Chicago Bears: Why drafting safety is Bears’ biggest need

We all know what happened. It was Week 17, and the Chicago Bears had a chance to clinch the NFC North with a win over the rival Green Bay Packers. Safety Chris Conte’s poor play had been the subject of much of the criticism the Bears had gotten all of last year, and the team’s playoff hopes came crumbling down in what was an all too familiar scene for Bears fans — Conte had blown his coverage and allowed the game-winning 48-yard touchdown. With the news that Conte will be out four-to-five months due to shoulder surgery, he will have to fight to retain his job for the 2014 season. Let’s take a look at why addressing the safety position in the draft is the Bears’ biggest need.

Potential ‘safety’ nets for the Chicago Bears

While going for depth at defensive end is important for the Bears’ 2014 success as well, it can be argued no other position has had more questions than both the free and strong safety positions. Major Wright and Chris Conte both under-performed last season, which was unfortunate because the expectation was the Bears would make a run in the playoffs. When this didn’t happen, everybody and their mother seemed to point the finger at first-year defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. No matter what anyone says, the players have themselves to blame for their underwhelming play.

The key to these issues could very well be found in the draft, as the safety position has some very promising prospects who could contribute almost immediately, especially with Conte’s job status in question.

Jimmie Ward, NIU

Ward, who measured in at his pro day at 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds, was a big part of NIU’s past success, as last season he was named a first-team All-American by both USA Today and Sports Illustrated, the first time a Huskie defensive player has been given such honors. Ward does not let his size get the best of him, however, and he led the team with ten pass breakups, 95 tackles as well as seven interceptions last season.

Ward’s playmaking ability is what the Bears drastically need at this position. His speed could not hurt, either, as he ran a blazingly fast 4.45 forty-yard dash. He is speculated to be an early second-round pick, so the team could certainly add some depth at safety or other positions before selecting him.

Deonne Bucannon, WSU

Could the Chicago Bears select Bucannon at 14?

Bucannon could be the answer to the Bears’ needs at safety (Photo Credit: Jake Roth/ USA Today Sports)

The Washington State product weighs in at 6-feet and 216 pounds, so at the outset we know Bucannon has an imposing build and can hold his own. A first-team All-American, Bucannon is very active near the line of scrimmage, as he had 78 solo tackles (tied for 11th in the country), three forced fumbles, along with seven interceptions in coverage. His last name says a lot about him, as he appears to shoot out of a cannon at times.

While he has his share of weaknesses (difficulty changing direction fluidly, choppy backpedal, struggles with tunnel vision), his ability to rip the ball out of ball carriers and make the big hit makes Bucannon a viable option. He is projected to be selected in either the second or third round, so he could fall into the Bears’ lap.

It’s been speculated the Bears will set their sights on the defensive end position, and both the safety and cornerback position. No matter what way they go, these two prospects would provide depth and durability at a position in which the Bears desperately need an upgrade.

  • Drisc

    Like I’ve been saying for some time now. Bring in Doug Plank as a defensive coach. He was one of the most aggressive defensive players the Bears have had through the years. Doug has been a head coach on many Arena football teams and has brought them from the bottom of the league to the top, offensively and defensively. He has also coached at some level with some NFL teams. If you want strong, quick and very able safeties, then Doug Plank would be your man to bring back to the Bears organization.

  • warren weaver

    The Bears need a lot more than one safety If they really expect to Improve last years defense.

    Yes Conte was a disaster last year and the year before, so why would this columnist promote a kid from NIU, I assume as their number one draft pick. Maybe you take him as a free agent. Do these people who write these columns really have a clue, or are agents slipping a few bucks their way…”The Chicago Way”?

    • Joe Plewa

      You are obviously clueless about the safety prospects coming into the NFL this year. Jimmie Ward is considered a top three safety in the Draft, with the other two being Calvin Pryor from Louisville and “HaHa” Clinton- Dix from Alabama. Most likely Clinton Dix will be gone before the Bears pick leaving Ward or Pryor as options.You sound stupid, so unless you are knowledgeable keep your comments to yourself.

  • jim

    But I think that now that the bears got Willie Young, Jamaar Houston, and Jared Allen their defensive line should be okay.

  • Bob

    Every Bears fan remembers the play, but that’s an ignorant way to determine biggest need. Why was the defense in tight, isolated one-on-one for that play? Because they needed the ball back, and front 7 couldn’t stop the run. In fact, they couldn’t all year. Their run defense was one of, if not THE, worst NFL run defenses in history. They gave up 5.3 yards per carry, just awful. The defensive line was being pushed back on almost every play. Since the DTs were being handled one-on-one, the OGs got free shots at the LBs. Watch the games, it happened play after play.
    The Bears HAVE to get the ypc down under 4. That means they must start with immovable objects in the middle of the D-line, DTs. Once that is set, and the front 7 can actually force someone to throw the ball, then you can worry about safeties.
    Passing on a solid DT prospect for a Safety, or any other position, would be the dumbest possible.

    • SummontheStorms .

      Gee, a Bear’s fan who gets it. I am SO sick of reading “we gotta draft a safety!”

      No. We need a defensive line that can stop the run and not give the opposing QB 5 seconds to throw. I don’t care if you draft Ronnie Lott, he could not cover his man behind this horrible, OLD, DL.

      Think about it – the two best players on the line are Allen and Ratliff. Both are 32 or older. Ratliff is coming off a massive injury. After that you’ve got Houston, and Young who will be 29 when the season starts. Collins is a sub and coming off injury. Paea is strictly a reserve, and Idonije is 34 years old.

      We drafted a safety every year between 2005 and 2012. NONE of them made an impact. Why? Because our DL was second rate. Draft DL early and often!