Stephen Denmark Jersey

Stephen Denmark was willing to transfer from wide receiver to cornerback for his final collegiate season at Valdosta State for one simple reason.

“I kind of figured there’s a lot of 6-3, 220 wide receivers,” Denmark said. “But there’s not many 6-3, 220 cornerbacks at all, really.”

As it turned out, that transition is what got Denmark drafted, even if it was on a seventh-round flier by the Bears. General manager Ryan Pace alluded to Denmark’s “ridiculous” measurables last weekend and said the Bears see “tremendous upside” in him.

If anyone around Halas Hall is dreaming big, could that upside be Richard Sherman — another lengthy receiver-turned-corner who’s put together an intriguing Hall of Fame case in his eight-year career?

“I look up to him,” Denmark said. “There’s plenty (of WRs-turned-CBs) out there but Richard Sherman, yeah, he’s pretty good.”

Of course, there are hundreds of metaphorical hurdles separating Denmark from one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He would’ve been higher than a seventh round pick had there been certainty he’d be the next Richard Sherman.

So this weekend’s rookie minicamp will begin a long, grueling process for Denmark to make good on his opportunity in the NFL. But he’s someone who, at the least, the Bears are fascinated to see develop.

“This late in the draft, it’s just a very interesting, intriguing prospect for us to take,” Pace said. “I can tell you this: When we go to the rookie minicamp, he’s going to be one of the guys I’m going to be most interested in watching, just because of the traits that he possesses.”

Duke Shelley has far more experience playing cornerback than Denmark, having played 37 games while picking off eight passes over the last four years for Kansas State.

But Shelley is changing positions, too, at the NFL level — only he’s moving from outside corner, where he played at K-State, into the slot. And that’s not always an easy transition.

“Nickel’s a hard position to play, just because of where you’re at on the field,” Shelley said. “There’s more grass, more field to cover. Guys have opportunities to go two-way go’s on you and things like that.

“But for me personally, my skill set fits it, being my size and how quick I am and the feet I have. Transition, I don’t feel like will be hard for me. Being out there now during walk-throughs I was able to get in there at nickel a little bit and just lining up, it feels a little different. But after you get going and you get a couple of reps, you’ll be fine. So you just put your best foot forward and rely on the things you’ve been doing your whole life, so that’s kind of where I’m at with that.”

While Shelley was a solid, productive corner in the pass-happy Big 12 — opposing quarterbacks had just a 52.0 passer rating when targeting him in 2018 — his undersized 5-foot-9, 180 pound frame and a season-ending toe injury last year led to him not being invited to the NFL Combine. And that led to him being perhaps under-scouted, though the Bears discovered they liked his traits as a projectable special teamer now and slot corner in the future.

Kerrith Whyte Jersey

The Bears on Saturday selected Florida Atlantic running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. with the No. 222 pick in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.

Whyte appeared in 37 games the past three seasons at Florida Atlantic, rushing for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns on 232 carries and catching 22 passes for 227 yards with two TDs. He also averaged 26.1 yards on 81 kickoff returns with two touchdowns.

“The first trait when you’re talking about this player is speed, standout speed for this guy,” said general manager Ryan Pace. “He runs a 4.38 [in the 40]. He also brings a lot of value to special teams, so we’re excited to get him at that point.”

Whyte established career highs in all rushing categories with 134 attempts, 866 yards and eight touchdowns while playing in 12 games last season. The 5-10, 200-pounder also averaged 28.7 yards on 19 kickoff returns with one TD.

“I’m giving this whole organization, this whole city, everything I’ve got,” Whyte said Saturday during a conference call with Chicago reporters. “They’re going to get every ounce of energy in me. I’m just thankful for this organization. Whatever role that may be, I’m going to give them my all.”

Whyte said that he did a private workout with the Bears at Florida Atlantic that was conducted by running backs coach Charles London.

“It went pretty well thankfully,” Whyte said. “We did a lot of catching and route-running, stuff like that. I think that kind of helped my situation here, so I’m thankful for the opportunity in the Bears organization.”

Duke Shelley Jersey

The Bears on Saturday chose Kansas State cornerback Duke Shelley with the No. 205 pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

Shelley appeared in 38 games with 37 starts in four seasons at Kansas State. He recorded 165 tackles, eight interceptions—returning two for touchdowns–one sack, seven tackles-for-loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

General manager Ryan Pace described the 5-9, 180-pounder as “a guy I feel like we’ve been talking about for a long time. [He’s] a little bit undersized but extremely athletic. Really twitchy. Good ball skills.”

