After a brief break in the fourth round to select a running back, the Bears resumed work on their defense with the pick of safety Brock Vereen from Minnesota.
And despite waiting until the fourth round to address safety, it was a pick they did not want to miss. General manager Phil Emery moved up into that spot — 131st overall, belonging to the Denver Broncos — by giving up his fifth-round pick this year (No. 156) and next year while picking up Denver’s seventh-round pick (No. 246) this year.
The Bears have had some draft success, albeit not always long-lasting, with safeties selected in the fourth round and later. Al Afalava was a rookie starter in 2009 coming out of the sixth round, and Chris Harris, now a Bears assistant, was a safety on the playoff team of 2005 and Super Bowl team of 2006 after the Bears found him in the sixth round of the 2005 draft.
Craig Steltz, a solid special-teams fixture and backup, was a fourth-round pick in 2008.
Vereen, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, fits Emery’s job description for safeties: coverage skills, speed and strength. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times and posted a 4.47 in the 40. He started four games as a true freshman at a cornerback, stayed there through his junior season, when he was second-team All-Big Ten, and then switched to safety, where he was voted first-team All-Big Ten by coaches while still making occasional starts at cornerback.
The pick also fits another Emery selection “criterion:” family football genes. His older brother, Shane, was a running back at California and a second-round draft of the New England Patriots in 2011. His father, Henry, was a ninth-round pick in 1979 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Emery’s first-round pick last year was Kyle Long, whose father Howie is in the NFL Hall of Fame and brother Chris is with the St. Louis Rams. Kyle Fuller, this year’s No. 1, follows his brother Corey into the NFL and could be looking at him when the Bears play the Detroit Lions.