- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPNChicago.com continues its Bears draft preview series with a look at the safeties.
For eight straight years, the Chicago Bears have drafted a safety.
In only one of former general manager Jerry Angelo’s nine seasons at the helm of the organization, 2004, did the Bears fail to address the position via the draft, and new boss Phil Emery continued the tradition last spring when he used a third-round draft choice on Oregon State’s Brandin Hardin, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve after an underwhelming training camp.
In theory, the Bears probably don’t need to add another safety to the mix, after the club signed free agents Tom Zbikowski and Tom Nelson to compete with Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters and Hardin for roster spots behind incumbent starters Chris Conte and Major Wright.
In terms of numbers, the Bears appear to be set.
In terms of productivity, the Bears also seem to be in good shape with Conte and Wright coming off solid seasons.
Wright is entering the final year of his original rookie contract, and should be a candidate for an extension if he can duplicate his 2012 numbers that saw the former Florida Gator compile 92 tackles and four interceptions. Conte had 86 tackles and two interceptions in 15 starts and looks to be the best player to come out of Angelo’s final draft class in 2011.
Next 10: JJ Wilcox, Georgia Southern, 6-0, 213; Duke Williams, Nevada 5-11, 203; Zeke Motta, Notre Dame, 6-2, 213; Robert Lester, Alabama, 6-1, 220; Josh Evans, Florida, 6-1, 207; Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma, 5-11, 213; Cody Davis, Texas Tech, 6-2, 203; Daimion Stafford, Nebraska, 6-0, 221; Rontez Miles, California (PA), 6-0, 203; Brandon Bishop, North Carolina State, 6-1, 208.
Analysis: This doesn’t have the feel of a strong safety class, so the Bears might be better off sticking with what’s currently on the roster. The team needs to figure out if Hardin can be a future contributor. If not, then perhaps next season the Bears are once again in the market for safety when Wright, Steltz, Zibikowski and Nelson are all projected to reach free agency.
But when it comes to the Bears, it’s also smarter to expect the unexpected at the safety position.