The Tribune’s Brad Biggs answers your Bears questions weekly.
What are the chances Ryan Pace trades down with one or both of his second-round picks to gain an additional third-round or two fourth-round picks? — @raupp29
I would be stunned if Pace does not explore trading down with one of the picks in Round 2, and I would not rule out the idea he could be open to moving both picks in the right scenario. These questions about trading up or down come annually and come often, and there is a little bit of a misperception about how this works. Just because a team is open to moving one way or the other — or perhaps both — doesn’t mean a deal will come together. It’s not as simple as Pace sending out a For Sale notice on his second-round picks to other general managers. The Bears could be very interested in a small group of players at No. 43 and then seek to add depth to the draft class by peddling the No. 50 pick. Of course, they could get a better return on their first selection. But after they traded their fourth-round pick (No. 140) to acquire Nick Foles, I believe the Bears will be motivated to add some mid-round picks, and swapping at least one of the Round 2 selections would accomplish that goal.
The flip side is the Bears believe they’ve done a good job of finding players in Round 2 and could prefer to stay where they are to increase the possibility they get two players with a chance to make an impact this season. Another thing to keep in mind is when a team explores trading down, it has to draw a line of how low it wants to go. Say Pace is interested in exploring what he could get for the No. 50 pick. Is he willing to move out of Round 2, meaning No. 65 or lower? Does he want a late second-round pick and a mid-round pick in return? Flipping the No. 50 pick for 2021 draft capital doesn’t do anything to help the Bears this season. There are many, many variables, but I expect Pace, at minimum, to determine what a package might look like in return for trading down with at least one of his second-round picks.
There’s been a lot of debate about the Bears’ need to draft a guard with one of the second-round picks. I’d rather see them draft an offensive tackle. Why aren’t we hearing more about that? — Louis M., Salt Lake City
You raise a fair point, but reality is that offensive tackles who are ready to play Week 1 generally don’t make it out of the first round and often don’t make it out of the top 20 picks. That’s certainly the case with players projected to play on the left side. Barring something unexpected, Charles Leno and Bobby Massie will be the starting tackles this season. Now, it is possible the Bears could identify a future tackle, more likely on the right side, who could start out at guard. It’s not unusual in the NFL for linemen to play on the interior at the start of their careers before sliding out to tackle. In fact, one of the greatest left tackles of all time, Jonathan Ogden, began his career in Baltimore as a guard. So could the Bears potentially find a right guard at No. 43 with the traits to one day move outside, most likely to right tackle? That’s an interesting idea I wouldn’t dismiss. Houston’s Josh Jones, Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson and Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland sort of fit that profile. But Cleveland is a likely first-round pick, Wilson could go in Round 1 and I wouldn’t completely rule out that possibility for Jones. If one of them falls to No. 43, it would be an interesting conversation for the Bears. They could add a good player to compete at right guard with Germain Ifedi and consider grooming the draft pick to play tackle beginning in 2021.
With the Bears’ 2019 offense being one of the worst in the NFL and the defense likely to remain strong in 2020, my preference is to use the upcoming draft picks to address remaining holes. If any of the following RBs are available at No. 43, you have to take one: Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift or J.K. Dobbins. The Bears are thin at running back and to win now need a complement and some speed to go along with David Montgomery. Running backs can come in right away and help an offense tremendously. At No. 50, I would expect either KJ Hamler, Denzel Mims or Michael Pittman to be available at wide receiver. Take one of them. These two picks would be big upgrades to the offense in 2020. With the fifth and two sixth-round picks, make sure to take a cornerback, interior offensive lineman and safety. These would add some depth and a little competition, but there are already some options on the roster. With the two seventh-round picks, take an offensive tackle and an inside linebacker. I would stay away from tight end with the 10 they already have on the team. I would also stay away from quarterback since they would likely not make an impact in 2020. I know teams typically try to pick the best player available, but I think if the Bears focus on the positions above with those players likely available, they will upgrade their team to compete well into the playoffs in 2020. What do you think of this approach? — Dan G.
I understand how you set this up and you make valid points regarding these positions. Let me explain what can happen when a team is fixated on filling a position with a draft pick. They wind up ignoring draft grades, and if they’ve done a good job assigning those grades and stacking their board, they can wind up getting a worse player.
