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Chicago Bears 2017 Draft Preview: Cornerback (Rounds 1-3)

Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, cornerback remains a top priority for the Chicago Bears. We break down the cornerbacks projected to be selected in the first three rounds.

The Chicago Bears secondary was arguably the worst in football during the 2016 season.

Chicago tied for 31st in the league with eight interceptions, finishing with just one more than the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As a result, GM Ryan Pace addressed cornerback in free agency, adding Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara, yet there are still plenty of concerns at the position.

Last year's No. 1 cornerback, Tracy Porter, will be on the wrong side of 30 when the season kicks off and former first-round pick Kyle Fuller is not a lock to make the roster after missing the entire 2016 season.

Cooper and Amukamara have starter potential but neither is a clear No. 1. The Bears have some youth at the position with Deiondre’ Hall, De’Vante Bausby, Cre’von LeBlanc and Jacoby Glenn, but expect Pace to use the draft to find an instant playmaker.

With that in mind, here are the top options on the first two days of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State (6-0, 193 pounds)

Lattimore is the best cornerback prospect and is a very realistic choice for the Bears at number three overall. The First-Team All-Big Ten selection had nine pass breakups and four interceptions in 2016. He has elite athleticism, including a 4.36 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, while his burst and awareness in coverage stand out on film. He dealt with hamstring issues his first two years at Ohio State, which is a concern, but the more you see of Lattimore on tape, the more there is to like. He has an extremely high ceiling, if he can stay healthy, and would easily earn a starting job in Chicago right away.

Projected: Top 10

Marlon Humphrey, Alabama (6-0, 197)

The Alabama product is one of the most athletic cornerbacks in this 2017 class. Despite his size, Humphrey is a physical cornerback who won’t back down from bigger receivers down the field, and isn’t afraid to go up and contest jump balls. His hands and leaping ability allow him to be very disruptive against the deep ball. The Bears need an instant playmaker that can force turnovers and Humphrey fits that mold, yet it's doubtful he will be available when the Bears pick in the second round.

Projected: 1st round

TreDavious White, LSU (5-11, 192)

LSU has produced several standout cornerbacks in the NFL and White is looking to continue that trend in 2017. White started all four years at LSU and even returned punts and kicks for the Tigers. He had 14 PBUs in 2016, eighth most in the FBS, which highlights his top-tier ball skills. White could be very appealing to Pace as a Day 2 option, as he could fill needs at both cornerback and returner. His footwork is among the best in the class and he’s shown well against big, physical receivers in the SEC. His size isn’t ideal but White could be a second-day steal for the Bears.

Projected: 1st-2nd round

Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson (6-1, 199)

A two-year starter at Clemson, Tankersley showed high-end playmaking ability, combining for nine interceptions and 20 pass breakups. He was a first-team All-ACC pick and was named an AP All-American in 2016. Tankersley is excellent in man coverage and has the speed (4.40) to keep pace with fast pass catchers down the field. He can also come up and make plays in run coverage. The decision to stay for his senior year might pay off for Tankersley, and he could be of interest to the Bears early in the second round.

Projected: 1st-2nd round

Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado (6-0, 202)

A four-year starter for Colorado, Awuzie earned second-team All-Pac 12 in both 2015 (90 tackles, nine for loss, four sacks, two INT, 10 pass breakups) and 2016 (65 tackles, six for loss, one INT, 12 PBU). During his college career, Awuzie played cornerback, safety, slot corner and even some linebacker, showcasing his versatility. He's at his best in man coverage, an area of weakness for Chicago's secondary the past few seasons, and is a quality gunner on special teams. His inconsistent tackling is a concern but Awuzie has the man-to-man ability that could appeal to Bears DC Vic Fangio.

Projected: 1st -2nd round

Teez Tabor, Florida (6-0, 199)

When 2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves left the Gators, many thought Tabor would end up being the better NFL prospect from Florida. But after a bad showing at the NFL combine, Tabor’s stock has fallen some. Tabor lacks straight-line speed (4.62 at the combine, 4.77 at his pro day) but he does have a knack for finding the football. He might struggle against the deep ball but his size and physical play gives him value on short and intermediate routes, as well is in the slot, where he can utilize his elite quickness. Tabor would be great value in the third round but as a projected second-round pick, his lack of his speed might make him too risky for the Bears. 

Projected: 2nd round

Jourdan Lewis, Michigan (5-10, 188)

A three-year starter for the Wolverines, Lewis earned multiple All-American honors in 2016 (25 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two interceptions, nine pass breakups). He finished as a Jim Thorpe finalist and was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year. Lewis has very good quickness and speed, and his ball skills are off the charts (he was credited with 42 pass breakups in three seasons at Michigan). He also averaged 25.2 yards per kick return in 2015, another area of need for the Bears. The concern with Lewis is his size, which hinders him in one-on-one matchups with big receivers. As such, he'll likely be relegated to a slot role in the NFL. Lewis is a playmaker for sure, but is a nickel corner and kick returner worth an early second-round pick for the Bears? 

