There is no question safety and defensive tackle are primary needs for the Chicago Bears. However, with limited depth beyond the first round will they be better off getting their safety early and if so should they go with Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?
Chris Conte injury and ineptitude makes Clinton-Dix popular
All any Bears fan can think about when bringing up 2013 is that fateful final play at Soldier Field in which Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb inexplicably found himself wide open for the game-winning touchdown on 4th and 8. The play cost the Chicago Bears the playoffs for the second-straight season and primary culprit responsible for the debacle was free safety Chris Conte who failed to get the needed defensive call and let Cobb get past him for the score. It ended a rather forgettable season for the third-year player and sparked a series of calls by fans to have him and in fact the entire secondary replaced. That is why safety is so high in demand for the Chicago Bears defense. It’s no surprise Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is among the top targets.
Scouts believe the Alabama free safety is the best at his position in the NFL draft. He has that coveted fluidity and range to make great breaks on the football coupled with the instincts to know where it’s going by reading the quarterback. He has the bulk to handle tackling and the length to cover the big tight ends. By that same token he does occasionally lapse in coverage due to shoddy technique, especially against play action. It’s something to be expected from a young safety that can be cleaned up with more work.
Pro Comparison: Louis Delmas
Chicago Bears fans will cringe when hearing the name Louis Delmas given what the Detroit Lions had to go through. However, the best thing to do is think of Clinton-Dix as Delmas without the knee problems. When health Delmas was an instinctive, physical leader in the Lions secondary who always seemed to elevate the play of everybody around him. Ha Ha has a chance to do the very same to whichever team picks him.
Pryor more talented than Ryan Mundy
Strong safety may actually be in more trouble than free depending on who you ask. Former starter Major Wright departed in free agency for TampaBay. Before that, like Conte, he struggled most of the 2013 season both in coverage and supporting the run. To that end GM Phil Emery brought in a host of bodies to compete for the safety jobs but his biggest addition was Ryan Mundy. A 29-year old veteran, he had the chance to learn behind greats like Troy Polamalu and Antrel Rolle before getting a significant chance to play with the New York Giants last year. In nine starts he posted 77 tackles, a sack and an interception. Despite the label he carries as a career backup, Emery believe he has the athleticism and toughness to start at strong safety.
That is condition of course on whether the Chicago Bears decide to add more competition or not. While free safety is his tagged position, Louisville standout Calvin Pryor has all the characteristics of a strong. His biggest calling cards include tackling, delivering a fierce hit and blitzing. These he does extremely well thanks to his excellent athleticism, speed and toughness. Yet most scouts believe his coverage ability is trending up fast, which could signal him as a hybrid type who can play free or strong.
Pro Comparison: Earl Thomas
Very similar tags were put on Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas when he came out of Texas. From there a keen focus and relentless work ethic turned him into perhaps the best defensive player in football. If Pryor is willing to put in that same commitment there is no reason he can’t reach similar heights.
At this point most would say that it’s really hard for the Chicago Bears to miss regardless of who they take in the first round of the NFL draft. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor both have great upside and should have productive pro careers. It merely comes down to who will be better. So what do you think?