Arkush: Does Chicago Bears' talent match the buzz around it?
Dating back to one year ago Friday night and the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who in his fourth season is still the youngest GM in the NFL, has created more excitement around his football team than the city has seen since the Bears played the Packers in the 2010 NFC title game.
It started that evening when he traded the third pick in the draft, his third-round picks last year and this year and his fourth-round pick last year to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
It continued New Year's Day when he decided to replace head coach John Fox and ultra aggressively out-hustled five other teams to hire one of the hottest young head-coaching prospects in the league in Matt Nagy, and then assembled an all-star coaching staff including Vic Fangio, Ed Donatell, Mark Helfrich, Brad Childress and Harry Hiestand.
With a huge splash in free agency that included signing wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, tight end Trey Burton and retaining his own star defensive backs in Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, he put an exclamation point on his commitment to building an explosive and dynamic Bears offense for the first time in decades and maintaining a top-10 defense.
Now he's added three more outstanding college football players in linebacker Roquan Smith, center James Daniels and wide receiver Anthony Miller, setting the local Twitterverse on fire.
Pace is on a roll, and those are things we know.
What we think we know is Trubisky showed enough in 12 starts as a rookie to suggest the Bears have finally found a franchise quarterback for the first time since 1985.
I believe Smith, along with Bradley Chubb and Minkah Fitzpatrick, is one of the three best defensive players in this draft and the Bears got him at eight. Daniels was the best center in this draft, although Pace says the Bears will start him out at left guard, and almost no receivers in this draft have had more buzz around them than Miller.
It is exciting, but let's go back to what we know.
From Pace's first three drafts, only Eddie Goldman, Adrian Amos, Pro Bowler Jordan Howard, Leonard Floyd, All-rookie center Cody Whitehair, a projected starter this year in Jonathan Bullard, Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen and maybe, maybe Adam Shaheen appear to have a chance to be part of the nucleus of a contending team.
Free agency has been tougher for Pace. On the current roster only Bobby Massie, Benny Cunningham, Dion Sims, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Amukamara and this year's three receivers are likely to be important contributors.
So based on what we know, how close are the Bears to being legitimate contenders?
I believe Trubisky, Howard, Cohen, Long, Whitehair, Shaheen, Hicks, Goldman, Trevathan, Floyd, Fuller, Jackson, Robinson, Gabriel and Burton will be better players this year -- and some will be very good because of Nagy and his staff.
I am excited that Smith, Daniels and Miller, who can be excellent prospects, appear to be even better young men, and I think the Bears will be a much improved team and win eight or nine games.
But I know they still won't be close to the talent of the NFL's best teams and they will enter next year's construction handcuffed with the absence of a second-round pick.
I continue to be a Ryan Pace fan, but as we celebrate Nagy's honeymoon right now, we know Pace's honeymoon is over, and I fear the quality of this roster is not equal to the buzz surrounding it.
The question now: can it catch up in time for this current regime to celebrate it?
• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.