Part 8 of a 10-part series previewing the NFL draft, which begins on April 27.
Staying motivated isn’t a problem for new Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper. Just read some of his messages this month on Twitter.
“Don’t run away from challenge. Run over them. #beardown.”
“The future looks bright. #ChicagoBears #Bearsnation.”
“I can and I will. #blessed.”
“Looking forward to this each and every day. #dabears.”
In other words, it doesn’t sound as if he’ll be bothered if the team adds some younger competition in the draft this year.
The Bears signed Cooper to a three-year contract worth $8 million guaranteed, and Prince Amukamara to a one-year, $7 million deal in free agency despite a deep year for cornerbacks in the draft.
Cornerback, however, still remains a priority.
If the Bears are uncomfortable in taking Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore — who is widely considered the best cornerback — with the third overall pick because of his history of hamstring issues, then so be it.
There are plenty of other good cornerbacks. By signing Cooper and Amukamara, the Bears aren’t pressured to pick one early now. They can be selective, and it’s a great year to be in that position.
Of the 22 players currently scheduled to attend the NFL draft in Philadelphia, six are cornerbacks: Lattimore and Ohio State teammate Gareon Conley, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson, LSU’s Tre’Davious White, Washington’s Kevin King and Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.
“Trying to sort out the corners is not easy,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout for the Ravens and Eagles. “To me, I start with the two Ohio State kids right at the top. Then after that, if you talk to 10 different teams around the league [about] the No. 3 guy, you’re going to get a number of different answers.
“It’s kind of what you want, to be safe or take a little bit of risk there. There’s corners for whatever way you want to go there.”
Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Florida’s Teez Tabor and Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley are among the other standouts cornerbacks that will be available.
The Bears also coached Iowa’s Desmond King and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis at the Senior Bowl.
Washington’s Sidney Jones was considered a first-round player before he tore his left Achilles tendon on his pro day on March 12.
“The injuries at the corner position have knocked it down a bit,” said NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks, also a former scout. “But teams looking for corners that can come in and act as plug-and-play players will certainly find some guys to their liking.”
Again, the Bears can take their time with that pick.
Starting with Cooper and Amukamara, cornerback is one of their deepest positions.
“[Cooper and Amukamara are] both really intelligent football players that can anticipate route concepts and think of things pre-snap that can help, because obviously we’re pretty young on defense,” general manager Ryan Pace said at the NFL owners meetings. “That kind of experience is invaluable.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.
Bears Position Spotlight
Rating Bears’ need
Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Bryce Callahan, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Johnthan Banks, De’Vante Bausby, Sherrick McManis, B.W. Webb, Jacoby Glenn, Rashaad Reynolds, Deiondre’ Hall (also safety).
You should know
General manager Ryan Pace said that Fuller is strictly a cornerback. Right now, he won’t be making a change to safety or nickel back.
The Bears are willing to give Fuller, the team’s first-round pick in 2014 who didn’t play last season, a second chance. But his slow return from arthroscopic knee surgery has been discouraging.
“Last season was frustrating for him and for us,” Pace said. “But I’m optimistic and hopeful that he’s going to have done the right things this offseason to show progress.”
Best of the best
It’s a great year for cornerbacks, but draft evaluations start with Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore.
His history of hamstring problems, however, are cause for concern.
If teams pass on Lattimore, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey or Washington’s Kevin King could be the first cornerback selected.
“Provided he’s healthy, I think he’s got a chance to be a No. 1 corner pretty quickly here in the NFL” — NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah on Lattimore.
— Adam L. Jahns