The phrase basically means “unknown sea,” and it refers to uncharted waters. Such waters can obviously pose a danger to seagoing vessels, and once upon a time a map noting uncharted waters could even carry a lavish illustration of a sea serpent and the warning “here there be monsters,” or something similar.
Ryan Pace is taking Bears fans into uncharted waters in this next draft.
Let’s begin with the obvious. During his tenure, the Bears have always had high draft picks to play with. He had the 7th, 11th, 3rd, and 8th positions in his first four drafts. Even in 2018, after spending picks to move up for Trubisky, he still had a pair of picks in the top 40, and he actually made three picks in the first two rounds. In simple terms, Bears fans have had a lot to talk about during the draft in recent years.
Now, imagine what it’s going to be like in just a few short weeks. Imagine if a player like Jonathan Bullard or Hroniss Grasu were to be the only player selected by the team in the draft. Even a patient and tolerant fanbase would be disappointed in this scenario. Bullard is not exactly a disappointment, by himself, but...that’s all there is?
Jonathan Bullard is, in essence, the buying power the Bears have heading into the 2019 draft. Being fair, when the Bears’ draft haul for this season is listed, there should be an asterisk next to the list indicating that the total also includes the services of Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller. However, about a month from now, Ryan Pace has very limited capital to work with. He has picks
#88, #127, #183, #224, and #240. #87, #126, #162, #222, and #238. Collectively, those corrected selections carry about 234 points of chart value. Meanwhile, Pick #72 is worth 230 points (Jonathan Bullard was taken at #72). Hroniss Grasu went #71 (draft value of 235 points), but Bullard is still on the team and Grasu is not, so let’s stick with Bullard.
Because it is unlikely that Pace will combine all of his picks into a single selection, but also because Pace tends to like to move around, he could combine his third-rounder and the future second-rounder he has coming back from the Mack trade and land somewhere in the mid-50s. Cody Whitehair was taken with #56 and that’s roughly the conventional value of this bundle. So, Pace does have some room to maneuver. However, for the first time in his career as a GM, he will be truly “low” on draft cash. In fact, this will be the lowest point for the Bears in terms of total draft capital in the millenium, and it might be the lowest since the late 70s.
In 2009, after the Jay Cutler trade, the Bears traded away their second pick in the 2010 draft for Gaines Adams. That left them entering the 2010 draft with only five picks, the highest of which was a third-rounder. So far, this seems pretty familiar. However, the 2010 draft picks were more valuable--#75, #109, #141, #181, and #218. The third-round was almost as valuable as everything the 2019 Bears can muster, and the total range was superior up and down the board. There was much more buying value present. In fact, the 2019 Bears only have about two-thirds the total of those 2010 Bears (234 points to 352 points of chart value).
I cannot find a recent example that gets close. I would need to know the chart in use in 1978 to compare drafts effectively, because with a 3rd-rounder and a pair of 6th-rounders leading off the draft for Chicago (they also had picks going into the 12th round then), that might by the most comparable moment. Still, comparing the draft of the 70s to today is more or less reckless.
This is not a complaint. It is not a criticism. It is an observation that due to trades and a successful 2018 campaign, the Bears are at what is functionally a unique moment in their history when it comes to how unimportant the draft will be to their season, and how little power they have to impact it.
To demonstrate how unimportant the Bears’ efforts will be in late April, imagine the scenario mentioned above. Pretend that Pace moves up into the second round and grabs a player who has slid for some reason. Call that his “Cody Whitehair” move. His next pick will be at #126, one spot ahead of where he was when he brought in Deiondre Hall. He has never picked in the 160s, but #147 was when he took Jordan Morgan and #183 was when he took Tayo Fabuluje, so splitting the difference leaves us hoping for more. Meanwhile, Pace doesn’t like picking in the 7th round and he has two picks to burn there, so maybe he trades one into 2020 and uses the other to draft the next Daniel Braverman or Javon Wims.
There is no reason to assume he is going to repeat past mistakes, but there is equally very little reason to guess that he is suddenly going to work draft-day magic. These players represent about what will be available to Chicago. That will be it. Unless there is something truly unusual in the works, this is not going to be a draft defined by a Jonathan Bullard. However, it likely is going to be a draft that sees Pace take one roll of the dice and grab at best one more role-player.
In a perfect world, he’d take Thursday off and wait for a chance to move around on Friday--late Friday, at that. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, for fans of football in Chicago, it is unexplored territory.
[Note: This article has been updated for accuracy. Thanks to ledpype536 for catching an earlier mistake-JS]