Now that Ryan Pace has been here for a while, we can start to look at his past drafts to see what lessons we can learn from his approach. This can help us cautiously look ahead to the 2018 draft to see what he might be thinking.
With that goal in mind, I’m going to spend the next three weeks looking at how Pace has approached the three days of the draft, and then applying that approach to 2018 to see what players are likely being considered for the Bears this year. We’re starting today at the top of the draft. Let’s look first at the history, and then we’ll examine lessons learned.
2015: Kevin White, WR, 7th overall
2016: Leonard Floyd, OLB, 9th overall (trade up from 11)
2017: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, 2nd overall (trade up from 3)
The first thing we should observe is that Ryan Pace is not shy about trading up in round 1 to get the player he has identified as his main target. So keep that in mind as we look at mock drafts with players who might be good fits for the Bears but are projected to go higher than #8.
It’s worth noting that these have all been relatively minor trades just moving up a few spots, which keeps the cost down. Despite reportedly exploring moving up to the top of the draft for Marcus Mariota in 2015, Pace has not been willing to give up multiple high picks in these moves.
Trading up becomes a bit more difficult this year because the Bears are already without a third round pick due to trading up for Trubisky last year, but they do have an extra fourth round pick they could use.
Before the Combine, I looked at WRs who found success in coach Matt Nagy’s offense in Kansas City and identified physical traits that they all shared. When examining their Combine performance, I found three drills they all typically excelled at:
Now that major free agency dominoes have fallen and attention is starting to turn more towards the draft, let’s look at all the WRs from the Combine and see how they fared in these three drills. This will help identify what wide receivers might be good fits for the Bears in the draft this year.
Out of the forty-four WRs at the Combine, there were 7 who hit all three physical thresholds. They are shown in the table below.
A few thoughts on this group:
The NFL’s annual meat market is here.
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it doesn’t matter. The Bears, in particular, seem to value athleticism with their early picks and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different.
Here are a few players to watch when the combine really gets rolling later this week.
Ridley is generally thought to be the top wide receiver but there are questions about whether or not he deserves to be a top-10 pick.
After a 1,000-yard season as a freshman, Ridley failed to reach that mark again in his final two years. While much of the blame for that has gone to Alabama’s horrendous quarterback play, there are still questions about the wideout.
One major thing NFL teams will need to see is if Ridley is taller than six-feet, like he is listed. If he comes in shorter, teams are going to question his ability to play outside. Since 2010 only two receivers who measured under six-feet were drafted in the top-10. Neither — Tavon Austin and John Ross — have worked out so far.
Even if he is six-foot-one, Ridley needs to show he has at least good athletic ability to create separation from defenders.
Read DBB’s Saturday Scout column on Ridley HERE.
You don’t often see off-the-ball linebackers who look and move like Edmunds.
Expected to measure in at around 6’5″, 250 pounds, Edmunds is a player a lot of teams are going to want to take a close look at. In addition to his freakish size, he flies around the ball and could be a menace covering the middle of the field.
Whether they did it knowingly or not, by giving Alshon Jeffery a huge extension during the season, the Philadelphia Eagles made their success model next to impossible to duplicate.
The Eagles gave Jeffery the kind of contract the Bears would not, especially coming off his shaky-at-best 2016. AJ will average $13 million per season for the next 4 years, with a total guarantee of roughly $27 million. The Eagles are the champs so every move looks golden but what they actually did was inflate the wide receiver market by paying a premier contract to a non-premier player.
The Bears have come under constant criticism for not bringing Jeffery back but:
And other receivers will want to cash in.
Player: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Game: at Auburn (#6), 2:30 PM CT
Albert Breer talks to a lot of scouts and projects Ridley 16th to the Baltimore Ravens. His explanation:
Baltimore’s still chasing some of its mistakes at receiver, so they take a guy who’s a pretty sure thing from a program they know well.
In surveying sources from five teams, the most common name that came up as the top receiver was Ridley. The talented junior gets a lot of praise for his route-running, quickness, and generally having good hands. Ridley has 41 catches for 523 yards with two touchdowns on the season, but his production is held back by Alabama featuring its ground attack while using a running quarterback with passing limitations. Though Ridley is the top consensus wide out, he doesn’t come without some concerns as multiple sources say independently that his thin frame worries them for the NFL. He is listed at 190 pounds, but team sources say that he has weighed-in in the 180s. With that being one factor, some scouts have said they are grading Ridley as a late first-rounder. He could end up going high out of team need at his premium position, however.