The Chris Conte Quandary: Bust or Brilliant?

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From rabid Bears fans to NFL analysts and everywhere in between, the unanimous feeling after the first two rounds of the 2011 draft was that Jerry Angelo had nailed it.

And then came the third round ... as if we now expected every pick to be a clear and easy grand-slam.

When the Bears picked up Cal safety Chris Conte with the 93rd overall pick in the draft, I was a thrown a bit off guard.

Conte, was a bit of a quandary to me...

Most had thought Angelo would look to wide receiver with that pick. And if no decent receivers were available (which appeared to be the case), he might look back to guard. At least that was my opinion.

But Jerry had a hard time letting go of his old habits and, for the 20th time in his ten drafts with the Bears, he picked a defensive back. Of those 20, eight have been safeties.

When Jerry was asked about the pick, he said "His value was just too good to pass up."

For that, I have to give Angelo credit. If the Bears truly believe in what they see in Conte, they made the right decision by not trying to fill the more gaping holes.

And let's be honest for a minute here, the Bears know more about Chris Conte than you or I can pick up from scouting reports and highlight videos.

But nevertheless, the reviews surrounding the pick have been a mixed bag. Some professionals going so far as to outright mock the third-round choice.

According to Conte, though, he can compete right out of the gate. "At worst, I am going to play every special teams [phase]. I am going to come in the first day and be able to contribute in some way and that's all I want to do."

The negatives to Chris' game, however, sound like everything a starting NFL safety isn't. From a complete lack of burst, to a short range, to a lack of positional instincts, Conte has been taken through the ringer in the world of scouting reports.

But Clancy Pendergast, Chris' d-coordinator at Cal, sings a completely different tune. Telling the Chicago Tribune, the first time he saw Conte, "He looked like a prototypical NFL safety."

"We spent a lot of time with [Chris] this year. A lot of talk has been about taking corners and moving them into safeties [but] he is a pure free safety," Jerry Angelo said.

And that certainly brings up another concern surrounding the third-round choice, he only had one productive year at the position. Before that, he was regarded as an average corner.

Expecting a guy to post one year at free safety in College and then do it at the NFL level is difficult. And I think that's what many people saw when first Conte was picked up.

According to a few of same scouting reports, Conte's upside has more to do with his size and athleticism than anything else. Among those, are that Chris is regarded as a good, aggressive, tackler.

"There's not a guy in the room I coached harder than Chris," Cal's defensive coordinator said. "And that's because of the potential I saw in him."

"Here is a case where the player played two years at corner, they did move him to safety and he looked very natural there, and getting confirmation from the defensive coordinator there made us believe our lying eyes," Angelo said.

It seems to me that the more research I do on Conte, the more I like the pick.

With Danieal Manning likely to depart from Chicago when free agency begins, Conte may be exactly what the Bears needed to get out of the draft.

Chris is sure to take some time to develop. But the Bears were in need of youth in the secondary, and with the Chris Conte/Major Wright show, they now have it.

And you can bet that Chris is excited to be a part of the Bears' tradition of defense. "There is no other team that I would want to be a part of [than] playing defense on a team like the Bears."

Filed under: Draft, Players

Tags: Chris Conte

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