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Grading Ryan Pace: The 2017 Trades

Ryan Pace has taken a lot of aggressive actions in his time as a GM, and most of that aggression has come in the form of trading players for picks and picks for players. He likes to move around. In 2017, most of his moves were good ones.

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears
Pace traded up to get him. Worth an extra 6th-rounder?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the last article, I tried to evaluate Ryan Pace’s early trade moves. Now I am moving to more recent work. I am still not evaluating the 2018 trades for two simple reasons, though. The first is that it’s just too early. The second is that if anyone needs help in evaluating the trade for Khalil Mack, that person should just go watch video of Khalil Mack.

This piece is still going to be a little more speculative, because it is going to look at trades that are barely two years old. However, there is reason to think that 2017 will be slightly easier to evaluate, and it has to do with the fact that those trades have already paid dividends.

Bears fans, no matter their feelings on Pace, have to admit that the story of the 2017 draft for the Bears is told through trades. Still, ignore the trades for the moment and simply imagine that it is early April, 2017. Imagine if someone were to tell the Chicagoan on the streets that Pace was going to come away from the draft with A) an All-Pro safety, B) an All-Pro returner, and C) a quarterback good enough to make it to the Pro Bowl as an alternate. That’s quite the haul for any GM, even one in prime draft position, and each of those players was taken with a pick that changed hands.

Therefore, in order to look at recent trades, it’s necessary to perform a deep dive on the 2017 draft. As before, each trade will be based on the overall value, how much sense the move made given the available options, and then how the move turned out. Note this is not a grade on the draft selections themselves, therefore, but instead a grade on the trades made within the draft.

The Trubisky Trade

This is the trade that was supposed to define the franchise, and it would have had not the Raiders decided to part with Khalil Mack. However, it is still one of the biggest trades the Bears have made in recent memory, and it is still worth assessing at length.

First, the trade was perfectly within book value. According to the famed Johnson chart, Pace paid exactly market value for his trade. According to Rich Hill’s updated chart as of 2017, he actually came out ahead. Only by using the “opportunity is free” charts of Stuart Chase or Harvard Analytics is it possible to say that Pace overpaid. He did not get a discount, but he did not get ripped off. That means that the value is a solid C.

Second, the move made sense. It’s hard to remember in hindsight, but it made perfect sense given what was known. Pace positioned himself to know whether or not people were trying to move up to the top of the draft, and both Lynch of the 49ers and reporters in the room seem to think that there was another deal available. More than that, Trubisky was a sought-after quarterback in a draft full of question marks. Mahomes was considered a risk, and Watson had as many question marks, albeit different ones, as the signal caller from UNC. The Bears needed a quarterback, and Trubisky was in many ways the safest one available. Pace maneuvered well to get the player he wanted, using everything from subterfuge to draft position. This is at least a B+.

Third, and most importantly, it turned out okay at best. Pace went through a lot of effort to move out of the third overall position in the draft in order to select the third-best quarterback in the draft. Set aside Navy and Orange goggles for a moment. Put down the Pro Bowl (Alternate) banners. Trubisky has the lowest passer rating, completion percentage, and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. Despite playing in more games than the other two players (26 to Watson’s 23 and Mahomes’ 17), he has the fewest touchdowns (31 to 45 for Watson and 50 for Mahomes). He only leads in interceptions. All three have made the Pro Bowl, but the only All-Pro among them is the guy who went after the other two. In short, while excuses can be made, nothing in the actual performance of any of these men suggests that the trade was worth it, only that it was well-managed. The outcome grade has to be a C-.

That might seem high to some, especially those who compare Trubisky directly to what the other two have done, but remember that even if Pace missed opportunity, he still found a workable quarterback, and while Mahomes is looking to be something special and Watson is playing well, finding a competent starter at quarterback is still an accomplishment, even if it can stick in the craw to wonder about what might have been.

