Five years of spotty (at best) drafting and free agent moves have put the spotlight squarely on Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace. He traded Adam Shaheen to the Miami Dolphins for a seventh-round pick. The tight end, a second-round pick out of tiny Ashland College, is the latest Pace draft pick to be jettisoned in favor of better players; a trend that paints a bleak picture.
Spotlight Squarely on Pace after Bears Trade Shaheen
Started on the Wrong Foot
Pace was touted as a top-notch talent evaluator when he was signed away from the New Orleans Saints. Since then, he has drafted 32 players, including this year’s crop of five. Of the previous 27, five have reached the Pro Bowl (two were even All-Pros); Jordan Howard, Cody Whitehair, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, and Mitchell Trubisky.
Others, namely nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos, made their hay being solid if unspectacular performers. The nature of Goldman’s position doesn’t lend itself to recognition, but his presence is up the middle, even as just a two-down player, was huge. He has chosen to opt-out of the NFL season so we will get to see just how valuable he is.
Amos parlayed his steady, heady play into a lucrative deal with the rival Green Bay Packers. His career with Chicago didn’t feature many splash plays, but he was the perfect complement to Eddie Jackson. The Bears are still searching for another player that pairs so well with the All-Pro.
Pace has done a good job of adding ‘contributors’, too. Of the aforementioned 27, only seven weren’t with the Bears in 2019. Just one of the seven who didn’t make it to last season was selected before the fourth round; Kevin White. Outside of Daniel Braverman, though, no love was lost over the guys who didn’t make it.
The Devil’s in the Details
For Pace, finding a Pro Bowler with 18 percent of his draft picks isn’t awful. And his knack for finding actual NFL players can’t be overstated. The Bears cupboard was ridiculously bare and the fact that so many of Pace’s pick found the field in Chicago speaks to that. But, for all the kudos for unearthing gems, he has failed with his premium picks. Spectacularly.
Pace tentatively sits at 1-3 in the first round of the NFL Draft. The one hit, Roquan Smith, has questions of his own. Inconsistency in pass coverage (a touted strength of his coming out of Georgia) and off the field have been issues, but he is a sure tackler. The three misses don’t need much explanation.
Starting with White in 2015, Pace missed on three consecutive first-round picks. Leonard Floyd was a tweener taken before cornerback Eli Apple. Both cornerback and EDGE were positions of need and Pace took the freakish athleticism. Apple hasn’t been great but the Bears current corner situation, and Floyd’s departure, shows he could have been useful.
Mitchell Trubisky is ostensibly the opposite of a feather in the cap for Pace. His own inconsistent play has been intensified by the stellar performances of his classmates at the position. There is no guarantee that Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson would be who they are in Chicago. But the sense that Trubisky isn’t who they thought he was is all the proof some need.
Pace Draft Record Under the Microscope
The fact of the matter is that Pace has filled the Bears roster with capable talent. His missteps at the top of the draft have inevitably left the team in an unenviable position. One has to wonder how much that played a part in the (no-brainer) idea to trade two firsts for Khalil Mack. The opposite is much more likely; that Pace and company thought they had everything figured out and Mack was the missing piece.
Now, after moving on from Shaheen, we must once again go over Pace’s draft record with a fine-tooth comb. We find that he has replenished a roster once seriously devoid of talent but has miscalculated when it mattered most. And this isn’t even counting his free agency gaffes (Pernell McPhee, anyone?).
Still, for every Tarik Cohen Pace discovered, there’s a Jonathan Bullard that flamed out. Fans are still holding their breath over David Montgomery and await the debuts of Cole Kmet and Jaylon Johnson. The selection of Kmet just three years after Shaheen will be second to Trubisky, but it is just another example of Pace having to spend more resources after misfiring on a high draft pick. Not many can survive the errors Pace has made. He could be operating on borrowed time.
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