Kyle Long set the standard last season for Chicago Bears rookies when he reached the Pro Bowl. Who has the best shot to follow him in 2014?
First round picks tend to get the most credibility when thinking about first-year Pro Bowls. Kyle Fuller was drafted to play right away for the Bears as they continue to retool an aging and beleaguered secondary. The issue at hand is not whether he has the ability. Fuller was considered more pro ready than any corner in the draft. It’s playing time. He is expected to get on the field in passing situations to assist veterans Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. However, during times that call for the base defense, Fuller won’t be on the field.
The Chicago Bears had the worst run defense in the NFL, in franchise history and maybe league history last year. They knew they had to get bigger, stronger and better up front in order to fix that problem. To that end they picked up LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson in the second round. He fills all those requirements at 315 lbs with great anchor at the point of attack. The problem is he is expected to play a reserve role in 2014. On top of that he’s known more as a run defender, and such types of interior linemen don’t get love from the Pro Bowl voters.
One thing they do notice is sacks. There is no stat that tells a better story for a defensive lineman than sacks of a quarterback. It was for this purpose that the Bears plucked defensive tackle Will Sutton in the third round. Where Ferguson is the plugger, Sutton is the attacker. Between 2012 and 2013 he posted 17 sacks for Arizona State. When his weight is under control he is dynamic at getting into the backfield. So he should expect to see action at least in a rotational role. If by some chance he breaks out with a serious number, don’t be shocked if he slips into the running.
It’s almost impossible to make a Pro Bowl when you aren’t starting. It’s even harder when playing behind a superstar. Such is the situation Ka’Deem Carey finds himself in. Scouts are high on his ability for the next level, both as a runner and pass catcher. Unfortunately he has Matt Forte in front of him on the depth chart. Forte had a career year in 2013 and reached his second Pro Bowl. At age 27 he is in no danger of losing his job. Carey figures to see action frequently during the season, but his hopes for recognition in the NFL all-star game will have to wait.
The first step towards getting noticed on the field is being on the field. That means winning a starting job somewhere. Ironically of all the rookies the Chicago Bears have, it’s a fourth round pick who may have the best shot to start opening day. Safety Brock Vereen was scooped up after the team traded up with Denver to get him. They are very high on his athleticism and his intelligence. He comes from an NFL family and played multiple positions at Minnesota. Depending on how quickly he learns, he could be a breakout candidate for Chicago. The problem is he’ll be battling names like Earl Thomas, Jairus Byrd, and Antrel Rolle for the honors.