Ryan Pace’s reluctance to draft quarterbacks has been a consistent talking point for Chicago Bears fans since his first draft ended in 2015. It was during the lead up to that draft, — his initial draft as an NFL general manager — when he famously remarked that he felt it was a good idea to draft a quarterback every year.
We all know how that story has gone so far, but I was curious where Pace has been spending his draft picks in the six drafts he’s been on the job. I’m not going to include the picks he has used in trade ups or in the deal for Khalil Mack, I’m just talking about the actual 39 rookies he’s selected.
We’ll start this exercise with the position he has drafted the most and take it on though his least most picked position, with the number of players at each position in parenthesis. Also, the round each player was drafted in will be in parenthesis next to the player.
Wide receiver (6)
Players: Darnell Mooney (5th), Riley Ridley (4th), Anthony Miller (2nd), Javon Wims (7th), Daniel Braverman (7th), Kevin White (1st)
Best pick: Right now the best pick is Miller, who has 134 receptions as a Bears, which is 73 more career catches than last year’s rookie. But check back on this topic next offseason and my money is on Mooney being the best.
Worst pick: From a value standpoint, there’s no question the worst pick has been his first pick, Kevin White, but once these guys are issued their jerseys they’re all professionals with the same opportunity to shine. Braverman was a fan favorite but he was never able to make a catch in one of the three NFL games he was able to dress for. Injuries ruined any chance White ever had to make an impact, but he’ll always have that one almost TD on the Hail Mary.
Players: Jaylon Johnson (2nd), Kindle Vildor (5th), Duke Shelley (6th), Stephen Denmark (7th), Deiondre’ Hall (4th)
Best pick: Johnson made several 2020 all rookie teams and he’s set to be the Bears CB1 now that Kyle Fuller was released. If his shoulders don’t continue to problematic he has the makings of a damn good pro.
Worst pick: Denmark was a lottery ticket type of pick based on his small school resume and ridiculous measurables, but it wasn’t able to translate to the NFL. He’ll be in camp with the Steelers this summer to keep his dream alive.
Running back (5)
Players: David Montgomery (3rd), Kerrith Whyte Jr. (7th), Tarik Cohen (4th), Jordan Howard (5th), Jeremy Langford (4th)
Best pick: Howard gave the Bears three years as a lead back then they were able to trade him for a day three draft pick. Montgomery is primed to be Pace’s best running back pick if he continues to build off his fantastic 2020 season, and had Cohen not been injured a year ago, his all around game would have had him in the mix here too.
Worst pick: Bears fans were pissed when the speedy Whyte decided to sign with the Steelers while on the Bears practice squad as a rookie in 2019, but he barely played in Pittsburgh either. He’s currently looking or another job after ending last year on Detroit’s practice squad/injured list.
Interior offensive line (5)
Players: Hroniss Grasu (3rd), Cody Whitehair (2nd), Jordan Morgan (5th) James Daniels (2nd), Arlington Hambright (7th)
Best pick: Whitehair is a former Pro Bowl center that played the best ball of his career last year when he moved to left guard.
Worst Pick: Morgan impressed at the Senior Bowl, but going form Kutztown University to the NFL proved to be too big a leap. He failed to make the Bears’ roster and his most recent football action was being waived by the DC Defenders of the XFL before they began their 2020 season.
Players: Eddie Jackson (4th), Deon Bush (4th), DeAndre Houston-Carson (6th), Adrian Amos (5th)
Best Pick: Jackson is a 2-time Pro Bowler and a First-Team All Pro in 2018. He’s also one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL, and while his 2020 season wasn’t statistically what he had hoped for, a move back to a Fangio-like defense this year under Sean Desai may get him back to his takeaway ways.
Worst Pick: Bush hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup, nor has he made an impact as a special teamer.
Interior defensive line (3)
Players: Bilal Nichols (5th), Jonathan Bullard (3rd), Eddie Goldman (2nd)
Best pick: Eddie Goldman is one of the better nose tackles in the NFL, and the Bears sorely missed his presence in the middle of their defense in 2020. Nichols is an up and comer that I predict will have a break out season playing at his more natural position in 2021.
Worst pick: Bullard was an annual preseason stud, but he was never able to really flash in his three regular seasons in Chicago.
Players: Trevis Gipson (5th), Kylie Fitts (6th), Leonard Floyd (1st)
Best pick: Hindsight tells us the Bears should have kept Floyd around for his 5th-year option season, because the guy the Bears signed instead of him didn’t do much at all. Floyd has always shown to be a good football player, but he just never got home for sacks in Chicago. Here’s a fun fact, while Floyd may have just set a career high with 10.5 sacks as a member of the Rams, he only had 4 more total pressures in 2020 then he did in 2019 with the Bears.
Worst Pick: Fitts’ one year in Chicago had less playing time than Gipson’s rookie season, so we’ll give this one to Fitts for now.
Inside linebacker (3)
Players: Roquan Smith (1st), Nick Kwiatkoski (4th), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (4th)
Best pick: Roquan was named 2nd-Team All Pro last year after flying around the field and filling the stat sheet. He just turned 25-years old and his best football is in front of him.
Worst pick: In three years Iyiegbuniwe has become a core special teamer, which is fine, but the Bears don’t trust him to play defense yet.
Offensive tackle (2)
Players: Lachavious Simmons (7th), Tayo Fabuluje (6th)
Best pick: Considering that Simmons made it through his rookie year and still has a job, he’s the best of these two.
Worst pick: Fabuluje made the roster as a rookie, but he served a 4 game suspension that year, then was cut and out of the league the following summer.
Tight end (2)
Players: Cole Kmet (2nd), Adam Shaheen (2nd)
Best pick: Kmet looks like he could develop into a productive Y tight end for the Bears, and his athleticism will allow the team to move him around the offense to find some occasional mismatches.
Worst pick: Shaheen had a few moments during his Bears career, but he was never able to stay healthy, and even if he did, he likely never would have lived up to his 2nd-round draft status. The fact that Pace got a 6th-round pick for him was wizardry.
Players: Mitchell Trubisky (1st)
Best pick: Trubisky made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2018 and he looked like a guy ready to build off his success.
Worst pick: But he was never able to take that next step as a pro from a mental standpoint and he ended up inking a 1-year deal to be the back-up in Buffalo.