Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace has already developed a reputation for finding talent in the later rounds of the NFL draft. In 2015 he grabbed Adrian Amos in the fifth round. He’s become their┬ástarter at safety. Jordan Howard, also a fifth rounder came out of Indiana in 2016. Eddie Jackson has already established himself as leader of the secondary and he was a fourth round pick last year, as was Tarik Cohen.

Getting four major contributors to your football teams in the fourth round or later through three drafts is pretty solid work by Pace. The crazy thing is it might not be over yet. Some signs have begun to appear that yet another late round choice is starting to look like more of a playmaker at his position. Enough to where if it keeps up he may challenge not just for a roster spot, but a starting job.

One of the biggest things defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has harped on this offseason is creating more turnovers. Few in the secondary have taken this to heart more than safety DeAndre Houston-Carson. The former sixth round pick, who has primarily worked for special teams since being drafted, showed improvement as a defender in the Hall of Fame game.

It wasn’t a fluke either. Houston-Carson has also been doing similar things in practice. He’s finding his way to the football a lot, and it’s becoming harder not to notice.

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Ryan Pace knew Houston-Carson could develop into something more

Draft experts like Lance Zierlein wouldn’t be surprised by this development. He stated back in 2016 that Houston-Carson had the physical makeup of a starting safety in the NFL. He has cornerback athleticism and range. The only thing he needed to figure out was playing safety with more discipline. Often a difficult transition that takes time for young kids coming out of smaller schools like he did.

“While he is a ready, aggressive tackler, he still needs more beef on his frame and has to fine tune his angles to the ball to eliminate some of the big plays he has had a hand in. His physical and mental tools are starter’s quality and his special teams talent should get him on the field right away.”

This is exactly how things have gone. Houston-Carson became a special teams fixture over the past two years. Now he’s starting to elevate his play on defense as his comfort level increases. With four preseason games left, he’s set himself up with a huge opportunity. The Bears may appear set at safety with Jackson and Amos, but that can change quickly.

Amos lost his job last year before an injury to veteran Quintin Demps got him back on the field. That could easily happen to him. Then there’s the possibility that Houston-Carson keeps making plays. If that happens, it may be difficult to justify keeping him off the field. That may sound like a problem, but it’s one Pace and the coaches would love to have.