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Bears looking for cornerback in NFL draft, but it’s not a pressing need

Nebraskdefensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste runs drill NFL football scouting combine Indianapolis Tuesday Feb. 25 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT:

Nebraska defensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: INMC10

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Jason Verrett, TCU, 5-9, 189: If he were a couple of inches taller, Verrett might be the first cornerback taken in the draft. But his size hasn’t removed him from the Bears’ radar.

‘‘If I’m 5-9, I’m 5-9, but I can compete with anybody,’’ Verrett said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Verrett, the co-defensive player of the year in the Big 12, is coming off shoulder surgery in March but is projected to be a second-round pick at worst.

His instincts and physicality show up on film, and he displayed his athleticism at the combine, turning in some of the best overall numbers at his position.

Five more

Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma, 5-11, 177: The torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee he suffered in January at the Senior Bowl hasn’t turned off all teams. He could be quite the steal in the third round or beyond.

Pierre Desir, Lindenwood, 6-1, 198: Desir is a three-time Division II All-American and might be there for the taking in the third or fourth round.

Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 190: Fuller, who had a predraft visit with the Bears, played multiple positions in college. Some analysts see him as a first-round pick.

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 202: He’s considered the top cornerback by most pundits and is expected to be off the board in the first 20 picks.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska, 6-3, 218: One of the biggest corners available, Jean-Baptiste interviewed with the Bears at the Senior Bowl. He grades out in the middle-round range.

Thursday: Running backs

Updated: June 1, 2014 6:30AM

Leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8, the Sun-Times will take a position-by-position look at the Bears’ needs and which players might be available to fill them.

The NFL draft features a deep cornerback class, and every team, including the Bears, seems to be looking for one.

The Bears, though, are looking for something a bit more specific. They eventually are going to have to find a successor for Charles Tillman, the best cornerback in franchise history.

The Bears’ top priorities in the draft are safety and defensive
tackle, but the depth of the cornerback class makes examining potential replacements for Tillman important, too. It’s widely thought that future starters could be had after the second round.

Tillman, 33, is entering his 12th season and is coming off an injury-plagued 2013, which included a torn triceps. The Bears are said to be looking at bigger corners in the mold of Tillman. It makes sense because they just signed Tim Jennings, who is only 5-8, to a four-year extension.

The Bears have been linked to a number of cornerbacks, including Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir (6-1, 198 pounds) and Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-3, 218). Both might be available in the middle rounds.

Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin (5-11, 177) is another one to consider. Colvin tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in January at the Senior Bowl, which might scare off some teams and leave him available later that initially projected.

Colvin might be worth the
investment for a team such as the Bears, who already have a veteran in place and can give a rookie time to develop. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has a second-day grade for Colvin, who was a three-year starter for the Sooners and also played some safety.

‘‘I’m getting a great vibe [from teams],’’ Colvin said in a phone
interview. ‘‘I had an unfortunate injury at an unfortunate time, but I still feel like everything is going to work out in my favor.’’

Some scouting reports highlight Colvin’s ability to play against
bigger receivers. He has visited the 49ers, Eagles and Saints, and he met with the Chargers, Bengals and Browns in February at the NFL Scouting Combine.

‘‘With bigger receivers, you’ve just got to have that want-to, that dog mentality,’’ said Colvin, who played primarily in man coverage at Oklahoma. ‘‘Every time I face a bigger receiver, I never let that intimidate me. Some big guys are stronger. Some big guys can run. You just have to play them to your advantages.’’

Colvin is on track to be ready by late July, when training camps open. His medical evaluations last weekend in Indianapolis went well.

‘‘I feel like I’m still the best corner in this draft class,’’ Colvin said. ‘‘I think time will prove that I am the best. But we’ve got some talented guys in this class, and it should be a fun year.’’


Twitter: @adamjahns

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