The Chicago Bears have been rubbing elbows with some of the draft’s top defensive prospects in recent days, and their latest meetings involve a pair of players who could be worthy of first round picks.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport tweets that the Bears hosted Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward on Wednesday. Neither plays a position of need for the Bears, but both could earn starters reps based on how they could be deployed in Vic Fangio’s defense. Let’s look a little deeper.
Ward is no stranger to Bears fans who have been keeping tabs on what’s been going on during mock draft season. The Ohio State product is viewed as one of the premier talents at his position, all while checking in at 5-10, 191 pounds. Ward showed high-end athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, posting an impressive 4.32-second 40-yard dash while boasting the best broad jump (136 inches) among defensive backs, and a 39-inch vertical that ranked second among cornerbacks.
If the Bears drafted Ward eighth, he could help fortify a secondary that will face Pro Bowl quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins twice a year.
Fitzpatrick could shore up the secondary in his own way, too. The multi-positional star was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC performer in each of the last two seasons. He also brought home a ton of hardware, earning the Jim Thorpe Award (given to college football’s best defensive back) and Chuck Bednarik Award (which goes to the best defensive player in college football) in 2017. Fitzpatrick is an excellent pass defender with good hands, ball skills, and the ability to cover receivers and tight ends. He is a willing and able tackler who can also blitz on occasion.
Should Fitzpatrick be chosen by the Bears, he could probably step right into the lineup as the team’s premier slot corner and not be limited to being just a coverage guy. That kind of versatility is invaluable to what Fangio wants to do on defense.
Depending on how the draft unfolds in front of the Bears, it’s possible both Fitzpatrick and Ward will be available when the team goes on the clock. HOWEVER, we’re talking about a player who is believed to be the draft’s top cover corner (Ward) and a do-it-all Swiss Army knife who was a star at every position along the Crimson Tide defense (Fitzpatrick), so there is a chance both will be selected before it’s Chicago’s turn to choose.
Fitzpatrick and Ward join Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith as the latest defensive standouts to visit the Bears. Each of the aforementioned players could conceivably be in play with pick No. 8.
Tip your cap to the Bears for somehow showing that they are keeping their options open while simultaneously playing it close to the vest.