It’s no secret that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio loves long, athletic cornerbacks. His defense runs best when he has big cornerbacks who are aggressive at the point of attack. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t really had any of those to work with outside of Deiondre’ Hall, who was only active for eight games last year.
Chicago’s front-seven is the best it has been in years. However, they haven’t had much help in the secondary as of late. The Bears are trying to change that this year with the additions of Quintin Demps, Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. They could still use another starting-caliber player or two, though. Here are five defensive backs in this year’s NFL Draft that fit the “Vic Fangio mold”.
Kevin King, Washington
Kevin King’s stock has been rapidly improving, and for good reason, too.
King, at 6’3″ and 195 pounds, has elite size for a cornerback. His lanky frame and long arms help him swallow up receivers in coverage and deflect passes. He has surprisingly good hands for a defensive back, which will make him an interception threat in the NFL. King also has fantastic athleticism, as made evident by his Combine numbers.
Despite his size, he was a top performer in the vertical jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle, and managed to run a 4.43 40-yard dash. While his play speed on tape doesn’t quite match his Combine performance, it shows that he has the raw tools to succeed.
King might not be able to start right away for the Bears, though. He still has to improve his physicality as a tackler and while shedding blocks. However, Fangio would likely love to be able to work with someone with the physical tools that King has. If he’s available in the second round, don’t be surprised if Chicago snatches him up.
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Quincy Wilson, Florida
Despite all of the hype surrounding Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, Quincy Wilson is still my No. 1 cornerback in this class. I’m sticking by my first evaluations of him back in November.
Wilson isn’t as big as someone like King or the soon-to-be-mentioned Ahkello Witherspoon, but his 6’1″, 211-pound frame is still impressive. He’s a physical, tough corner who can tackle as well as he can drop back in coverage.
He also brings a load of finesse and athleticism to the table, as well. He has fluid hips and solid speed, which helps him to mirror almost any wideout. Wilson’s instincts and ball skills are both great in their own right, too.
It’s unlikely that the Bears will take Wilson unless they trade down. However, having the chance to add him and gain some more early-round picks could be an intriguing option.
Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Ahkello Witherspoon is a fairly similar athlete to the aforementioned Kevin King. They’re both 6’3″ and are only two pounds apart in weight. They both also ran identical 40 times and both had fantastic vertical jumps. While King had more impressive three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle times, Witherspoon arguably has the better tape.
When looking over his stats, one thing that really stands out is his number of deflected passes. In a tie with teammate Tedric Thompson, Witherspoon had 23 of them in 2016. It’s obvious that his long arms play a big role in that number. His ball skills also help his utilize his length and disrupt the play.
Witherspoon is a great athlete whose fluid hips and good footwork help him mirror his receiver’s route. He’s also physical at the point of attack, which is something Vic Fangio loves in his defensive backs. He’s not a great tackler, but his relative inexperience in football is a valid excuse for that: he only played one year in high school before going to college.
Witherspoon is a player that the Bears could probably get in the third round if they wanted him. He still has areas in which he needs to improve, but he’s a fast learner who has steadily improved year after year. He could end up being a steal for whomever picks him this year.
Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
I’ll admit it: I slept on Cordrea Tankersley. In my first round of evaluations, he didn’t even crack my top 15 for corners in this class! However, once I watched more tape on him, I realized that his placement on my board was wrong.
Tankersley, like Wilson, has good length at 6’1″. He has had good, consistent production over the past two years, too. He had five interceptions and nine pass deflections in 2015, and four picks and 11 deflections in 2016. His awareness, ball skills and instincts all play a good part in that reliability. He’s also a great athlete, as made evident by his 4.40 40-yard dash.
One of my biggest flaws in my prior evaluations of Tankersley was my misbelief that he isn’t physical. However, once I watched more tape from the 2016 season (instead of 2015), it’s clear that that is not the case. He’s physical as a tackler and in coverage; he’s not afraid to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong.
I have a late second-round grade on Tankersley at the moment, which is around where most people have him going. If he falls to the Bears in the third round though, he’d be a great option.
Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
While all of the first four players on this list would require a Day 2 pick or higher, Rasul Douglas would likely be available in the fourth round. If they wanted to fill other needs early, they could still end up with a solid starting-caliber corner.
Douglas has two traits that stand out the most: ball skills and length. Last year at West Virginia, he had a nation-leading total of eight interceptions. At 6’2″ and 209 pounds, he’s also bigger than most cornerbacks. His long arms, along with his instincts and ability to track down the ball, contributes to his ball-hawking abilities. He’s also great in zone and press coverage.
However, Douglas lacks great speed. When I watched him on tape, there were a few occasions where he allowed faster wide receivers to gain separation. This made it no surprise to me when he ran a less-than-stellar 4.59 40-yard dash. He’ll be best suited being put on taller, slower, possession receivers in the pros.
Despite his lack of top-end speed, Douglas has what the Bears need: ball skills, production and length. If they choose to put off picking a cornerback in the first three rounds, he could be a great option for them.
– Jacob Infante is a National Editor for cover32 and also covers the Chicago Bears. He can be followed on Twitter @jacobinfante24.