For instance, let’s say the Bears draft a cornerback at No. 43 and trade down with the No. 50 pick, adding a late second-round pick and additional picks. Let’s say they are driven to find an offensive lineman with that late second-round pick, but there aren’t players available with grades that match the ones they have assigned to other players. If they go ahead and draft an offensive lineman there because they believe it fills a need, what are the chances their grade was accurate and the player will be underwhelming? If that occurs, they’re right back where they started in 2022, needing to draft an offensive lineman because they didn’t get a good one in the 2020 draft. Instead of drafting an offensive lineman, maybe the Bears see a wide receiver with a significantly better grade and draft him. Two years from now, if their grades are accurate, at least they have a good football player.
I would be a little surprised if the Bears consider a running back in Round 2, even if one of those players you identified is available. They traded up to draft the running back who fit their system in Round 3 last year, and I believe they are assigning blame to other areas more than they are Montgomery for the shortcomings in the running game. Keep in mind, Matt Nagy wants to throw the ball. How many times the last two seasons has he been bored with the running game? I like all of the wide receivers you mentioned, but Mims is likely to be long gone before the Bears pick. He’s a probable first-round pick. I have been adamant the Bears need to add playmakers at that position. Talented options will be available in later rounds, and they could wind up waiting, especially if they add mid-round selections by trading down from one of the Round 2 picks.
Try not to lock in on positions as an absolute. The Bears can use good football players, period.
Players with injury histories like Jadeveon Clowney and Cam Newton have struggled to get signed in free agency in part because teams can’t get their medical staffs to meet with them in person. This is likely also going to be true for college players with injury histories potentially slipping in the draft. With the Bears’ pick situation, does this dynamic make them more likely to take fliers on players like this with their picks in the fifth round and later? — Nick, Glenview
For starters, I think the issue with Clowney is more about money. He was seeking $22 million per season when free agency opened, dropped his asking price to $20 million and still is seeking work because there isn’t a team willing to pull the trigger on that kind of contract. I would agree that Newton has health-related issues teams are not comfortable with, to this point anyway. It’s one thing to watch video of him working out. It’s another thing for a club’s team of medical professionals to check him out.
I like the way you are thinking, though, and have wondered about this myself. Scouts I have spoken to have said the cleaner, safer picks will rule the day in this draft, that teams will take the players whose medical and background information they are comfortable with. That will lead to some players with good game tape falling in the draft because of unknowns and creates the possibility the Bears could consider a player in Round 5 or maybe even Round 6 who, with all of the boxes checked, would have come off the board much higher. Would there be risk involved? You bet. But could general manager Ryan Pace be comfortable taking a shot or two at that point in the draft to see if he could hit a double or triple? That would make sense to me. I don’t know that you can expect a home run in Round 5, but you might be able to get a player who, with all questions satisfactorily answered, would have otherwise been drafted two rounds earlier.
Given that Ryan Pace has shown the willingness to trade future draft picks for ones in the current draft, what might the Bears get for trading a future second- or third-round draft pick in 2021? And do you think ownership might try to prevent him from trading future draft picks given this might be a “prove it” year for him and his staff in 2020? — Todd R., Libertyville
Generally speaking, future draft picks are worth one round less than picks in the current year. So to get a third-round pick in this draft, you might need to trade a second-round pick in 2021. Often it’s not a pick-for-pick swap, so the dynamics change when you have multiple selections from each team going back and forth. Pace has been aggressive in moving around with draft capital in recent years, but my hunch is he would really like to get back to having a full complement of picks in 2021, or as close as possible. The Bears are without their seventh-round pick in 2021 as part of the Eddy Pineiro trade, but they project to receive multiple late-round compensatory selections. I don’t know that ownership would put its foot down on a mid-round pick in 2021 being traded, but I’d have to think the McCaskeys would be involved if a first- or second-round pick was in discussion.
Within the next few years the Bears will have to draft a new QB. Why should Ryan Pace be the guy to do that given his history? Why should the guys who hired Pace be the ones to hire the next GM? If change doesn’t start at the top, how can anyone expect improvements on the field? — Joseph F.
It looks like Pace whiffed on Mitch Trubisky, and missing out on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson could haunt the Bears for years to come. But what if the team goes 12-4 or something close to that this season? Would Pace and his staff be viewed in a different light? I agree the Bears likely need to draft a quarterback again in the near future. Pace’s future will be shaped by how the team performs this season, and that involves the play of the quarterback (Nick Foles or Trubisky) and the rest of the team. If the Bears do well, they could be looking at a second playoff appearance in three seasons, and Pace would be in position to remain the individual overseeing all personnel. As far as change above Pace, I’ll point you to something 49ers owner Jed York said three years ago: “You don’t dismiss owners.” He’s right. Owners aren’t going to fire themselves.
