The NFL Draft this weekend is gonna get real weird and wacky for multiple reasons. Teams couldn’t get to the remaining private workouts scheduled for the rest of March, nor could they do interviews in person, you know, to watch body language, etc. Most importantly, not every team has been able to get medical access to certain players. Basically, teams will be picking more confidently on what they know that maybe a player’s ability. Guys will be flying up and down the draft board like Raccoon Mario.
This is a scenario that seems ripe for Bears GM Ryan Pace. This guy loves to deal picks, especially if he has “conviction” about a certain player. If you haven’t noticed, “conviction” is also his buzzword, but due to some misses in the first round, hopefully that tapers off. Luckily they don’t hold a first round pick this year for him to mess up, since it was a part of the Khalil Mack trade. Again, first rounder’s in general aren’t always guaranteed (couch, Kevin White, cough), so I still have no problem with the Khalil Mack deal, because he is a borderline Hall of Famer as of right now, and that seems pretty guaranteed.
The Bears are sitting at a quality spot in the middle of the second round, holding the 43rd and 50th picks. Unfortunately, they do not have a third and fourth rounder due to previous trades, which includes the recent addition of Nick Foles. If I’m a betting man, I don’t feel Pace will stick at both 43 and 50, as he very well may use one of those to move down to get some more warm bodies. The Bears have a ton of late round picks this year and next year, so between those and one of the second rounders, it could fetch him a third, and maybe another fourth this year. Frankly, I’m down with garnering an extra pick or two while there are still viable players on the board, since the Bears’ biggest needs in no order are interior offensive line, corner, safety, and receiver.
*My quick prediction, grab a corner/safety with the second rounder, followed by best graded lineman that is not a center, and then eyeball a fast but underdeveloped receiver to replace Taylor Gabriel. With anything else in the mid rounds, take a stab at a developmental QB.
Lets get down to brass tacks…..with conviction
If one were to grade Pace’s performance as GM over the past five years, a B- bordering on C+ or a bit above average would seem about right. Most GM’s are in this boat if you think about it. There are certain GM’s that have been at their job a pushing a decade or more, but that’s really maybe 20% of the NFL. You know why it’s that way? Because all GM’s (and their cronies) spend 16 hour days scouring guys like the CIA, and it’s still literally a crapshoot lottery in the end. That 20% that stick around seemingly forever, have hit on more tickets than the rest.
It’s kind of like Quarterbacks. You have got your Pro Bowl guys or at least on the borderline, which make about 10-12 teams happy they don’t have to jump in the annual rat race to “find a QB” Meanwhile, the other 20 teams are constantly putting on a band aid every few years. It’s like that when ownership hires a GM. They usually get a leash of about two coaches, and if those don’t go well, off they go. Phil Emery got only one term, because he was bad at his job, and hired Marc Trestman a.k.a. Jim Boylen’s lack of social awareness on steroids. Pace is fine. He is what he is.
Looking back at his resume’, Pace is great at finding late round flyers and undrafted free agents, but not very strong at all in the first round. There could be a reason for this, as his job in New Orleans was being in charge of Pro Personnel, so he had to know everyone’s roster across the NFL, and eventually all of their scraps that they jettison. So he easily knows exactly what the fringe roster players look like. It’s no wonder that he has taken this ability in finding late picks like Jordan Howard and special teams ace DeAndre Houston-Carson, and Adrian Amos. The undrafted free agents he has hit on include Bryce Callahan, Kevin Tolliver, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Alex Bars. So he’s very good at churning the bottom of the roster, but that’s only really beneficial if the cream at the top is good.
The second round draft choices have been fine. Eddie Goldman early in ’15 and Cody Whitehair late in 2016 standout, and Anthony “how many shoulders can one person get surgery on!?” Miller has flashed enough where he could turn into a real good piece. The first round choices however, have been ranging from jury is out to brutal. Leonard Floyd would have been perfect if he was picked between 35-50 in the 2nd round, then there would be no complaints. Kevin White in 2015 was perpetually injured, and probably didn’t know what a route tree was if it hit him in the face.
We don’t need a synopsis about Mitch Trubisky, besides the fact they moved heaven and earth to move up one pick. (funny enough, the guy the Niners took at 3 in Soloman Thomas didn’t pan out at all, so…kind of haha?) It was a career defining choice for Pace, just in the wrong direction. They say “you gotta shoot your shot”, just not when it looks like Michael Scott chucking it over the backboard in The Office warehouse hoops game.
Let’s put a bow on this….with conviction.
Pace’s free agency has more misses than hits especially early, with the likes of Pernell McPhee, Dion Sims, fricin Mike Glennon, and Marcus Cooper. That in turn has been countered by stealing Akiem Hicks (again, that scrap heap acumen of Pace paid off) and grabbing Prince Amukamara, and when healthy, a very solid Danny Trevathan. Those are good defensive signings, and a lot of that was done early on pre-2017 to help out the John Fox regime. Not to mention the previous GM of mention left the cupboard pretty bare, and it seemed like Pace was trying to sign guys just to get some talent on the roster in those mid teen years, whether it panned out or not.
Unfortunately it got to a point where Pace had a huge swing and miss in the second round with Adam Shaheen in 2017 for Fox’s last year, but we all got the sense Fox wouldn’t be their much longer. Pace certainly didn’t have Fox in mind when he drafted Trubisky, and old Mitch was why they went out to find certified offensive genius (well, while your standing next to Andy Reid) Matt Nagy.
It’s easy to jump all over Pace because not all of his lottery tickets hit. He’s in the same boat as plenty of GM’s. Look, the guy has an executive of the year award from that 2018 season when the defense had a crazy plus minus ratio, even though we have learned from the 2017 Jaguars, turnovers fluctuate every year. Kind of like Pace’s standing with Chicago fans. Let’s hope he still is.