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.”