Pace told reporters that Shelley’s competitiveness jumps off the tape when you watch him on film.

“He’s so scrappy,” Pace said. “If it’s completed, it’s earned. He’s very sticky in coverage. He’s highly, highly competitive. He’s just very athletic. When you look at his PBUs and his interceptions, they’re coming in a very athletic manner. It’s not gimmies. Everything is earned.”

Shelley started all 12 games he played as a junior in 2017, ranking fourth in the Big 12 with 13 pass breakups while earning honorable mention all-conference honors. He started the first seven games last year before sustaining a season-ending toe injury.

“I’m definitely a hard worker,” Shelley said Saturday during a conference call with the Chicago media. “I’m going to work harder than anybody around me. I take that very seriously, Technique is probably the biggest thing I feel like sets me apart in my game.

“I’m a competitor. I’m going to compete every play. I don’t like balls getting caught on me, I don’t care if it’s one yard or five. I like to compete all the time, and that’s what I’m going to do. I know I’m going to compete as hard as I can, and it’s going to pay off.”
With an impressive performance at Kansas State’s Pro Day—he ran the 40 in 4.46—Shelley proved that he’s completely recovered from the toe injury that prematurely ended his college career. He sustained the injury last Oct. 13 in a 31-12 win over Oklahoma State while returning one of two interceptions he had in the game.

“It was challenging at first,” Shelley said. “It was my senior year, missing the last five games. But it is what it is. You just keep working and getting back on track. Now I’m 100 percent healthy, ready to get to work, ready to come in in camp and earn a job.”

Pace told reporters that Shelley’s ideal position is at slot corner. While he primarily lined up outside at Kansas State, Shelley is confident that he can play inside in the NFL.

“I played in the slot a little bit in certain formations based on what teams were doing to us,” Shelley said. “But I can play the slot, 100 percent. I know it well, like the back of my hand. I can play corner on the outside. I’ve been doing that for four straight years at Kansas State. I’m very versatile in that area.”

As a defensive back drafted in the sixth round, Shelley no doubt will be asked to play on special teams—and that’s just fine with him.

“I have a lot of experience on special teams,” he said. “That’s something I actually wanted to do. That separates me from other guys. I can run down on gunner and cover some guys. I can run off on kickoff coverage. I can return kicks, return punts. I can do it all, just filling that void wherever they need help. I can come in and do that right away.”

Like the two players the Bears picked ahead of him—running back David Montgomery and receiver Riley Ridley—Shelley made a pre-draft visit to Halas Hall.

“I enjoyed everything about the Bears,” he said. “The whole nine, I loved it. I loved everything about the team. I’m just ready to come in and get to work.

“It’s more than just a team. Those guys really like each other in the locker room, so that goes a long way. That’s something I want to be a part of.”

Shelley has known Bears linebacker Roquan Smith since high school and is very familiar with the rest of the defense, which led the NFL in several categories last season.

“Eddie Jackson, I call him modern-day Ed Reed because of all of the turnovers he creates,” Shelley said. “Arguably the best defensive player in the league (Khalil Mack) is up front rushing the passer. So I couldn’t ask to be in a better position. I’m waiting to get after it. I know those guys on the defensive side are some dogs. I’m going to be a dog, too.”

Riley Ridley Jersey

Did the Bears need another wide receiver? Not really.

But after addressing running back by trading up and drafting David Montgomery in the third round on Friday, did the Bears really have any other truly glaring needs?

An argument could be made for a few positions: Tight end, edge rusher, cornerback and safety all come to mind. But whoever else the Bears were going to draft after landing Montgomery was always going to be a depth piece, one or two spots removed from the top of the depth chart. So why not take the best player available?

That’s precisely what Ryan Pace did with pick No. 126, landing Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley.

“It’s a great example of us taking the best player on our board,” Pace said.

For what it’s worth, the Athletic’s Dane Brugler had Ridley No. 59 on his top 100 rankings. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris had him in his top 75. The Ringer’s Danny Kelly had Ridley in his top 100. By a number of accounts outside the favorable walls of Halas Hall, the Bears got themselves a good player with the 126th pick.

But being able to pick Ridley while not worrying about filling a true need with a fourth-round pick was yet another signal of how strong this Bears roster is heading into the 2019 season.

“The roster is at a point that we don’t have to force anything,” Pace said. “And that’s our mindset every draft, but to have a player of that caliber there and comfortably be able to take him was really a no-brainer because he was so high on our board.”

