Bears Eye DB Prospects with Return Ability

Leaving no stone unturned, the Bears are not only looking at receivers with return ability but also defensive backs that have the same attribute. Read about two defensive backs/return specialists the Bears talked to at the combine.

  • Miami's Devin Hester proved to be a versatile college player. With the Hurricanes he spent time at running back, receiver and cornerback. He appears to have settled on cornerback at the next level, but is willing to play on both sides of the ball.

    "That's basically where my heart was," he said. "I felt at DB as well as offense I can get my hands on the ball. But I'm not going to dwell on just being a corner in the league. I'm a team player, and I'll do whatever it takes to win. If they need me to long snap, that's what I'm going to do."

    The most impressive part of Hester's game is his ability to be a dual threat in the return game. Over his last two seasons, he averaged 25.5 yards on 40 kickoff returns and scored 2 touchdowns. He also averaged 15.6 yards on 41 punt returns and scored 4 touchdowns.

    Finding a player that could fill both return roles would save the Bears a roster spot on game day. The junior is also one of the fastest prospects in the draft, which could mean finding opportunities to get him the ball in other phases of the game.

    "It went pretty good," Hester said of his interview with the Bears. "They need a great return guy as well as a nickel back, and it sounds like I'm one guy they're looking at."

  • Danieal Manning, a defensive back from Division II Abilene Christian, is someone the Bears also showed interest at the combine. When asked about Manning, general manger Jerry Angelo said the team hadn't "gotten into him as in depth" as far as he knew. However, Chicago scouts have talked with Manning on more than one occasion.

    "I feel there's more sleepers coming out of the big schools and you're better served to spend a little extra time there than running around to the small schools," Angelo said. "But if a kid has top talent, irrelevant of what school he is, it's going to be known."

    In three years at Abilene Christian, Manning proved to be a threat in a number of positions. He averaged 22.8 yards on 43 kick returns with three touchdowns, while averaging 13.75 yards on 57 punt returns and three scores. He proved to have an eye for the ball, as he picked off 11 passes.

    Although the five-foot-10, 202-pounder primarily played safety in college, some consider him to be a cornerback prospect in the NFL.

    Aside from the Bears, reportedly more than 20 teams took time to meet with Manning at the combine, including the Colts, Chiefs, Seahawks, Jets, Cowboys, Jets, and Bills.

    The question on Manning will be the level of competition he faced in college. He originally signed with Nebraska before landing at Abilene Christian.

    Depending on how he works out at the combine, he could creep into the late part of the first day of the draft. If he lasts into the fourth round he could be a second day steal.

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