Much on the line for GM after Chicago Bears draft
This Chicago Bears draft was not the draft of a team that is coming off a 3-13 season and needs to get better immediately.
It was more the draft of a 13-3 team that can afford to roll the dice on longshots and select players who might mature in a couple of years.
General manager Ryan Pace was blessed with a lofty draft slot that came as the consolation prize for the worst 16-game season in Bears history. But he did little to give fans optimism for improvement on the Bears' 14-34 record over the past three seasons.
Maybe Pace and his scouts are smarter than everyone else. The Bears' GM certainly spoke with conviction regarding all his picks. But if the Bears' fortunes don't improve soon and if jobs are lost, every critic will point to this draft as the beginning of the end.
After paying a king's ransom to move up one spot in the first round to No. 2 overall, Pace drafted quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The one-year starter at North Carolina eventually might be a very good quarterback. But even his strongest advocates don't honestly believe Trubisky should be on the field in 2017, and he's likely to experience growing pains even after that.
That won't set well with the more than 20,000 Bears fans who stayed away from Soldier Field for December games, even though they already had paid for tickets.
Still, the Trubisky pick is understandable given the importance of the position.
The problem is that by trading up to get a player they may have had by standing pat, the Bears were left with just one total pick in Rounds 2 and 3.
Nearly everyone assumed they'd get one of several talented players at defensive positions they needed to upgrade. Maybe Washington's instinctive safety/nickel Budda Baker or Utah's big free safety/corner Marcus Williams, who intercepted 10 passes in 2015-16.
Wide receivers Zay Jones of East Carolina or Ohio State's explosive Curtis Samuel, a combo running back-receiver who was one of the fastest players (4.34 40) in the draft, would have been great insurance if Kevin White can't stay healthy.
Instead the Bears took Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen after trading down nine spots to recoup some of what they gave away to get Trubisky.
Tight end is a position that already was in better shape than most of the others on the Bears' roster. Nothing against Shaheen, who has an impressive size-speed ratio and is athletic for a 6-foot-6, 280-pounder. But he will struggle moving up from Division II to the NFL, regardless of the Bears' hopes.
"I would disagree with that," Pace said. "I think Adam's projected to play early. We spent a lot of time on that. Just because he's a small-school player … yeah, it's a big jump. But, I think he has the physical skill set to make that jump, and we're confident in that."
But the Bears already had signed unrestricted free agent Dion Sims to an $18 million, three-year contract in free agency that includes $10 million. He is considered an ascending three-down player who already has four years' experience in the NFL.
And -- oh, by the way -- Bears No. 1 receiving tight end Zach Miller is a skilled pass catcher with 81 receptions for 925 yards and 9 touchdowns in the previous two seasons. The Bears also have tight ends Ben Braunecker, Daniel Brown and MyCole Pruitt still on the roster, all 24 or younger with NFL experience.
On Saturday, the Bears traded up five spots to get Alabama free safety Eddie Jackson, who might well provide the most help in 2017 of any of the five players drafted. That is if he's fully recovered from last season's fractured leg, which is expected.
Seven selections later, the Bears got entertaining third-down running back Tarik Cohen, a 5-6½-inch pinball from North Carolina A&T, an FCS school. Pace would like for Cohen to be for the Bears what Darren Sproles was for the New Orleans Saints. But Sproles was even more productive than the prolific Cohen, and he did it for Kansas State, against much better FBS competition than what Cohen faced.
And, if the Bears have to take rookie sensation Jordan Howard off the field to utilize Cohen, what's the point?
With their last pick, the Bears went for another D-2 player, Kutztown State's Jordan Morgan, a college tackle who projects to guard in the NFL. But the Bears are set at guard with Kyle Long and Josh Sitton. They have greater need for a tackle.
"I don't know that we met all our needs," said Bears coach John Fox, who with a 9-23 record in Chicago has more to lose than anyone. "I think that's impossible when you're rebuilding like we are, but I'm very pleased with all the players we got."
It will be interesting to see how pleased Fox is next year at this time.
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