Bears Had Pre-Draft Meeting With Hidden Gem Cornerback: Report

Garrett Williams Bears

Getty Garrett Williams reportedly met with the Bears at the NFL Scouting Combine in March.

The Chicago Bears appear to have an underrated cornerback prospect on their radar as they prepare for the 2023 NFL draft in April.

According to Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network, the Bears were one of four teams who held formal pre-draft meetings with Syracuse cornerback Garrett Williams at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis at the beginning of March. So far, he is the only defensive back reported to have met with the Bears during the scouting event.

Williams led the ACC in pass breakups in both 2020 and 2021 as one of Syracuse’s starting perimeter cornerbacks and finished his three-season career with the eighth-most pass breakups in program history (23). Despite being a little undersized at 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds, he is considered the No. 49 overall prospect on Pro Football Focus’ rankings following the Combine and could be drafted as early as the third round.

The three-time All-ACC cornerback also met with the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, and Carolina Panthers at the Combine.

Garrett Williams’ ACL Recovery Could Lead to Draft Slip

Williams was widely considered a mid-to-late Day 2 prospect after he decided to return to Syracuse for the 2022 season instead of declaring for the NFL draft. He had already established himself as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the ACC and was well on his way to driving up his overall NFL draft stock in 2023 until a torn ACL in October cut his final collegiate campaign short. Now, Williams has no choice but to sit out the majority of scouting events — such as the Combine — as he focuses on rehabbing his ACL injury.

That might not be such a bad thing for a team like the Bears, though, who may have an interest in adding another cornerback to their roster in the later rounds of the draft and have an additional selection in each the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. If Chicago is satisfied with Williams’ tape and feels comfortable with his recovery outlook, he could make for a nice addition alongside returning starters Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon and a potential sleeper gem if they can get him especially late.

Here’s what Lance Zierlein of wrote about Wiliams in his pre-draft profile:

Outside cornerback with footwork/athleticism to match routes with good balance and smooth transitions. Williams possesses average size but can be a willing tackler when the opportunity arises. He can mirror and match the release but is inconsistent playing with his back to the quarterback. On the flip side, he’s instinctive and twitchy from zone and off-man but must become more aggressive at attacking passing lanes rather than playing the man. He suffered an ACL tear in October 2022, but if his pre-draft medical exams check out, he could go in the middle rounds and have a chance to become a CB3.

Will Bears Extend Jaylon Johnson Before 2023 Season?

Speaking of the Bears’ cornerback room, another reason for potentially targetting a talented rookie cornerback like Williams in the 2023 class is to stack the deck as they dive into negotiations with their top cornerback, Jaylon Johnson, on a new contract.

Johnson, a three-year starter for the Bears, is now eligible for a contract extension and has made it clear he would like to remain in Chicago for the foreseeable future. He also confirmed to CHGO that “there’s definitely conversations” going on between his camp and the Bears on a possible new deal that he hopes could be done before next season.

“That’s definitely my goal,” Johnson said in February, via NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do is get my second contract after my third season with the Bears. There’s definitely been some talks. But I feel like it will heat up in due time after the free agency wave, the draft and things like that. We’ll just see where it goes.”

According to Spotrac, Johnson’s calculated market value is about $7.7 million in average annual value with a prediction that his next contract will be for three years and worth just a little south of $24 million. The Bears could easily afford to add a contract of that value — or even a little richer — to their books for 2023.

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