Bears Draft Strategy: Safeties in Numbers

Jerry Angelo has run eleven drafts as general manager of the Chicago Bears. He has spent almost every draft trying to fix the safety position. And a quick glance at the list of his drafted safeties show the task is far from complete.

Bobby Gray (5)
Todd Johnson (4)
Chris Harris (6)
Danieal Manning (2)
Kevin Payne (5)
Craig Steltz (4)
Al Afalava (6)
Major Wright (3)
Chris Conte (3)

Jerry at training camp

In Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense a cornerback’s discipline is more important than their talent. The Bears don’t require a high-priced, shut down corner because the scheme mostly requires them to cover their area of the field (i.e. zone). This fact makes the safety position that much more important. In the Bears defensive scheme a strong safety (SS) and free safety (FS) are often interchangeable. Both positions require similar talent and football smarts. An inexperienced or below average safety could allow long pass plays by falling for a play action pass. Angelo has failed to identify the necessary talent to fix either position since he arrived in Chicago.

The strategy to draft safeties in the late rounds and let Bears coaches develop them isn’t working. Jerry Angelo spent a 2nd round pick on Danieal Manning who spent five years rotating between cornerback and safety before signing with Houston in the offseason. Manning had the raw speed but never developed into a great safety or cornerback. Other than Manning, Angelo hasn’t used higher than a 3rd round selection in eight other draft picks on the position. The latest pair of safeties that Angelo hopes will stick are Chris Conte and Major Wright. Conte, a 3rd round pick, is a rookie who has played solid so far but the defensive coaches have positioned him extremely deep to avoid a major mistake. He might develop into a good safety but doesn’t look to have Pro Bowl type ability. Wright, another 3rd rounder, has athletic ability but his inconsistent play and minor injuries has made him another questionable draft pick. Either the G.M. needs to spend heavily to sign a top safety in free agency or use higher round picks in the draft. His signing of talented Patriots cast-off Brandon Meriweather might be a sign of this strategic change. If Meriweather learns the system and eliminates the illegal hit penalties, he could help solve the problem for years to come. The Bears defense is good but won’t live up to its true potential until Angelo solves this puzzle.

NOTE: Parenthesis next to play name indicates round player was selected.


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