Taking a chance on super-productive Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey in the fourth round could wind up being a steal for the Bears if he has learned from his off-field problems of the past.
The 5-foot-9½-inch, 207-pound junior lasted until the 117th overall pick, even though he rushed for 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns in his last two seasons, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Based on those numbers, the consensus two-time All-American might have been a first-round consideration.
But Carey's 4.69 40-time is a turn-off, and he's had some character concerns that eliminated him completely from some teams' draft boards. Near the end of his sophomore season Carey was charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct after a domestic violence incident with his then-pregnant ex-girlfriend.
A month later he was kicked out of an Arizona basketball game after an altercation with a security officer that resulted in Carey being suspended for the 2013 season opener.
The Bears sent running backs coach Skip Peete, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and national scout Mark Sadowski to Tucson to investigate, and Carey checked out OK.
"We definitely did our homework," Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "We knew we wanted to go the extra mile to have clarity in our mind. The most important thing is: Are you trying to be or to get back on path and go the right way? Are you trying to improve as a person? We're certainly comfortable that he's on the right path."
Carey says the domestic violence incident doesn't accurately portray him.
"I'm a 'loveful' cat and I just have to keep my head up," he said.
"I'm a great, outgoing, (loving) kid, a great-hearted person and would never ever do anything to harm people."
Despite missing the opener, Carey still rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and caught 23 passes for 176 yards. There is nothing "loveful" about his running style. Carey runs violently, like a man possessed, punishing tacklers when he can, picking up vital yards after contact and refusing to go down without a struggle.
"(He has) very good feet and eyes, and that's where it starts in terms of run skill," Emery said. "He really lowers his pads and has contact balance. He can really push through open-field contact and keeps his feet and keeps gaining additional yards. He's a guy that you really have to tackle. He's not going down by incidental contact. You're going to have to wrap him up and bring him down."
After Carey, the Bears went back to defense but had to make a move first.
Because the Bears didn't think they'd be able to get the safety they desired with a fifth-round pick, they traded up to get back into the end of the fourth round (131st overall) and plucked Minnesota free safety Brock Vereen.
The 5-foot-11½-inch, 199-pound Vereen lacks some size, but he ran a 4.47 40, gets high marks for his intelligence and intangibles, and he banged out 25 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, the most of any defensive back at the Scouting Combine.
Vereen is considered an excellent athlete with the movement skills necessary to run with wide receivers and play nickel back, plus the range to make plays on the ball in the back end.
He started 23 games at cornerback for the Gophers and 13 at safety.
"We see him as a safety," Emery said. "We feel that will be his best pro position. He certainly has the physical tools for it in terms of the athletic upside. He certainly has the mind for it in terms of his instincts. And he certainly has the toughness for it."
Like the Bears' first-round pick Kyle Fuller, Vereen has strong football blood lines. His brother Shane is a running back for the New England Patriots, and his dad, Henry, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in the Canadian Football League.
"I feel like I've been able to watch football on an advanced level for a long time," Vereen said. "I've been able to see the game through (Shane's) eyes and through my dad's eyes and have a veteran understanding of the game."
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