NFL Draft 2022: 10 CBs Bears may pick in 2nd round or beyond

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10 cornerbacks Bears could pick in upcoming draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When Ryan Poles first addressed the media he conveyed the importance of building the Bears roster through the draft. Heading into 2022, one of the position groups that needs the most bolstering is cornerback. To start, the team needs to find an outside corner to play opposite Jaylon Johnson. They probably need to add a slot corner as well, to join recent free agent signee Tavon Young. Slot corner is one of the most important positions in Matt Eberflus’ defense, and Young has a lengthy injury history, so depth will be needed behind him. Kindle Vildor and Thomas Graham will each have the opportunity to show their new coaches that they’ve grown over the past year, but the team will certainly want to bring in serious competition, too. While Eberflus’ scheme largely relies on zone concepts, corners will be asked to play man coverage at times too. They’ll also always be expected to chip in on run defense, so that will be an important trait to look for in potential draft prospects.

Without a first a first-round pick, players like Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr. and Andrew Booth Jr. will likely already be long gone by the time the Bears are on the clock, so we’re going to focus on who could still be on the board at No. 39 when the Bears first pick, and beyond.

ROGER MCCREARY -  AUBURN

Expert consensus: 2nd round

In Cover 2 defenses, like Matt Eberflus’, cornerbacks are often asked to play press coverage, and this is where McCreary excels. He’s physical near the line and does a good job staying tight with wide receivers. In scenarios where he does play off the line a bit, he’s also shown good speed to close the gap and can leave his feet to break up passes. Named All-SEC First Team in 2021.

KAIIR ELAM - FLORIDA

Expert consensus: 2nd round

Elam impressed right away at Florida, and started five games as a freshman. He’s another CB who does well in press coverage, by jamming receivers early in their routes to take them out of plays. When his receiver is targeted, Elam has demonstrated excellent ball skills as well. In 35 career games, Elam notched 26 passes defended and six interceptions. He attacks the point of the catch with excellent timing. If there’s a knock against Elam it’s that he doesn’t always aim to wrap up the ball carrier when trying to make open-field tackles.

JALEN PITRE - BAYLOR

Expert consensus: 2nd round

Pitre’s versatility was hugely valuable for the Baylor Bears, and it’s what could make him a coveted player for the Chicago Bears. He played both safety and slot corner, which are each big needs for Poles to address. Pitre also brings a wide range of skills to the table. He can play in the box to help stuff the run, and ranked seventh among all college players with 19 TFLs in 2021. Pitre has a knack for creating takeaways, too, with four interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries over the past two seasons. He also returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns. Pitre was awarded Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season.

KYLER GORDON - WASHINGTON

Expert consensus: 2nd - 3rd

Gordon has experience playing on the outside and in the slot, so he provides some versatility for NFL coaches. He also has experience playing in zone defenses, and does a good job of keeping the play in front of him in those situations. One of Gordon’s strengths is sure tackling, with a knack for stopping ball carriers before they reach the line to gain. Named All Pac-12 First Team in 2021.

TARIQ WOOLEN - UTSA

Expert consensus: 3rd - 4th round

Woolen features two traits that can’t be taught: great size and incredible speed. Coming in at 6’4” and 205 lbs, with a blazing 4.26 40-yard dash time at the Combine, Woolen is a true unicorn athlete. But he only has two years worth of experience playing cornerback, as the Roadrunners converted him from a wide receiver to a defensive back ahead of the 2020 season. Woolen is a project pick given that inexperience at the position, but the raw athletic ability is tantalizing for any team.

JOSH JOBE - ALABAMA

Expert consensus: 3rd - 4th round

At the NFL owners meetings, Matt Eberflus talked about wanting “M&M” players, meaning guys who play “mean” and with a “motor.” Jobe definitely fits that bill. He’s aggressive, hits hard and fights through the completion of the play. However that aggressive nature can get Jobe in trouble sometimes, as he was often flagged for pass interference or holding penalties. Jobe is no Patrick Surtain, but he should join the long list of impact defensive backs in the NFL.

MARCUS JONES - HOUSTON

Expert consensus: 3rd - 6th round

Jones is one of the smallest incoming players, regardless of position, at 5’8” and 185. His small stature allows bigger receivers to bully him on contested catches, occasionally. But in man coverage, Jones rarely lets receivers run past him due to his speed, and in zone coverage he uses his eyes and instincts to keep plays in front of him. He shows incredible pursuit to the ball, mixes it up in run defense一 qualities Matt Eberflus is sure to love, too. Jones also boasts above-average ball skills, which translated into six interceptions and 23 passes defended in only 20 career games at Houston. But Jones’ biggest impact on the field is what he brings as a return man. Since 2020, he’s returned two kicks and three punts for touchdowns. Over the past two years he averaged 16.5 yards per punt return, and 30.6 yards per kick return.

MARTIN EMERSON - MISSISSIPPI STATE

Expert consensus: 3rd - 6th round

Emerson was trending towards becoming a first- or second-round pick after a stellar 2020, but his production dipped a bit last season. Part of that can be explained by QBs targeting him less in 2021, but according to PFF, his QB rating allowed jumped from 76 in 2020 to 100.6 in 2021. Similarly, he went from only one touchdown allowed in 2020 to three touchdowns allowed last year. But the Bears may be interested since Emerson can thrive in zone concepts. He has great eye discipline and instincts to keep plays in front of him. In run support, he either avoids blocks altogether, or can get off of blocks to make a play. In 36 career games, Emerson racked up a whopping 154 tackles.

COBY BRYANT - CINCINNATI

Expert consensus: 3rd - 6th round

Bryant is a highly decorated player coming off a stat-stuffed 2021 campaign. He won the Jim Thorpe Award this year, which recognizes the nation’s top defensive back, and has been recognized with First-Team All-AAC honors, twice. Last season he intercepted three passes, forced three fumbles and was credited with 11 passes defended. Over his Bearcats career, Bryant picked off 10 balls, defended 45 passes and forced five fumbles. That ball-hawking ability fits in well with how Eberflus wants to attack the ball. Knocks against him include giving receivers too much separation, struggling to get off blocks and not always running to the ball if plays are run away from him.

CAM TAYLOR-BRITT - NEBRASKA

Expert consensus: 4th - 6th round

Taylor-Britt brings versatility to the table, as he played both outside corner, slot and safety for the Cornhuskers. The Bears could be interested because he does well in zone concepts, by diagnosing the play in front of him and attacking the ball carrier. And truly attacking opponents is what he does best. Taylor-Britt charges with a full head of steam in run support and lays huge hits on the ball carrier. The Cornhuskers made him a team captain in 2021, and he was recognized with Second-Team All-Big 10 honors in 2020 and 2021.

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