Pace has never been one to outwardly force picks based on need — perhaps trading up to draft Mitch Trubisky could be a counter-argument, though good quarterbacks on rookie contracts are the most valuable commodity in the NFL today. Previously, though, everything could’ve been considered a need on a roster with a dearth of talent.

But drafting a player like Ridley is what good teams are able to do. They may not need Ridley to be an important contributor now, but what if a year from now they’re in a cap crunch and have to make a difficult decision to cut a highly-paid receiver? Or what if an injury occurs?

Or, to put it another way: If Ridley develops like the Bears believe he can, it’ll hardly be a bad thing for the team to have another good player on its roster.

Ridley comes to the Bears with an important trait: His route running ability. That’s an increasingly difficult skill to find in the ranks of college receivers, who so often run simple route concepts and have limited route trees and are able to win on pure strength or athleticism.

Ridley is strong, no doubt, but the first thing Pace mentioned when rattling off his strengths was his route running ability. That matters.

“He has a savviness to him to know how to set guys up,” Pace said. “… So when you’re watching him, you consistently see him separating from man coverage and I think it’s because of his physical skillset but also because he’s a very good route runner. So that’s one of the first things that jumps out — just how how defined his routes are, how crisp his routes are and how he knows how to set guys up.”

Nagy, too, praised the route running acumen Ridley will bring with him to Halas Hall, as well as a good grasp of some of the finer points of playing the receiver position.

“He does win a lot more than 50-50 balls,” Nagy said. “He wins a lot of those, in the routes that he runs. He’s always extending his arms. He’s catching the ball away from his chest. He has very, very, extremely natural hands, which is friendly to a quarterback. And he has the route running. He has confidence and when he was in here with us just talking to him, with where he’s at and what he believes in himself and what he can do, we like that. And as Ryan said, he was sitting at a great spot for us and he does nothing but create competition and all of our guys are going to be ready for it.”

It’s far too early to say Ridley will absolutely work out in the NFL, of course. He’s not particularly fast and didn’t have much in the way of college production: 44 catches, 570 yards, nine touchdowns — numbers similar to what 2018 seventh-round pick Javon Wims did his final year at Georgia (45 catches, 720 yards, 7 TDs).

But he represented something larger for the Bears as a franchise: The best player available, and the team’s ability to confidently take that player without sacrificing a glaring need for it.

“Truly, by far, (he was) the best player on our board,” Pace said. “And (we’re) very excited to select him.”

David Montgomery Jersey

As Bears head coach Matt Nagy sat in front of the media on Saturday discussing the addition of David Montgomery, he was absolutely glowing in his praise of the Iowa State running back.

“He’s the whole package,” Nagy said. “He has the hands. He’s a three-down back. He’s everything we were looking for.”

Nagy praised Montgomery’s ability to make defenders miss inside the tackle box, extend runs, as well as his sheer power and vision.

When Nagy took over as head coach last season, he had a clear vision of what he wanted his offense to be. The one thing he didn’t have was his Kareem Hunt, the three-down running back with pass-catching ability.

After trading Jordan Howard this offseason and adding Montgomery, Nagy got his Kareem Hunt.

Nagy said he definitely sees similarities between Montgomery and Hunt from size to physicality to the coaching they’ve received.

“You look at them and the size of them, you see how they run between the tackles,” Nagy said. “They’re physical. They run angry, both of them. “

One of the things that Nagy values above everything is character, and it’s another reason why Nagy couldn’t help but sing Montgomery’s praises.

“We always talk about high character guys, high IQ football players,” Nagy said, “and he’s at the top of that list.”

He cited his meeting with Montgomery at the Scouting Combine and came away impressed by his passion. Montgomery was very open with Nagy about his struggles and the adversity he’s had to overcome. That personal connection was very important to Nagy, and he came away believing that Montgomery was as special as a person as he is a player.

“He’s about as real a person as there is, real authentic, very passionate,” Nagy said.

As for what the addition of Montgomery means for the Bears’ running back situation, Nagy feels strongly about the group as a whole. Montgomery joins Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis in the Bears’ dynamic backfield. Nagy noted that Davis was especially excited about Montgomery and couldn’t wait to start working with him.

“They’re all a little bit different, and I like that,” Nagy said of his running backs. “It gives you options and they’re all weapons.”

The more weapons, the merrier. No wonder Nagy is absolutely glowing.