I consider myself the top Ryan Paceologist on the Bears writer landscape. My resume:
- Predicted Bears were taking a quarterback last year, even mocked Mitch Trubisky to them.
- Predicted Matt Nagy was the guy well before it was official.
- Followers on Twitter know I wasn’t surprised when they let Cam Meredith go.
Trying to figure out who they’re targeting in the 2018 draft has me stumped. I came to the three conclusions above by looking at all of the evidence I could find and asking what made the most sense.
Picking eighth, the Bears surely aren’t going to be able to get the player they surely want and need most, edge Bradley Chubb. One must also operate under the assumption that running back Saquon Barkley will be gone.
There seems to be a good chance that four quarterbacks go within the first seven picks, but if they don’t, the top guys on this list might be gone. It’s also possible that the Bears trade back, which is why the list is more than eight players deep.
There are some good players that are going to be available. The problem I’m having is that I can construct a really strong argument against all of the top candidates. Still, one sticks out as the most likely simply because it makes the most sense.
10. Lorenzo Carter, Edge, Georgia
A poor man’s Leonard Floyd because he’s so similar to the guy the Bears took ninth overall in 2016. About the same athleticism and production at the same school as Floyd. Probably not a guy they’d take eighth overall, but he could be in play if they’re able to trade back.
9. Josh Jackson, Iowa
Doesn’t have top-flight speed but has really good size and ball skills. A little lower on the list because I’m not sure where he’d play right away. Had a hard time getting on the field for Iowa.
8. James Daniels, Iowa
My dark horse. Daniels is the perfect center for the Bears because he can cover so much ground. He’d be considered a reach at eight, but he shouldn’t be. The best center prospect to enter the league in a number of years.
7. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Really versatile defensive back who made a ton of big plays on a big stage at Alabama. Would probably be higher but he didn’t test well at the Combine. We know Pace likes elite-level athletes early in the draft.
6. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Va. Tech
Still kind of a mystery man to me. If the Bears see him as an edge, they might see a ton of untapped potential and go ahead and grab him. I don’t like him as much as a linebacker because I don’t think he has the instincts. He’s a ball of clay, the Bears need to decide if he can be shaped.
5. Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
Edge is a significant need for the Bears, but I’m not sure the value is going to match the pick for them. The media consensus on Davenport is nowhere near a top-10 pick, but there are some who are really high on him. I don’t consider him to be close to the four players ahead of him on this list, but he does fit a need and the profile the Bears generally look for early in the draft.
4. Derwin James, DB, Florida St.
Just a special player. James can do whatever the Bears want him to do, whether it’s playing in the box to stick running backs, blitz or play the middle of the field in coverage. I really think he has been underrated and I doubt he even makes it to the Bears.
3. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The top guy on my list the last time I did this exercise and could easily be the pick. Smith flies over the field and is elite in coverage. My only reason he’s lower now is because I have a hunch the Bears are going to want to give Nick Kwiatkoski a legitimate shot.
2. Denzel Ward, Ohio State
I touched on Ward a bit last week. I think he’s a really good prospect who will add some much-needed speed to the Bears defense. He’ll play in the slot as a rookie before eventually taking over as a starter and giving the team a top cover guy for the first time since Peanut Tillman was in his prime.
1. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
I wouldn’t agree with it, but this is the guy I keep coming back to.
Look at all of the other positions and you’ll find guys the Bears have who can at least play at an adequate level, but they made no attempt to get a legitimate starting interior offensive lineman after letting Josh Sitton go.
I keep coming back to what Pace told SI’s Albert Breer about his goal this off-season:
“So I asked Pace, is it too simplistic to say 2017 was about finding the quarterback for the Bears, and 2018 has been about building infrastructure around him?
‘No, that’s accurate,’ he quickly answered. ‘The hardest piece of this whole thing is to find the quarterback. We feel like we’ve done that. And so now, it’s surrounding your most important asset, your quarterback, with weapons so he can be successful and they can grow and develop chemistry together.'”
Pace spent big on receiving options, but he knows he has to protect his quarterback and have a long-term anchor on the line. Nelson gives him that.