If the Bears take a best-player-on-the-board approach with both Round 2 picks and a safety isn’t one of them, who are some of the later-round names for box safeties that we could see them make a move to draft? — @thegravitystorm
I have been a little surprised by the volume of questions the last month or so from people wondering about the Bears selecting a safety in the second round. They already made a major investment at the position, making Eddie Jackson one of the highest-paid safeties in the league. It’s a position where talent can regularly be found on Day 3 of the draft. There are starting safeties who come out of the final day of the draft every year, and the Bears have proved that many times, with Jackson and Adrian Amos the most recent examples. I expect the Bears to draft a safety and I expect it to happen on Day 3. Does that mean there’s no chance they take one in Round 2? Of course not. Maybe a player will stand out like a “beacon light,” as former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo used to say, but I tend to think they wait. Two options later in the draft could be Cal’s Jaylinn Hawkins and Mississippi State’s Brian Cole, and we’ll uncover more options in the coming days.
People are saying the Bears should draft an O-lineman, but what do you think about the Bears signing Kelechi Osemele to play right guard and then drafting guys like Jeremy Chinn and KJ Hamler in the second round? These fill spots at right guard, strong safety and add a speedy receiver. — @sam_gutterman
I don’t know what the medical situation is with Osemele, who was a coveted free-agent addition by the Jets a year ago and then had a very public disagreement with the organization over a shoulder injury. That could be creating questions for Osemele, and I think the Bears have the veteran they want to compete for the right guard job in Germain Ifedi, who has a track record for durability and was one of only two Seahawks with quarterback Russell Wilson not to miss an offensive snap last season. Hamler has tremendous speed and would make a lot of sense for the Bears at a position of need. Chinn has become more well-known since the Southern Illinois safety followed a strong performance at the Senior Bowl with an impressive combine showing. I’ve made my feelings well-known about the Bears drafting a safety in Round 2. You’re overlooking cornerback, which I believe is a greater area of need.
I wonder if Ryan Pace has learned a lesson from his drafting busts. There’s a pattern. His misses seem to come when he drafts people for their athletic ability in the belief the organization can develop them instead of drafting good football players. Kevin White, Mitch Trubisky, Leonard Floyd, all unusually good athletes, none of whom were great football players, even in college. Compare to Nick Kwiatkoski, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, Allen Robinson (not a draft choice, I know, but still …), Danny Trevathan (same) — none are athletic freaks but really good football players. And the rule applies in spades to QBs. What set me off on this is the speculation that the Bears might trade up to draft Jordan Love. Wrong. Go with Jake Fromm instead. OK, he doesn’t have great arm strength, but he’s a terrific quarterback and a leader and winner. — Philip R.
I understand where you are coming from, but I disagree with the notion that Trubisky’s athletic ability was the primary enticing point. The issue with White is he came with a very limited route tree at West Virginia and had only one season of production (it was off-the-charts production) in college. Wide receivers who explode for only one season in college have a history of being underwhelming first-round picks. You hit on something with Floyd, and his athletic ability allowed Georgia to do a lot of different things with him. He was viewed as a potential edge rusher because of that athletic ability, but it never clicked for him. I am not familiar with the suggestion the Bears could trade up for Love and would be surprised if that was a consideration. I struggle with the idea that Fromm’s background at Georgia is enough for him to overcome physical limitations as a quarterback.
If Jalen Hurts is there at No. 43 or No. 50, do the Bears take him? Would you? — Greg M.
If Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are feeling pressure to win in 2020, I don’t see how the Bears can select a quarterback in Round 2. You’re talking about a player who is probably not going to be able to help this season, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic eliminates any sort of offseason program. Where does that put the team this season when it could choose players at positions with a chance of making positive impacts? I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of the Bears choosing a quarterback in later rounds, but you can’t say they have to win this season and encourage them to draft a quarterback in Round 2. Those are conflicting agendas.
I am curious why, with both of the Bears’ starting middle linebackers being injured at some point last year and Nick Kwiatkoski no longer available to step into the role, there is no discussion of the middle linebacker position being one of interest in free agency or the draft? — Chris O.
The Bears also lost Kevin Pierre-Louis, who stepped in and played meaningful snaps in the second half of last season. It’s possible they might add an inside linebacker via the draft or in the wave of free agency after the draft, but this is lower down the checklist of to-do items for Ryan Pace. The Bears have Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods as backups, and while they need another body, maybe a veteran, for competition, this isn’t an overwhelming need.