Chicago Bears: 3 heated position battles born from 2021 NFL Draft

Chicago Bears (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Bears, Thomas Graham Jr.
Chicago Bears (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports) /

Chicago Bears position battles: Thomas Graham Jr. vs. Duke Shelley

One of the most important position battles that will heat up this summer is between two sixth-round picks. Back in 2019, the Bears took Duke Shelley out of Kansas State. Shelley projected mostly as a nickel due to his lack of size, standing just 5-foot-8. Over the past two seasons, he hasn’t played a whole lot but did appear on 19 percent of defensive snaps in 2020.

In this year’s draft, the Bears took Thomas Graham Jr. out of Oregon in the sixth round. Graham figures to compete for the slot cornerback job along with Shelley, and he might have an edge there.

Graham is pretty versatile and can play both inside and outside, but the Bears have their starters on the outside with Jaylon Johnson and Desmond Trufant. After cutting Buster Skrine, a spot opened up in the slot and that’s where the opportunity is for Graham and Shelley.

These two couldn’t be more different, physically. Graham is taller, bigger and stronger. Shelley is a shorter guy but historically was a scrapper. In terms of college production, they both possessed pretty strong ball skills. Shelley had 20 passes defensed in his final two seasons at Kansas State, while Graham posted 28.

A lot of people feel as though Graham should be looked at as the favorite right now, based his size and physicality. But, we’ll see when camp rolls around.