Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

One week after Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery called the safety position “wide open,” the Bears bypassed the top two safeties in the 2014 NFL draft class (Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) and selected Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round at No. 14 overall.

Fuller
Many wondered why the Bears invested a first-round pick at cornerback over safety since Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are entrenched as starters for the upcoming season.

Emery explained the club’s thought process on the matter during an in-studio interview with ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko Show” on Thursday.

“You can’t lose sight that as a league, the corner position is more valued,” Emery said. “There was a number of top safety contracts recently signed: Jairus Byrd, Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner and T.J. Ward. Look at those contracts versus the top cornerback contracts recently signed: Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields and Joe Haden. On the average, those deals for cornerbacks are much higher, starting on average per year from $10 million to $14 million. The range for safeties is about $7 million to $10 million on the very top end.

"Cornerbacks have always been more valued than safeties, so you always have to look at the value of the position. You also have to look at who you play and at the league as a whole. A good portion of the time your third cornerback is a starter. There were times last year the nickel cornerback played 70 to 80 percent of the snaps. We look at the nickel as a versatile player that can play inside, outside and cover tight ends, running backs and wideouts. We definitely knew we would get the rep value when we took Kyle Fuller. For us, that was the best player for the Bears.”

Mark Carrier remains the last Bears safety selected in the first round (1990). The Bears have taken only two safeties in the second round since 2000 (Mike Brown and Danieal Manning) but seem to address the position on an almost annual basis. Brock Vereen, taken in the fourth round this year, is the ninth safety chosen by the Bears in the past 10 drafts.

The rookie joins veterans Ryan Mundy, Chris Conte, Craig Steltz, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Sean Cattouse in the battle for the two starting safety spots.

“As it stands right now, the starters will come from that group,” Emery said. “We feel that is a very competitive mix.”

Bears' Day 2 look ahead

May, 9, 2014
May 9
12:20
AM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With cornerback addressed in Round 1, the Bears can turn their attention on Friday evening to satisfying their other needs on the defensive side of the ball, particularly defensive tackle.

Even though the Bears missed out on Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald (No. 13 to St. Louis), there is expected to be ample talent at defensive tackle available in the second and third rounds for general manager Phil Emery to consider. Remember, the Bears do have some depth on the interior of their defensive line with veterans Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins all under contract next season. The Bears aren't necessarily under the gun to find a defensive tackle on Day 2 of the draft that has to start Week 1 next season. Instead, the Bears need to target a young player capable of jumping into the rotation inside in 2014, but who has the potential to grow into a starting role in the future.

Names to consider in the second and third rounds include: Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, Notre Dame's Louis Nix, Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt, Penn State's DaQuan Jones, LSU's Ego Ferguson, Arizona State's Will Sutton and Princeton's Caraun Reid.

The outlook appears to be more complicated at safety.

After passing on Louisville's Calvin Pryor (New York Jets, No. 18), Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Green Bay Packers, No. 21), Washington State's Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals, No. 27) and Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward (San Francisco 49ers, No. 30) in favor of Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th pick, the Bears will find slim pickings at safety on Friday.

Names to monitor are: Florida State's Terrence Brooks, Minnesota's Brock Vereen, Wisconsin's Dezmen Southward, Wyoming's Marqueston Huff, and USC's Dion Bailey.

Or the Bears could look to double-dip at cornerback with the hopes of converting another defensive back to safety.

Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir remains on the board after Thursday night. The Bears sent their Director of College Scouting to the 6-foot-1, 198 pound Desir's pro day during the pre-draft process to get a better feel for the Division II standout who intercepted 25 passes during his college career.

Finally, the Bears still need help at inside linebacker where Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Louisville's Preston Brown are possible candidates.
Calvin Pryor Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesSafety Calvin Pryor forced nine fumbles over his last three years at Louisville.
Draft day is here, and the Chicago Bears are hours away from being on the clock with the 14th overall pick in the first round (assuming they don't trade down). Who would our Bears writers take if they were running the war room at Halas Hall?

Michael C. Wright: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville


A defensive tackle probably provides more value at No. 14, but more than likely, a player such as Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be gone once the Bears go on the clock. So the next best thing would be to address the club's glaring need at safety, which is why I'd take Louisville safety Calvin Pryor in the first round.

Of all the team's position needs headed into the draft, safety is the only one that's absolutely imperative for the Bears to address at some point this weekend.

