On Ryan Pace’s Sturdy, Steady Second-Round Selections

| April 26th, 2020

On Friday night, I floated the idea of the Bears trading back in the second round to a friend of mine – a scout for another team in the NFC. He quickly shot back, “Pace shouldn’t back up too far. After about 65, there’s a big drop-off in this class.”

This is the kind of things scouts love to say.

Is it true? Who the hell knows? But what is important is the perception of its truth. If my scout friend believes the 2020 NFL Draft was 65 players deep, so does his organization. If his organization believes that, rest assured it is common throughout the league.

Thus, there was not much jockeying for position in the first and second rounds this year. Teams believed they would get a terrific prospect no matter where they selected. Maybe Ryan Pace had offers, maybe he didn’t. We won’t know and he won’t tell us. And now, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is how Pace approached the second round. His two selections – Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet and Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson – were not reaches. They were not gambles on potential, on athletic ability. They were two of the steadiest, sturdiest prospects in the whole of this draft. Immediately after their selection, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah pronounced, “No first-round pick for the Bears but I think you can argue they got two first-round players.” Every relevant person I texted with Friday night seemed to echo this sentiment.

These are the kinds of picks a team confidently makes when they think they are close. And the Bears are close, especially with Nick Foles’ professionalism taking over under center. The club had needs for September: defensive back, interior offensive line, tight end, speed outside. They addressed two of them. Simple as that. Kmet and Johnson will expected to contribute/start immediately. I’ll state that again. Kmet and Johnson will expected to contribute/start immediately.


Don’t be silly about the number of tight ends currently on the roster. Like the old saying goes, when you have ten tight ends, you have none. Kmet is a polished player. From that same scout: “He’s tough. He’s smart. He has great hands. He will be a good player for ten years.” (His club has a first-round grade on Kmet.) The Bears don’t have ten tight ends. They have two. And then a bunch of other fellas who’ll struggle to secure a roster spot this summer.


As for the corner, here’s Lance Zierlein’s brilliant opening line on Jaylon Johnson: “Boundary bully with an improving skill set to clamp down on WR1s and limit their exposure to the football.” That’s poetry. From this point further, I encourage all fans to scream this at their corners, “C’mon, Fuller! Limit Thielen’s exposure to the football!”

Bucky Brooks went even further, describing the young corner:

A tough, hard-nosed cover corner with outstanding instincts and awareness. Johnson is a polished technician with quick feet and active hands. He’s scrappy and competitive, which makes him a hard match-up for receivers who don’t like to battle on the perimeter.


Conservative analysts always say you can’t fully grade a draft class for three years. Ryan Pace had the kind of second round we should be able to evaluate in three months. The Bears expect to compete for a title in 2020. And they expect these two men to be a big reason why.

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