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NFL draft: Bears might corner the 19th pick

StephGilmore Matt Roark

Stephon Gilmore Matt Roark

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Updated: May 25, 2012 8:14AM

If the Bears decide to take the cornerback of the future in the NFL draft Thursday, there may a couple of solid options at No. 19.

Charles Tillman is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, but he turned 31 in February, and the Bears don’t have another obvious player to start. D.J. Moore is locked in as the nickel corner, and Tim Jennings was re-signed and Kelvin Hayden added.

But the Bears certainly hope to have some competition to start opposite Tillman.

Asked if the cornerback class can be a good one, former Bears player personnel director Tim Ruskell said ‘‘it can be.’’

“A lot of these guys have the, ‘Let’s see what happens’ [status],’’ Ruskell said.

He pointed to Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina and Josh Robinson of Central Florida as examples of cornerbacks with potential but in need of development.

‘‘If they reach their potential, this could be a good class,’’ Ruskell said. ‘‘But that’s a big if.’’

Here are a few of the top prospects who could fit for the Bears:

1. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina. LSU’s Morris Claiborne is considered the best cornerback, and Gilmore is projected as the second-best. Gilmore is a solid 6-foot, but he showed throughout college that he’s an excellent run defender. Just as important, he is a dynamic playmaker, with four interceptions, one forced fumble and four passes defended last season. Consistency will be a key, since he’s coming out a year early.

2. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama. One NFC college scout said Kirkpatrick would be the ideal fit for the Bears. He’s 6-2, he’s athletic, and he’s known for his physical presence. With a 35-inch vertical leap, Kirkpatrick has range, and he should be seasoned enough to make an immediate contribution. His upside may not be as high as Gil­more’s, but he seems a safer overall selection.

3. Josh Robinson, Central Florida. He’s a burner, clocking a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. But, like Gilmore, he’s more projection than production. He also has more experience in man coverage than zone coverage. He could go in the second round.

4. Trumaine Johnson, Montana. If the Bears don’t address cornerback in the first round, they may seriously consider Johnson in the second or even third. Johnson is 6-2, and he’s projected to be a safety by some scouts. But he’s physical, and he manages to get his hands on quite a few balls, both interceptions and tipped passes.

5. Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt. Jerry Angelo is no longer general manager, so the Bears may not have a pipeline to Vanderbilt anymore. But Hayward seems to fit the Bears’ style of play. He is an aggressive run defender, with 7½ tackles for loss last season, and he is a solid, all-around player.

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