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Bears sign three rookie draft picks to deals

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The Bears on Monday signed three of their five 2019 draft picks to four-year contracts: fourth-round receiver Riley Ridley, seventh-round running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. and seventh-round cornerback Stephen Denmark.

Ridley declared for the draft following his junior season. In three years at Georgia, he caught 69 passes for 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns in 28 games. Last year he established career highs with 14 games played, 43 catches, 559 yards and nine TDs.

Ridley is the younger brother of Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, who had 64 receptions for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns last year as a rookie with the Falcons after being selected by Atlanta with the 26th pick in the first round of the draft.

“It’s a great example of us taking the best player on the board,” general manager Ryan Pace said after the Bears chose Ridley with the 126th pick in the draft. “There are a lot of traits we like about this player: obviously his size, his hands, his catching radius, his ability to win contested battles, his route running.

“[He was] by far the best player on our board and [we’re] very excited to select him. The roster is at a point where we don't have to force anything. That's our mindset every draft, but to have a player of his caliber there and comfortably be able to take him was really a no-brainer because he was so high on our board.”

Selected by the Bears at No. 222, Whyte appeared in 37 games the past three seasons at Florida Atlantic, rushing for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns on 232 carries and catching 22 passes for 227 yards with two TDs. He also averaged 26.1 yards on 81 kickoff returns with two touchdowns.

“The first trait when you’re talking about this player is speed, standout speed for this guy,” Pace said. “He runs a 4.38 [in the 40]. He also brings a lot of value to special teams, so we’re excited to get him at that point.”

Whyte established career highs in all rushing categories with 134 attempts, 866 yards and eight touchdowns while playing in 12 games last season. The 5-10, 200-pounder also averaged 28.7 yards on 19 kickoff returns with one TD.

Denmark played receiver his first three seasons at Valdosta State before switching to cornerback last year as a senior, when he helped the Blazers win the Division II national title by recording 55 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups.

The 6-3, 220-pounder possesses excellent size, speed and jumping ability.

“Stephen Denmark has ridiculous measurables,” Pace said. “He’s relatively new to the position—only one year at corner after switching from receiver—so [he’s] a guy we feel has tremendous upside ahead of him and a guy that our defensive coaches, our special-teams coaches and our scouts were equally excited about, just working with that upside and the talent that he has.”

The only two Bears draft picks who remain unsigned are third-round running back David Montgomery and sixth-round cornerback Duke Shelley.

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