Overall, then, the Trubisky trade is a C+, It was a well-managed bit of management that turns out to have been a little overly ambitious and misguided, but it was not at all a disaster.

Missing Budda Baker

After getting Trubisky, Pace moved out of #36 and let the Cardinals take Budda Baker. By some standards, this was rubbing salt in a wound, since he traded out of the chance to get Jamal Adams in the first round and then gave up on Baker in the second. However, the trade was another Pace special.

When it comes to value, though, Pace comes out ahead on this trade. He gave up #36 to get a later 2nd-rounder, a 4th-rounder, a 6th-rounder, and a future pick. By pure value, he pulled ahead by 2-3%, and he did it while taking advantage of the market for future picks and increasing the lost chances he suffered from the Trubisky trade. This was a good move, and so it has to be considered a solid B.

Then, there’s whether or not it made sense at the time. The Bears had just shed picks due to the Trubisky trade, and they had enough needs that missing on a single player was not as important as maximizing the available value. This is a B+ bit of management, in that it mitigated another move without giving up much opportunity.

Finally, there’s how it turned out. Baker has been a good player. He has certainly been better than Adam Shaheen, the second-rounder Pace took instead. However, Baker has not been better than Shaheen and Tarik Cohen, the All-Pro returner and general mismatch Pace found. However, even for those intent on criticizing Pace over this trade, that missing 6th-rounder fueled Pace’s next trade. I’m going to leave it out of this equation, though, to give Pace full credit for it in the next grade. For now, I’m calling this a solid move in that he gave up the chance to take one really good player and turned it into a really good player and a functional piece for development. That’s another B+ move.

This trade-down is an 87%, or the lowest possible B+.

Moving Up for Eddie Jackson

Pace gave up pick #197 (gained in the Budda Baker/Adam Shaheen trade) to move up from #117 to #112. This was a slight overpay (about 5%), but it was within the range of tolerable limits, and it was managed using only an extra pick that the team had not counted on having. That’s a C, except that doesn’t feel right, and here’s why--the overpay for the move is actually paid for by the surplus value of the Shaheen trade. I cannot grade this any lower than a B. However, at the time it made perfect sense. The Bears needed a safety (the position drafted) and they had low-end picks to maneuver with. More importantly, the player taken was known to be valuable, and he had only fallen due to injury. This was an aggressive move to fill a team need using assets that were expendable. That’s an A. Finally, it resulted in a 1st-team All-Pro safety and a player who helped to define a defensive turnaround. That’s an A+.

Simply put, the Eddie Jackson trade is the kind of thing that GMs dream of pulling off, and it cost Pace a 6th-rounder he didn’t even own at the start of the draft. This is an A trade overall (93%), just barely sneaking out of A- territory largely because the only thing Pace didn’t do was commit robbery on the value paid.

Extra Credit

The non-trade for Dontrelle Inman deserves attention here as a 2017 move Ryan Pace made without any cost at all. I don’t typically like extra credit, but I don’t know what else to call it when a GM successfully pays nothing to rent a player at a position of need for half a season. Pace offered a conditional pick for Inman, but the terms were not met. That means that Pace was able to secure the Bears a player at a position of need (wide receiver) for no actual loss of draft capital. Inman was no worse than the Bears’ fourth-best wide receiver that year, given his production, and he was free. Not bad.


Overall, Pace’s 2017 trade moves were enough to earn him an 86%. That’s a B. The extra credit for Inman moves him up into B+ territory, and it’s really only the amazing performance of the underrated 2017 quarterback class that drives it that low. Supposedly, this was the year Pace got owned in the trade market. Given that his trades brought him two All-Pros, that’s a really tough position to support.

If someone wanted to make an argument that pulling off all of these moves at once should earn Pace a holistic grade of an A (in that he only had neutral and positive moves in the year, and that’s rare), I’d find it tough to argue. I still think that a B+ is pretty accurate, though, and I think that it’s a clear sign that this is one of Pace’s strengths.