Today, we're talking with Windy City Gridiron, SBN's other Bears site, about Chris Conte. Conte, who played various DB positions for Cal, was drafted 93rd overall in the 3rd round by the Chicago Bears. We're always excited to see any of our beloved Golden Bears "graduate" to the NFL.
We contacted WCG to talk with them about Chris Conte. We asked them a bunch of questions and we also answered many of their questions. You can read our answers to their questions here. We wanted to know what role will Conte have with the Bears? What chance of starting does he have? What did they know about Conte before the draft?
We all know Chris Conte's past and helpfully told the Bears fans about that. Now, let's learn about Chris Conte's future. Join me after the jump to see what is in store for this once and always California Golden Bear. GO BEARS!x2!
1. What did you like most about this pick?
Honestly at first, I didn't like it. Nor did the majority of our readers, but I took the time to research him, and then I realized the Bears needed to add some safety depth, then I realized he did have a fine senior year... so... I started to come around. And now I'm excited to see him play. He's an athletic kid that seems to finally be tapping into his potential.
2. What did you know about Chris Conte before he got drafted?
Not a thing. I didn't expect the Bears to draft a safety so high, so I never really researched the position that thoroughly. I thought Bears GM Jerry Angelo would take a 6th round flier on an athletic project, so I only looked into a few late round height weight speed guys.
3. What role do you see Chris Conte fulfilling on this Bears squad?
Initially just special teams, but he'll be coached by arguably the best special teams coach in the business, Dave Toub. The Bears under Lovie Smith have always used a corner for their nickle back, so Conte will need to find some reps at safety in order to see the field on defense.
4. How likely is it that Chris Conte will start? If not, 2011, then when?
With the way the safety position has rotated under Lovie Smith I'd say he has a chance, even if the chance is slim. Lovie has no issue with playing a rookie if he show's he's the best option in training camp and preseason, but it'll be tough to beat out the incumbents. SS Danieal Manning, who may or may not return depending on the labor situation, finally lived up to the potential he's flashed his entire career. FS Chris Harris was 2nd team All Pro, and last years 3rd round draft pick Major Wright showed promise in rotating at safety when healthy.
If Manning is granted free agency, his chances will go up to start. He has a chance to start in 2012 because Manning will most likely be gone, and the physical style of Chris Harris will start to take a toll on his body.
5. What grade would you give the Bears front office for drafting Chris Conte?
It's so hard to grade a player before he even has his first pro practice, but after hearing Mike Mayock say the NFL coaches had him rated as a 3rd round prospect, I'm excited to see what the kid can do.
6. What is the Bears' defensive philosophy and how does Chris Conte play into that philosophy?
The Bears play the Tampa 2 as their base defense, and they keep their safeties in zone the majority of the time. They like bringing their SS up to assist vs. the run, and that allows then to disguise their coverages quite a bit. What I'm hearing is the Bears envision Conte as a free safety, and even Conte feels he's "a natural free safety", but the Bears expect their safeties to know both positions. Knowing when he has to provide over the top help will get him on the field sooner.
7. How do you project the Bears 2011 season with Chris Conte involved with the team?
I don't see him as a difference maker in 2011. Training camp will tell a alot, but if he can simply become a core special teams guy as a rookie I think the Bears would be happy with that.
8. Chris Conte. Best haircut or the BESTEST haircut?
He did look a little frazzled in that NFL Combine picture.
9. What needs did the Bears have to address in the draft and how well did the Bears address those needs?
They needed help on both lines and found two starters. Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi will start somewhere, either tackle or guard,and Oregon State's Stephen Paea should be the starting 3-technique DT. I was expecting a corner to be drafted at some point, and I would have liked to see another offensive lineman brought in to compete, but hopefully they'll address those positions in free agency. Wide receiver is another position I thought the Bears could have looked at. I thought they had a good draft, but
10) Does it make you feel better knowing that Conte's breakout year came under the direction of long-term NFL coordinator Clancy Pendergast? (Chiefs + Cardinals) Or, are you worried that he only had one really productive year in college?
Yes. Coaches with former NFL experience, especially a long time NFL guy like Pendergast, knows what it takes to play pro football. Switching him to safety proved to be a smart move, not only for his pro prospects, but for the Cal Bears 2010 season.
And no. I've never been a worrier about the kids that only produced late in their college careers. Usually those are the kids that had to claw and scratch their way to get playing time. Either because they were behind better players or they had something to overcome. It usually shows good character.
11) Do you feel better or worse knowing that Conte was always a defensive back, and isn't actually a converted linebacker?
A little. Knowing that his experience was always in the secondary tells me the learning cure won't be as steep as a pro. Then again, the Bears had some good success by taking a safety and converting him to linebacker (Brian Urlacher), so who's to say they couldn't find success going the other way.