Bears will likely snatch up safeties during draft

Matt Trowbridge

Start counting safeties. If you are still on your first hand by the time the Bears pick at No. 75 overall Friday, you know Chicago should finally address its longest-standing defensive need.

But if you’ve moved on to your toes, you can forget about the Bears taking a 2010-ready safety in the NFL Draft, held Thursday through Saturday.

Jerry Angelo said Wednesday that safety was the second-deepest position in this year’s draft after defensive linemen. It is also clearly Chicago’s No. 1 need.

“There is a lot of quantity in the secondary of players who can come in and help you,” the Bears general manager said. “The safety position is a little better than the corner position for recognizable names. I could see as many as five safeties getting drafted by the end of round two.

“It probably gets to six, seven and eight, and that’s where it will stop, where you feel comfortable that a guy can come in and help you. It’s a pretty good safety board. We are going to look at secondary very hard. It’s not a secret.”

But the Bears won’t be looking for the type of run-stuffing safeties they’ve often taken late-round fliers on. Chris Harris, Kevin Payne and Al Afalava have all had some success at strong safety for the Bears the last five years, but what Chicago needs is a safety who can help most in pass defense.

“Everybody has gotten away from the strong safety,” Angelo said. “Everybody is now looking for a free safety, because everybody is now piling in coverage with the safety position … relying more on athleticism than that proverbial “in the box” type.”

Chicago’s No. 2 need might be a young guard or right tackle to help out an offensive line that has been built primarily through free agency the last decade. But Angelo said the Bears won’t find an instant starter on the offensive line in the third round.

“If he has that kind of ability, he’s probably going to be gone in the second,” Angelo said. “Most of the quality offensive linemen go in the first two rounds. A lot of linemen get overdrafted because of the value of their position, not necessarily because of the quality of their play. It’s a supply and demand business. There are not enough linemen to feed 32 teams.”

After trading away their first- and second-round draft picks, the Bears are looking at this draft more to add depth than fill immediate needs.

“When you don’t have the first two picks, it’s very difficult to put a stamp on a player and say we feel very strongly that he is going to come in and potentially start,” Angelo said.

“We found it very difficult to do with a first-rounder, let alone a third-rounder.”

Angelo’s goal is to draft three players who will be among the 47 players who dress for games on Sundays. He’s zeroed in one four players in the third round, five in the fourth and four in the fifth that he thinks have at least a 50-50 chance of being there when the Bears pick.

“We feel very good about getting players of need in those first three picks that can get to Sunday,” Angelo said. “If they can get to Sunday, that means they can help us.”

And if the Bears don’t draft a safety that can help right away, Angelo said they’ll return to the free-agent market.

“We need help,” Angelo said.

Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or