LSU (6-0, 191)

Mills was a four-year starter in the SEC, which says something in itself. He brings positional versatility, having played safety, corner and nickel for the Tigers. Some people feel he's best suited in the slot, where his quickness and coverage ability are of full value. Mills doesn't have ideal centerfield speed, so vertical routes may hurt him, and he's not the most physical player but he's a flexible, experienced defender who can be a boost in coverage from multiple positions.
Projected: 3rd Round

Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah (6-2, 217)

Killebrew is a safety in a linebacker's body. He'll likely be used in a hybrid role at the next level, which could be very valuable for a creative defensive coordinator. He's not outstanding in coverage but Killebrew is a powerful hitter who intimidates opponents with his downhill playing style. He showed strength (22 bench press reps) and explosiveness (38-inch vertical, 10-7 broad jump) at the combine, two traits that also show up on game film. He compares favorably to Cardinals defender Deone Bucannon, a 6-0, 216 linebacker who was converted from safety. The Bears might have a lot of use for a player with that type of hybrid skill set.
Projected: 3rd-4th Round

The Pick

 Von Bell: If Pace wants to make a huge splash in this year's draft, he'll trade up for Ramsey, who could change the entire dynamic of Chicago's secondary. He's one of only two or three players in this year's draft for whom it's worth trading up. 

More than likley, Pace will wait until after the first round to address arguably the biggest position of need for the team's defense. That could come down to a choice between Von Bell or Jeremy Cash. 

Bell is more of a free safety and is outstanding in man coverage. He has the potential to be effective lining up against the Rob Gronkowski's of the NFL. He also has the range to limit deep balls in off coverage. 

On the flip side, Cash is an in-the-box safety who can create havoc around the line of scrimmage. Both players would be solid fits for the Bears but with Amos on board, the Bears would be better off selecting Bell. 

Amos struggled with the deep ball last year, so allowing him to focus mainly at strong safety is ideal. With Bell's coverage ability, the Bears would have two young, long-term safeties with complementing skill sets. 


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