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Draft turns up heat on veterans

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:27 a.m. CDT
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(Sarah Nader)
Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Chicago's Stephen Paea sacks Cincinnati's Andy Dalton forcing a fumble in the second half at Soldier Field Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.

When a player is on an NFL roster come draft time, generally he is – at a bare minimum – given a chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Sometimes, though, the youngsters push the veterans out as soon as the draft is over, but in most cases, they just make the tasks more difficult come camp.

For several Bears players, last weekend’s draft class means winning a starting job, or even making the roster, just got tougher. Here’s a look at those who have more competition now from the rookies:

Cornerbacks Isaiah Frey and Kelvin Hayden

When the Bears re-signed Hayden, Frey knew he wouldn’t be given the job as nickel corner. He’d have to earn it back. And now with the addition of first-round pick Kyle Fuller, both Frey and Hayden are on notice. Fuller should be the No. 3 cornerback from Day One, which means Frey and Hayden will have to prove enough on special teams and at corner to stay on the roster, competing as well with special teams stalwart Sherrick McManis and Derrick Martin.

Frey was on the field for 48.8 percent of defensive snaps, but the production (one pass defensed, zero picks) did not match the playing time. Hayden played well in 2012, but missed all of last year with a hamstring injury.

Running back Michael Ford

The Bears still like Ford and he is the front-runner to make the roster again as the No. 3 running back who contributes on special teams, but with a fourth-round pick spent on Ka’Deem Carey, it will be tough for Ford to win the role as Matt Forte’s immediate backup.

In terms of knowing the offense and his value on special teams, Ford could begin camp ahead of Carey, and he certainly will have an edge over Jordan Lynch and Shaun Draughn, but Lynch is the wild card here.

Clearly, coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery are excited about Lynch’s potential as a runner who should be able to carve out a role on special teams. Could he be this year’s undrafted rookie to make the 53-man roster, like Ford was last year?

Lynch fans need to remember the former Northern Illinois quarterback will be playing a new position. And let’s not assume he will be an immediate boost to the special teams, but he will make it a stiff competition with Ford, who for a couple months was the Bears’ No. 2 back.

Punters Tress Way and Drew Butler

It’d be a surprise if both these players wound up in camp. Rarely would you see three punters taking up roster spots, especially when one is a draft pick. It couldn’t have been too happy in the Way and Butler households when the Bears took Patrick O’Donnell in the sixth round.

Teams generally don’t spend draft picks on punters unless that guy is going to be the punter. Way was in camp last year with Adam Podlesh, and it certainly is possible one of these players gets to compete with O’Donnell in Bourbonnais, but that probably is a losing battle.

Defensive tackles Stephen Paea and Nate Collins

The Bears should keep five defensive tackles, so this isn't questioning the chances for Paea and Collins to make the roster. Paea was playing at a high level in the first three weeks last season before a toe injury slowed him, and Collins made big strides before his ACL tear. Paea still is in line to start next to Jeremiah Ratliff, but playing time could be affected for both players with the additions of Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. 

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