It was no secret the Chicago Bears had the need to upgrade their defense in the 2014 NFL draft, and it was only a mild surprise when the team took cornerback Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech with their first choice on Thursday night. Fuller, described as “one tough football player” by GM Phil Emery, has played several different defensive positions in college and will bring some needed youth to a Bears defensive backfield that lists two 30-somethings (Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings) at the corners for 2014.
In addition to being a tough guy, Emery also praised Fuller’s length, versatility and athleticism as well as his character. The GM added that the first round pick will be “a great representative” of the Chicago Bears.
While some would think the team stretched to pick Fuller, in many ways the pick seems to make sense. With Tillman and Jennings entrenched in the starting positions at cornerback, Fuller is a player who could work his way into the Bears’ defensive system by playing in nickel situations. As an added bonus, Fuller is physical enough to come up and provide run-support for a defense that ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. He is a good tackler, racking up 173 career stops at Virginia Tech–23 of them for losses–and even has the range to jump in at safety if needed.
With addition of Fuller, the Bears served notice they are serious about rebuilding their once-proud defense which was left in tatters after the 2014 season. They addressed the defensive line in the off-season, signing free agents Jared Allen, Lamar Houston and Willie Young. Bringing in Fuller via the NFL Draft will shore up the secondary a bit, but there are still some question marks at safety. While the off-season signing of Ryan Mundy at strong safety was a step in the right direction, free safety Chris Conte has had shoulder surgery and could begin the season on the PUP list.
The Bears have two more picks in Friday’s edition of the NFL draft in the second and third rounds and could address the safety position with one of those choices. Their other need is a good change-of-pace running back to take some of the burden off of Matt Forte. There are some viable choices that will be available in the second round, including Carlos Hyde from Ohio State, Tre Mason from Auburn, Washington’s Bishop Sankey or even Ka’Deem Carey out of Arizona.
In picking up Kyle Fuller in the first round of the NFL draft, the Bears got not only a tough guy, but also a player with a good pedigree. His brother Corey was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, and his brother Vincent was picked by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round in 2005. In Friday’s draft the Bears will get pick No. 19 in the second round and No. 18 in the third round. Chicago has one pick in each of the first five rounds and two picks in the sixth.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky