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Bears' draft will once again be defined by quarterbacks

Last off-season, Ryan Pace was dead set on finding his franchise quarterback. This year, the Bears's focus is different, but the effect of quarterback value is all the same.

Reese's Senior Bowl
"Broadway Baker"
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Bears general manager Ryan Pace said it best himself last March of what he seeks in a franchise quarterback, firmly putting the target on his eventual foundation in Mitchell Trubisky's. Chicago's focus was always on selecting the former North Carolina star at his position, no one else.

"I think about (Drew) Brees when he was at Purdue and how he elevated that program," said Pace at last year's Scouting Combine.

Many assumed Pace was actually discussing Deshaun Watson, who would eventually be drafted by the Houston Texans. Others had their eyes locked in on now Jets safety Jamal Adams, or Stanford's versatile interior defender in Solomon Thomas. "Immediate impact" or was a common refrain for the Bears at No. 3 overall: positional value be damned.

To that end, Pace was never deterred by this conversation from his original vision for the 2017 Draft. He was going to get his quarterback to marry himself to, someone he meticulously studied, even if it took sacrificing some mid-round draft selections to make sure he didn't slip through his grasp. That player was Trubisky, who for Pace, accomplished more than enough in one full season as a starter for the Tar Heels. The rest for now, is history.

A year later, the Bears have a new head coach in Matt Nagy, one whose focus will center around bringing the best out of Trubisky and turning him into the star the current regime at Halas Hall believes he can become. An offensive coordinator in Mark Helfrich, a first-time NFL coordinator whose job will be making Trubisky and his offensive foundational weapons such as Jordan Howard, Adam Shaheen, and Tarik Cohen comfortable in an innovative attack. Whether either will be successful remains to be seen, but Chicago's plan to become relevant is beyond transparent.

Build around Trubisky, or else.

As the Bears have begun to lay down their cement offensively, that means they don't need a franchise quarterback. It means they certainly won't select a passer at No. 8 overall in April's upcoming draft.

Unless of course, they're adopting the early 1970's Tom Landy Cowboys model: platooning two players in Roger Staubach and Craig Morton every other play because in Landry's mind, neither had earned the full-time starting role regardless of previous draft position. Dallas only did that for one game in 1971, and actually gained 500 yards of offense, but not before committing seven turnovers in a mediocre 23-19 loss to ironically the Bears. Staubach, a future Hall of Famer, would take over the mantel the following week for good.

The old adage of football maintaining "if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one," rang true almost 50 years ago, and holds firm today. Not that it needs to be said, but to highly reiterate with this point in mind: the Bears aren't giving up on Trubisky after 12 NFL starts. Nor are they investing in a quarterback to compete with him instead of using their draft capital on a potential franchise player in areas that need more bolstering.

This is a Bears organization seeking complimentary pieces for their 23-year-old Mentor, Ohio native. Such as playmakers on the outside at receiver. Finishing a defense that needs pass rushers to help support him when he makes a mistake. A tackle or a guard to assist in protecting him from an increasingly consistent and volatile volume of pass rushers the NFL now offers.

Where does that leave Chicago all the way down at No. 8 overall in the 2018 Draft? A team crossing their fingers, and hoping and praying there's a significant run on quarterbacks - with others seeking to fill their franchise void - as talent at these relevant positions for the Bears is pushed down.

The official draft order before the Bears this April is as follows: the Browns, Giants, Colts, Browns (again), Broncos, Jets, and Buccaneers. Each of Cleveland, both New York's, and Denver could realistically tap the much-hyped 2018 quarterback class for an investment. Indianapolis at this stage, still has it's hand in on the injured but recovering Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay believes in Jameis Winston for now.

If three, or even four quarterbacks go before Chicago's selection, that means the Bears will possess that much more of a shot at someone such as NC State's complete defensive end in Bradley Chubb, versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Virginia Tech's all-around virtuoso linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Notre Dame's generational guard in Quenton Nelson, and Penn State's offensive dynamo in Saquon Barkley (for a trade down scenario). Since the Bears are set at the most important position, they would ideally want as many of the type of player they won't take to go before they put their finishing touches on Trubisky's surrounding parts. It's only common sense, with a dash of good fortune.

Hope, in that way for the Bears, will rest on these quarterback-needy organizations.

The Browns have taken a quarterback in four out of the last 10 drafts (three out of the last four). None of them from second-rounder DeShone Kizer to the third-rounder Cody Kessler, have been as high as a top-four pick however. Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and Cleveland will now have an opportunity to not only add "The Rosen One" in UCLA's Josh Rosen - who many suspect will be the Browns' selection with the first pick - but another franchise player at No. 4 like Barkley.

