As my colleague speculated a few weeks ago, Brock Veeren is slated with the starters as training camp is set to begin on Friday. A little surprising considering his status as a rookie, but also very promising as he’s obviously very young and talented. It appears the Bears may have picked a real winner at pick 131 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
After four seasons with the University of Minnesota, Vereen appears NFL-ready despite a rather underwhelming collegiate career. The cornerback converted safety grabbed just three interceptions in his Gopher career, converting none of them into touchdowns as he failed to establish himself as an elite prospect heading into the draft. Though the defensive back was a force to be reckoned with along the Minnesota secondary he couldn’t gain much National attention playing for a defense that ranked just 33rd in yards allowed per game in 2013.
Heading into Radio City Music Hall Vereen was projected to be picked in rounds 3-4 by NFL.com and was considered at best a late second round prospect by nfldraftscout.com, and at worse a low fourth rounder. He hardly dazzled at his pro day and despite a strong combine when his name was called on Day 3 I can’t say that I was very enthused. More surprised that the Bears waited four rounds to draft the position they were most in need of, a safety.
The back end of the defense crippled the Bears in 2013 and was clearly a priority throughout the spring and winter as the team searched to find viable starters at both the free safety and strong safety positions. Offseason additions Ryan Mundy and MD Jennings will certainly provide some much needed depth and competition at both spots and though I’m not a big fan of the Adrian Wilson signing, a little veteran leadership may be exactly what this group needs (average age of Bears’ safeties is 25 without Wilson). In the end though, it seems good things happen to those who wait as Brock Vereen, the 131st pick of the NFL Draft, may be the teams’ first legitimate chance to solidify a safety position since the departure of Mike Brown in 2008.
While you can certainly expect to see a few growing pains from the 21 year old in his first NFL season, don’t be surprised if he’s one of the top safeties of his class despite being the tenth one picked in the draft. Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker have been raving about the young man since the start of minicamp and will likely continue to as training camp gets underway.
“Brock has not looked out of place,” Trestman said.”He’s got very high football intelligence. He’s verbal which is very important on the back end. He’s a good communicator. We feel good about [his production]. He’s ascending and he’s competing to play to start. He’s in a competitive position to win a job.”
“He’s very sound from a technique standpoint. He’s smart, he plays fast. He does not make a lot of mistakes… He’s doing an outstanding job so far. We’ll see how it goes. We have competition [at the safety position]. There’s nothing set in stone,” said former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator and current defensive coordinator for the Bears Mel Tucker.
Full interviews, including one with Vereen, can be viewed at chicagobears.com