Bears select California S Conte in Round 3

Bears select California S Conte in Round 3
April 30, 2011, 2:09 am
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Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 9:09 p.m. Updated: 9:48 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

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For the second straight draft the Bears drafted a safety with their third-round pick when they tabbed Californias Chris Conte with the 93rd pick of the 2011 draft.

Last year it was Major Wright with the 75th pick, who projects as a starter this season if he can avoid the injury bug that kept biting him almost from the start of training camp.

Conte, 6-2, 197 pounds, doesnt fit the starter mold at this point, although he projects as strong competition for Chris Harris, who struggled at times at free safety despite starting all 16 games at the position.

Its not going to surprise me if he comes in and earns some play time, GM Jerry Angelo said.

What Contes selection does strongly point to is the end of Danieal Mannings
Bears career, given that they have Conte, Harris and Wright in place at this
point.

Conte was a reserve cornerback for his first three seasons at Cal but did emerge as an All-Pac 10 first-teamer in his first season at safety. He totaled two interceptions in four seasons, one as a sophomore at cornerback and the other last season at safety.

But Contes combination of cornerbacksafety experience appealed to the Bears.

Hes a pure free safety, GM Jerry Angelo said. Its a no-brainer and he still has a lot of football ahead of him

We see him as a free safety but he has the size to come down low at strong safety. We really liked him for the value of the position.
A plan that worked

How truly good or bad the draft ultimately was for them will take months if not years to play out. But the Bears came into the 2011 draft with the hope of addressing four positions and they had players they wanted at two of those by the close of draft business on Thursday.

They took care of those two with an offensive tackle in Wisconsins Gabe Carimi for Round 1, and a defensive tackle in Oregon States Stephen Paea in Round 2.

In something of a draft rarity, both times the Bears made moves to trade up. They fortuitously failed to execute a deal with the Baltimore Ravens that would have cost them their fourth-round pick but still left them with Carimi, one of their targeted players.

Then they did move up in Round 2, an indication of both the priority they placed on adding on the defensive line and also how highly they regarded Paea, who at 53rd was the highest-selected defensive lineman by the Bears since they chose Tank Johnson with the 47th pick of the 2004 draft.

The concern was that Paea would be grabbed if the Bears waited until their slotted spot at No. 62, particularly after the Giants selected Marvin Austin at No. 53.
Starters and free agency

Angelo stated at the outset that the goal of the draft was to obtain four starters. Carimi and Paea are virtual locks to become starters, although Paea will need to beat out a developing Henry Melton at the three-technique spot alongside nose tackle Anthony Adams.

What Paea does is dial down at least slightly the need for a defensive lineman in free agency. The Bears rate Green Bays Cullen Jenkins highly but with the labor uncertainty, Jenkins status may remain unsettled along with several hundred other potential free-agent veterans.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.