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Ryan Pace found great value in the 2016 NFL Draft

NFL: Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017 Draft quickly approaching, let’s take a peek back at what the Chicago Bears did last year in the draft. ESPN draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr., recently re-graded last years draft and their other draft guru, Todd McShay, recently gave his top 12 value picks for the 2016 NFL Draft. Chicago came out looking pretty good in both Insider articles.

Kiper was initially fond of the Bears’ 2016 draft class, giving them an A-, but after they’ve played a full season, he’s pushed them up to an A. He said the Bears got “exceptional value” from Jordan Howard and Cody Whitehair, calling them “really good NFL players -- among everybody, not just rookies.”

Kiper called Howard, “one of the top five or six running backs in the NFL,” adding that, “On a per-snap basis, he was every bit as good and arguably better than Ezekiel Elliott.”

He called Whitehair, “one of the top handful of centers” in the league, but it wasn’t just these two that he sees promise in.

I expressed concern at the time about Leonard Floyd's frame and how well he could hold up, but he had 12 starts, seven sacks, made my All-Rookie Team and showed he can be a disruptive force. With guys like that, you have to ask those questions, but so far he's showing he has what it takes. Jonathan Bullard also saw almost 300 snaps and could be useful going forward. I said then I thought Nick Kwiatkoski could start early, and that could be the case in Year 2. From there, the only question is if the Bears can develop some of the secondary talent they added. If so, it's a bonus on a solid class.

As you probably guessed by now, McShaw picked two Bears for his 12 best value picks, and those were Howard and Whitehair. Here’s what he said about Howard, whom he ranked 5th.

5. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

Pre-draft grade: Third round | Drafted: Fifth round

We were higher on Howard than most, ranking him as the sixth overall running back in the 2016 draft. He was the 10th running back selected. Howard ended up being the best part of the Bears' offense last season. He showed great vision and the same tough running style that served him well at Indiana. Howard finished second in the NFL with 1,313 rush yards and was very efficient, averaging 5.2 yards per carry (fourth in the NFL among qualified RBs).

I’m really excited to see Chicago’s offense, hopefully centered around Howard and a power running game, in 2017. Nothing can ease the transition for a new quarterback better than a legit lead-dog in the run game, and the Pro Bowler Howard is just that.

Here’s what McShay said about Whitehair.

10. Cody Whitehair, C, Chicago Bears

Pre-draft grade: Fringe second/third round | Drafted: Second round

We had Whitehair ranked as the 59th overall prospect and the third-best interior offensive lineman. The Bears took him 56th overall, and he was the fifth interior O-lineman off the board. Whitehair made a successful transition from college left tackle to NFL center and started all 16 games as a rookie.

I wasn’t a fan of the Whitehair pick at first, I just thought there were more need positions that they could have addressed, but I quickly came around on him. Getting a top o-line prospect where they got him was good maneuvering on Chicago’s part.

Chicago’s general manager, Ryan Pace, has a draft the best player available policy, and so far through two drafts, we’ve seen a mixed bag on the results.

His 2015 draft class has been set-back with injuries to his first, second and third round picks, but if those guys all come back with a solid 2017, then it’ll be a big boost to the team.