The Bears got their Mr. Wright, but barely.
As the third round commenced Friday night the Bears had their sights focused on four defensive backs.
But by the time they were on the clock for their first pick – 11th in the round and No. 75 overall – only one of their targeted defensive backs was left, which made general manager Jerry Angelo's selection of Florida safety Major Wright a no-brainer.
"I felt pretty good at the start of the third round, [but] they just started peeling off," Angelo said. "I really thought there would be two, maybe as many as three, [but Wright] was the last one there."
The first two picks in the round were South Florida's Jerome Murphy and Iowa's Amari Spievey, college cornerbacks who may be better at free safety in the NFL. Both of them, especially Murphy, were believed to be on the Bears' list. On the eighth pick of the round, the Packers selected Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett, another player who fit the Bears' profile.
But Bears coach Lovie Smith was more than pleased to come away with Wright, a three-year starter who left school with a year of eligibility remaining.
"[He] was one of the players we liked from the start," Smith said. "He's a high-character guy. He's going to bring a lot of energy to our defense. [He's a] big hitter and has good skills as far as coverages are concerned. We're going to put him at free safety and see what he can do."
Wright, who received high marks from scouts for his leadership qualities, instincts, speed, toughness and football smarts, said he was thrilled to get the call from the Bears, who recently sent defensive backs coach Jon Hoke down to Gainesville to work him out on the field and in the classroom.
"Oh my God," Wright said when asked about his reaction. "I literally ran down the street and just ran in the [house, to the] middle of the floor and started crying."
The Bears' recent turnover at safety has made them want to cry often.
They've made a total of 40 lineup changes at the free safety and strong safety positions since Smith became coach in 2004. Stability in the secondary was Job 1, especially at free safety, which has become more important with the league-wide emphasis on throwing the ball.
Wright is expected, at the very least, to be active on game days, but neither Angelo nor Smith went so far as to say they expected him to start right away.
"I would say he assumes he is going to come in and play fairly quick," Smith said. "There is a long way to go before you put a rookie in a starting lineup. We feel good about some of our players that we have here right now. But we don't have the depth at the position we need."
The Bears have focused on improving at free safety since about five minutes after the 2009 season ended with all of their safeties having combined for a total of one interception.
"The secondary is what we targeted as our primary need," Angelo said. "The safety position and the corner position was really a coin toss in our minds, so whoever the best player was, we were going to take."
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