As draft day approached, many expected Phil Emery to come up with a surprise. He came up with some surprises during his first two drafts. In his first draft, he chose Shea McClellin with the first pick and Alshon Jeffery with his second round pick. At the time, the prevailing thought was that the Bears would look to improve the porous offensive line. Last year, he surprised some with the choice of Kyle Long. Some did not see him as a first round player, yet he made the Pro Bowl after his rookie season.
This year, the expectation was that Emery would go after a safety. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, the top two safeties in the draft, were on the board. With them available, choosing a safety was a no-brainer, right?
Why did he stay away from the safety position?
Emery explained his thinking on ESPN’s 1000’s”Carmen and Jurko Show” on Thursday.
“You can’t lose sight that as a league, the corner position is more valued,” Emery said. “There was a number of top safety contracts recently signed: Jairus Byrd, Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner and T.J. Ward. Look at those contracts versus the top cornerback contracts recently signed: Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields and Joe Haden. On the average, those deals for cornerbacks are much higher, starting on average per year from $10 million to $14 million. The range for safeties is about $7 million to $10 million on the very top end.
“You also have to look at who you play and at the league as a whole. A good portion of the time your third cornerback is a starter. There were times last year the nickel cornerback played 70 to 80 percent of the snaps. We look at the nickel as a versatile player that can play inside, outside and cover tight ends, running backs and wideouts. We definitely knew we would get the rep value when we took Kyle Fuller. For us, that was the best player for the Bears.”
Fuller gives the Bears more flexibility on defense. As Emery said, even though the Bears have Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, Fuller will be able to play plenty of snaps. He can play multiple positions as well. He has experience at safety if he is needed, as well as linebacker.
That’s not to say he will play those positions. He can if a situation like last year (when all the injuries piled up) occurs. He will be Tillman’s replacement, and playing this season with him as his mentor will do wonders for Fuller. After Tillman’s presumed retirement, Fuller will step right in and be the Bears’ top corner for the next decade.
The safety position has been improved from last season. In addition to Vereen and Conte, the Bears have Ryan Mundy, Craig Steltz, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Sean Cattouse to compete for the two starting positions. Competition improves play, so we’ll see how that turns out.
It is refreshing to have a general manager who has the guts to not only make a decision that may result in the fans’ ire, but also stand by it and thoroughly explain and defend it. You may not like the pick at first, but Emery explains his rationale so well, you’ll think anyone who didn’t make the same choice would be crazy.