The Chicago Bears draft class has been the talk of early training camp thus far. All three of their top picks have made splash plays. Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker have corralled interceptions of Justin Fields, while Velus Jones struck back with some big plays on offense. Those three remain the focus for fans, but they aren’t the only rookies starting to make some noise. Defensive end Dominique Robinson continues to showcase his pass rush potential.
Yet one name that has caught the attention of head coach Matt Eberflus is Elijah Hicks. The 7th round safety was an afterthought in the Bears’ 11-man class. He wasn’t around during spring practices due to a health issue that hampered his draft preparation in the spring. He was healthy when camp began, though, and the skillset that got the team excited about him in the first place didn’t take long to manifest.
Chicago Bears know how to cultivate players like Hicks.
Eberflus has already done it before. He proved it in Indianapolis. Starting safety Khari Willis was a 4th round pick, and emerging standout George Odum was an undrafted free agent. If a player has the necessary skill, this staff has the kind of teachers needed to cultivate them into quality pros. Hicks is the kind of project worth watching. If he matures rapidly enough, there is a strong possibility the Bears will view him as the heir apparent to Eddie Jackson.
Hicks has all the qualities of a classic free safety. Jackson turns 29 this year and is the sixth-highest paid player at his position in the league. He’s gone two years without an interception. One more underwhelming season would urge the Chicago Bears brass to dump him. Having Hicks waiting in the wings would make that decision easier.
It is an easy story to root for. The rookie had to battle through tons of adversity to reach this point. His natural instincts and high energy make him the type of player they want. It comes down to making enough plays in practice and the preseason to force their hand.