There's a Chubb, Fitzpatrick, or Edmunds falling here.

The Giants haven't needed to invest heavily at quarterback ever since drafting the aging Eli Manning all the way back in 2004. Since then, New York has only taken quarterbacks in the mid to late rounds as developmental prospects, instead of as serious contenders to take over for Manning. New head coach Pat Shurmur has already anointed the declining Manning as the starter for 2018, but that doesn't rule out taking the heir apparent at No. 2 overall.

For former Panthers head personnel man Dave Gettleman, could that be Wyoming's Josh Allen? He's a player many will agree possesses the talent to be successful at the pro level, who just needs to land in the right situation to gestate. That sure sounds like Shurmur with a mentor working alongside Allen in Manning.

Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Edmunds and company continue to fall.

As mentioned, the Colts have their franchise in Andrew Luck. Luck will only be 29 come the start of next season. They're not jettisoning him for a full reboot yet. In his second opportunity as a head coach, Josh McDaniels will get a look at him first before anyone makes any rash decisions. A porous defense takes Chubb off the board.

Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, and Nelson slot down more.

We move past Cleveland, who has already selected their long-term running back as mentioned, to the Broncos.

General manager John Elway's difficulty in replacing Peyton Manning has been long documented at Mile High. After Manning's retirement following Super Bowl 50, Elway drafted the obvious failure Paxton Lynch in the first round (at least in terms of Denver giving up on him) and had the Broncos bide their time with a glorified seventh-round game manager in Trevor Siemian for two seasons. That's put the organization in a tight bind, as a core that won the Super Bowl two years ago is now coming apart at the seams with waste.

One way or another, Elway is going to find a quarterback to keep his franchise afloat. Probably to keep his job as matters stand. Whether that means the stereotypical blonde, wavy-haired passer they love in Denver in Kirk Cousins, who all reports maintain is a goner from Washington, or a young guy at No. 5 overall is a different story. Though, if the Broncos are attempting to move sterling pass targets Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it wouldn't make sense to saddle Cousins with a bare cupboard. Making those kind of moves is what you do when you're preparing a landing strip for a fresh-faced quarterback. In this case, according to Elway's previous type, that's the blonde wavy-haired, raw, but talented Sam Darnold out of USC.

Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, and Nelson are sitting pretty.

We come to the Giants' step brother in the Jets, who had a surprising 5-11 2017 season, playing well above what was originally expected to be the worst team in the league at the outset of the year. Head coach Todd Bowles had his bunch playing at an inspired clip, with the Jets hanging around in every game they played. The Jets played so above their original expectations, Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan were rewarded with long-term contract extensions.

This unexpected play, mind you, was with the NFL's poster boy for journeyman in Josh McCown under center. After receiving a sealed vote of confidence for the time being, to see the Jets move forward with the 38-year-old McCown would be misguided. They're looking for their next "Broadway Joe". No one fits that bill better than the brash but incredibly gifted Baker Mayfield out of Oklahoma. You can call him "Broadway Baker".

Edmunds, Fitzpatrick, and Nelson are twiddling their fingers.

In a sane NFL world, the Buccaneers would give up on Winston and assured lame duck head coach Dirk Koetter now as to cut their losses. Neither Winston or Koetter have shown any sign of being more than an erratic, unreliable passer in Winston's case, or a coach who isn't a difference maker in regards to Koetter. Sometimes an organization can be too patient, as many in Chicago will testify.

Nevertheless, Tampa Bay presses on, and they desperately need pass rush help. The Buccaneers had the league's lowest amount of sacks with 22 in 2017. Gerald McCoy on the interior, a Pro Bowl type player in his own right, isn't enough to disrupt opposing quarterbacks. This isn't as strong a draft for pass rushers with actual immediate impact talent in consideration, but it's always a position that's pushed up due to value. Marcus Davenport will be one of those players this year, a small school defensive end who will require a bit of polish over time, and who fits Tampa Bay's thirst for defensive relevancy to a tee.

Edmunds, Fitzpatrick, and Nelson: your table for Chicago is ready.

The ideal scenario would have these quarterbacks be drafted before the Bears pick, according to individual situations, and this talent pushed down to where the Bears virtually cannot make a mistake with whomever they pick. Best player available can be a tenet followed, but it won't be quarterback. Any of Edmunds, Fitzpatrick, or Nelson will be an excellent fit in Chicago as all are legitimate cornerstone prospects. Other organizations in dire straits seeking the next answer under center must follow stricter means.

In a way, by drafting their guy in Trubisky a year before this coming quarterback-driven insanity, the Bears have set themselves up with dynamite lottery numbers provided they receive a luck of the draw.

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and is a contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.