2017 has seen the Bears make five picks that not many would have predicted. While a few of us thought Trubisky might come our way, I don't think people joined the dots on any of the other prospects.
So what is Pace up to? I have a suggestion.
Each year that Pace has been here, he has tried to position himself through free agency to take BPA in the draft. He's then turned over nearly the entire roster with his draft picks and free agent signings.
But in 2016, something strange happened. His team lost more starter-games to injury than just about any team in history. Just about all the backups had to play. And although they were clearly starved of top end talent and ended 3-13, they mostly played competent football and were generally still in with a chance with 10 minutes on the clock.
Pace discovered that his backups were OK. Not great, by any means. But he found that a load of nobodies that were meant to be backups could play in the NFL without being a total embarrassment.
Heading into the 2017 draft, top end talent was approached through free agency but none signed. He mostly went to second level players to bolster the depth and provide starting competition without breaking the bank.
So what do you do with no major holes on your roster, that is lacking elite talent? You gamble. Maybe some of the guys you already have will develop a bit. Maybe guys like Floyd, Meredith and White become top players. But you know that you have a bunch of young guys who can do a job. Why add more?
With the exception of Jordan Morgan who seems like a straightforward BPA pick, Pace has gambled. He's given up draft capital for an inexperienced but high ceiling quarterback. He's gone for a division 2 Tight End with a huge ceiling. A top, smart safety from a big school with a troubling injury history. And a tiny but dynamic running back.
I genuinely don't think Pace cares a huge amount if, maybe two of these picks don't make it to the 53 in 2018. He wants Trubisky to be a franchise QB. He wants Shaheen to be Gronk v2. And so on.
A few of these picks may have felt like reaches. I don't think Pace thought they were. But I do think that when calculating grades, they made upside a bigger factor than usual.
Pace gambled. He took major risks. His draft will probably receive the worst grade of just about any team in the league. His #2 overall pick got booed.
Only time will tell if any of this worked. But it was calculated risk, which I'd rather have than a GM who drafts in constant fear of getting it wrong.