Bears Draft Options: CB (Rounds 3-4)

Jaylen Watkins (Stacy Revere/Getty)

With three aging corner heading the roster, the Bears need quality young depth at the cornerback position. We evaluate the mid-round corners who can help boost Chicago's secondary.

The Chicago Bears have plenty of experience at the cornerback position, as well as four combined Pro Bowl appearances between starters Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, yet age is catching up to the position. Jennings is 30, while Tillman is 33 and playing on a one-year contract. Kelvin Hayden, also 30, is working on his own one-year deal.

So while the position appears solid for at least the 2014 season, assuming everyone stays healthy, the team must consider long-term options in this year's draft.

We recently evaluated the first- and second-round cornerbacks in the 2014 draft class, so let's move on to the mid-round corners who could emerge as future starters.

Pierre Desir, Lindenwood (6-1, 198)

Desir is one of many tall, lengthy cornerbacks that have been moving up draft boards of late. A two-year transfer from Washburn University, he dominated lesser competition at the collegiate level and was named first-team AP Little All-American and an American Football Coaches Association All-American. In two seasons, he intercepted 13 passes for Lindenwood. He's an extremely athletic ball hawk who showed good balance and instincts at the Senior Bowl. He's not the fastest corner (4.59 40-yard dash) but he has an ideal body type and a lot of upside. The Bears were present at his pro day, so there's definitely interest.
Projected: 2nd-3rd round


Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Eric Francis/Getty

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska (6-3, 218)

Jean-Baptiste is another big corner with whom teams see a lot of potential. A former wide receiver, he's played corner just three seasons. He has just one full year as a starter under his belt, so he's very raw. He lacks ideal instincts and technique at the position and is not speed merchant. He has safety size, so some see him as potentially playing on the back end at the next level. He also showed great explosiveness at the combine. Jean-Baptiste is a green player but his size and history as a receiver makes him very intriguing. He may not start right away but for the Bears, that won't be a problem.
Projected: 2nd-3rd round

Jaylen Watkins, Florida (5-11, 194)

Watkins is the Florida cornerback not enough people are talking about. He was a three-year starter for the Gators at both corner and safety. He reacts quickly on passes and is physical when the ball is in the air. He's fluid and instinctive in man coverage and intelligent in zone sets. He's spotty against the run but he's a playmaker when it counts. Watkins was the most impressive defensive back at the Senior Bowl, routinely dominating receivers in 1-on-1 drills. At the combine, he ran a 4.41 40 and had 22 bench-press reps, the most amongst corners. His positional versatility, experience, on-field leadership and size make him one of the best mid-round defensive backs in this year's draft.
Projected: 3rd round

Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State (5-10, 189)

Reynolds is a four-year starter whose six interceptions as a senior led the Beavers and earned him second-team All-Pac 12 honors. He was a three-time prep city wrestling champion, a rarity for a potential NFL cornerbacks and one that speaks to his toughness. He's an exceptional athlete who has great instincts for the game. He was productive and durable in college and was a team leader and captain. Reynolds ran a 4.51 40 and had 20 bench-press reps at the combine, while also finishing as a top performer in the three-cone (6.72) and short shuttle (4.00). He has all the makings of a potential NFL starter and as a quality gunner, he would be a big boost to Chicago's special teams.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

Walt Aikens, Liberty (6-1, 203)

Aikens was a starter at Illinois before he got kicked off the team after an arrest for theft. He transferred to Liberty where he was a three-time All-Big South honoree. Aikens has great size and is very athletic. He was one of the best corners at the Senior Bowl, showing aggressiveness in man coverage. He has experience at both corner and free safety, and also played basketball and track at Liberty. The Bears attended his pro day. Aikens still has a lot to learn about playing cornerback at the next level but the Bears have time to teach him. His upside is immense.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

Nevin Lawson, Utah State (5-10, 190)

Lawson was a three-year starter who was named All-WAC the last two seasons. He led the Big Blue with 17 PBUs in 2013. He has decent size and strength, along with soft feet and solid awareness. Physically, he has the tools NFL team look for, but he was very inconsistent in college and had some poor outings. He's not adept in press coverage and pass interference calls have plagued him. Lawson isn't a Day 1 starter but he's durable, coachable, fast (4.42) and has special teams experience.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida (6-0, 190)

Purifoy is extremely athletic and has flashed serious playmaking ability. He's very agile and light on his feet. He has quality hands, played multiple positions – in the slot, out wide and at safety – and has special teams experience. Yet Purifoy is an extreme work in progress. He lacks technique and freelances way too much. He's not a physical defender and struggles in press coverage, while his tackling is mediocre at best. Most assumed he'd light up the stopwatches at the combine, yet he posted a highly disappointing 4.61 40-yard dash, followed by a 4.63 at his pro day. Purifoy also has off-field baggage, including an ongoing incident based on a drug arrest for which a bench warrant was issued earlier this month. He has more questions than answers and despite his upside Purifoy is not a risk worth taking.
Projected: 4th round


Chris Davis
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Chris Davis, Auburn (5-10, 202)

Davis is a three-year starter best known for his 109-yard field-goal-return touchdown to beat Alabama last season. He was named second-team All-SEC in 2013. He's a tough, physical corner who is outstanding against the run. He likes to hit and gives great effort fighting off blocks and taking down ball carriers. He's intelligent in zone sets as well. Davis struggles in man coverage and his zero career interceptions show a lack of playmaking ability. He has value as a run defender, punt returner and on special teams, but Davis may never become a full-time starter at the next level.
Projected: 4th round

Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech (5-9, 192)

A converted running back, Thomas started the past two seasons in the Georgia Tech secondary, switching between cornerback and "rover" safety. He's a tough defender who plays fast and is lights out in run support. He's durable, versatile and was productive for the Yellow Jackets (30 pass break ups, nine interceptions in his career). Thomas is a bit of a tweener who lacks ideal size and speed. He's not a Day 1 starter but his toughness and intelligence may allow him to develop into a decent slot corner.
Projected: 4th round

E.J. Gaines, Missouri (5-10, 190)

Gaines was a two-time all-conference player who led the Tigers last year in tackles (75) and interceptions (5). A three-year starter, he set a school record as a sophomore with 18 PBUs. He's a well-built corner who is very aggressive against the run and is a strong tackler. He struggles to limit separation in man coverage and lacks ideal burst. He has experience as a returner and in special teams coverage.
Projected: 4th round

The Pick: Jaylen Watkins

This draft is deep with cornerbacks, so the Bears may choose to address other positions of need in the first two rounds. If that happens, Watkins becomes an ideal selection in the third round.

He's a fluid athlete with outstanding ball skills. He played multiple positions for the Gators, while showing great speed and strength at the combine. At the Senior Bowl, he dominated, repeatedly out-working some of the best receivers in the country.

Watkins hasn't received the same amount of hype as some of the other corners in this draft but pound-for-pound, he's one of the best defenders in this class. His experience, leadership and positional versatility would be a boost for Chicago's secondary both this year and beyond.

Honorable Mention: Walt Aikens

Aikens is a project but his combination of size and athleticism is too much to ignore. If he ever develops into the player some believe he'll be, watch out. Aikens would be a downright steal in the fourth round.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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