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Cornerback makes sense as well in the first round, but let's remember the Bears already have a pair of starters (very good ones, too) in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

At safety, the Bears signed Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray during free agency, and although this trio has started games in the NFL, is anyone absolutely confident any of these guys can get it done consistently for an entire regular season? I'm not, and that's not to say they can't. Maybe they can. But I certainly wouldn't leave it up to chance without doing everything in my power to strengthen the position.

As it stands now, both starting safety spots are up for grabs, according to general manager Phil Emery. So why not add a young, intimidating, physical presence such as Pryor to throw into the mix with the other players on the roster for a training camp competition to determine the starting two on the back end?

Compared side by side with Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is considered the better pass defender, Pryor's numbers stack up favorably. Over his last three seasons in college, Pryor, like Clinton-Dix, picked off seven passes.

The difference in my opinion is Pryor has delivered more crushing, knockout blows on opponents; the type of hits that set the tone and energize an entire defense, while striking absolute fear in the opponent. Perhaps that's how Pryor forced nine fumbles over his last three years at Louisville, while Clinton-Dix forced only one in the same span at Alabama.

The Bears can't go wrong with either player at No. 14, because both would address an immediate need. But my preference is Pryor just because I like his style of play and believe it would transfer well in Chicago. He reminds me a lot of former Bears safety Mike Brown.


Jeff Dickerson: Pryor or trade down


The greatest unknown in tonight's opening round of the NFL draft centers around the quarterback position.

Exactly how many of the quarterbacks (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, etc.) will be taken before the Bears are on the clock at No. 14? That is the key question of the draft for the Bears.

If two of the quarterbacks are selected prior to the 14th pick, the Bears likely will find a much better pool of players to choose from at No. 14, thereby diminishing the likelihood of a trade.

If available, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor makes sense for the Bears at No. 14 overall, especially if Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is off the board.

Pryor would immediately add a physical and intimidating player to a defense that failed to scare anybody last season. Pryor isn't the best coverage safety in the draft (that distinction goes to Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), but he dominates in run support. Remember, the Bears ranked a respectable 15th last season in passing defense, but 32nd (dead last) versus the run.

With the safety declared wide open by general manager Phil Emery, it's easy to envision Pryor stepping into the starting lineup from Day 1 and strengthening the middle of the Bears' defense.

Pryor also is an open book to the Bears. There are no secrets. One of his former college coaches at Louisville, Clint Hurtt, was added to the Bears' coaching staff in the offseason. The valuable inside information that Hurtt can provide on Pryor, and the rest of the college football landscape from his days as a recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals and University of Miami, cannot be overlooked.

Pryor, Donald, Clinton-Dix, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and even UCLA OLB Anthony Barr seem logical candidates for the Bears to consider at No. 14, although Pryor appears to be the most feasible pick at this late juncture of the pre-draft process.

But what if the quarterbacks slide as many expect?

The Bears could be tempted to trade back in the first round to acquire more picks if a quarterback-hungry team presses the panic button and attempts to move up from Bortles or Manziel.

Maybe Emery can still grab Pryor a few picks later or in the 20s. If not, Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman are among the strong options that should be available beyond No. 14.

In a draft rich with offensive talent, teams need to strike quickly to scoop up the top defensive players. Expect the Bears to address defense in Round 1. That's about the most definitive statement a media member can make regarding Emery's draft plans.

But that's what makes the draft so much fun, isn't it?

Source: Louisville S Pryor visits Bears

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
4:37
PM ET
CHICAGO -- Louisville safety Calvin Pryor made a recent pre-draft visit to the Chicago Bears, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Pryor and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are the consensus top two safeties in the 2014 NFL draft class.

ESPN Draft Insider Todd McShay had Pryor going to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 20 overall in the first round in his latest mock draft. ESPN NFL Draft Insider Mel Kiper rates Pryor as the No. 1 safety in the entire draft class.

Pryor is known as a violent hitter in run support with above-average instincts who finished second on the Cardinals defense last year with 75 tackles. For his career at Louisville, Pryor had nine tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles and two sacks. He started 32 games and appeared in 38 over three seasons in college.

Pryor was suspended for one game in 2013 for breaking an undisclosed team rule, but he does not have the reputation as being a problem off the field or in the locker room.

The Bears, who hold the 14th overall selection in the first round, are clearly doing their homework on the best available safeties in the draft. Washington State safety Deone Bucannon visited Halas Hall the first week teams were allowed to host draft-eligible players at their respective facilities.

Even though the Bears signed free-agent safeties Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray, and re-signed veteran Craig Steltz, the club could be looking to draft a difference-maker capable of cracking the starting lineup as a rookie. Last year's starting free safety, Chris Conte, will be sidelined until training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery March 26.

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