Projected: 2nd round

Gareon Conley, Ohio State (6-0, 195)

Conley’s game really saw improvement from 2015 to 2016 (4 INTs, 8 PBUs). He has good size and length, and a solid all-around skill set. With the Bears, Conley would have the potential to be an impact corner right away. His strength might be a concern as he’s often out-fought for jump balls down the field, which could cause him to struggle against bigger and more physical receivers in the NFL. Conley is also below average in run support. Still, as a press defender, the former Buckeye is very disruptive at the line of scrimmage and excels in trail technique. 

Projected: 2nd round

Kevin King, Washington (6-3, 200)

Washington reached the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history thanks to a stout defense that featured King, who was a standout player playing opposite of Sidney Jones. King’s top-tier size and length will allow him to match up with big receivers in the NFL and he doesn’t give up much leverage in press coverage. King has experience at boundary corner, in the slot and at safety, where he could end up in the NFL. His tackling is a concern and he doesn't have elite quickness, which wouldn't allow him to play in the slot at the next level. Yet King has a lot of upside and his size is extremely attractive.

Projected: 2nd round

Quincy Wilson, Florida (6-1, 211)

Wilson played opposite of Tabor at Florida, recording three interceptions and nine pass breakups in 2016. With his size and length, there is some optimism that he could turn out to be one of the best corners in this draft. Wilson will need to work on his tackling, which was an inconsistent part of his game in college.

Projected: 2nd round

Adoree Jackson, USC (5-10, 186)

Jackson was a standout at USC, playing on offense, defense and special teams. As a junior in 2016, he won the Jim Thorpe Award and was named first-team all-conference and All-American after a strong season (five INTs, 11 PBUs.) In addition, he scored four times on returns, two on kickoffs and two on punts. Jackson might be the best all-around athlete in this draft, one who could help the Bears in a number of different areas. If he's available when Pace picks in the second round, he's a slam dunk, yet there's many who believe Jackson will be selected in the first round. 

Projected: 2nd round

Sidney Jones, Washington (6-0, 186)

Jones was recently considered a lock for the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft but an Achilles injury at his pro day has now dropped him to a likely day-two pick. Jones has high-level ball skills and has a history of making opposing quarterbacks pay, but will Pace look past his injury? There's not guarantee Jones comes back with the same burst and quickness he had before the torn Achilles, so he might be too risky for the Bears. 

Projected: 2nd round

Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado (6-3, 198)

Witherspoon's size and length are compelling traits, as was his increased production in 2016 (he led the nation with 23 PBUs). With fluid hips, good speed (4.45) and elite ball skills, Witherspoon may be just what the doctor ordered for a Bears team lacking a shutdown corner. The problem is that he doesn't like to hit and his tackling, or lack thereof, is at the bottom of his position. That could turn off the Bears, who have put a concerted effort into increasing defensive toughness the past two seasons.

Projected: 2nd round

Cameron Sutton, Tennessee (5-11, 188)

Sutton was a four-year starter for the Volunteers, who led the team with 16 PBUs as a sophomore. His production as a corner dropped off the past two years, due in part to an ankle injury that cost him half his 2016 season. Sutton has quick feet and mirrors receivers very well. His high-level awareness and instincts allow him to excel in zone sets, yet he lacks the physicality to plan in a heavy man scheme. Sutton brings additional value as a punt returner. If he's available in third round, the Bears might not be able to pass on a Day 1 punt and kick returner, as well as a viable slot corner option. 

Projected: 3rd round

Rasul Douglas, West Virginia (6-2, 209)

Douglas has playmaking ability and showed it in his senior year at West Virginia. The former junior college player was tied for the most interceptions in college football (eight) in 2016. He has the size to perform at the next level but showed some inconsistency at the Senior Bowl. While his playmaking ability is intriguing, Douglas’ senior year (60 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 8 PBUs) is really the only standout item on his body of work.

Projected: 3rd round 

Bear Report Pick: Adoree Jackson

If the Bears select Marshon Lattimore with the third overall pick, few will complain. Cornerback is a huge need and Lattimore has an All-Pro skill set. 

Yet Lattimore's long history of hamstring injuries, which limited him to just three total games his first two years at USC, is very concerning. It won't do the Bears any good to have an elite corner if he can't stay on the field. 

Moving to Plan B, Jackson is the cream of the crop. He doesn't have elite size and length but the film shows a highly aware, reactive corner who reads opposing receivers very well. He also rushed for 414 yards his sophomore year and is an All-American track star. 

Jackson is a quality tackler who will help in run support and has the skill set to play boundary or slot corner. Yet his most appealing trait might be his ability as a kick and punt returner. He had four punt-return TDs and two kick-return TDs the last two seasons combined. The Bears haven't had a dangerous kick returner since Devin Hester was in his prime, which makes Jackson's special teams prowess so attractive. 

Many believe Jackson will be off the board when the Bears pick in the second round, yet 5-10 corners aren't typically hot commodities in the first round, so there's a good chance Pace will have the option to draft the former Trojan. If he does, expect Jackson to be playing in Chicago next season. 


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