For those who don’t remember, here’s a quick refresher. GM Ryan Pace runs the Chicago Bears draft strategy with a simple aim. Combing through the 300 or so players that could be draftable each year, he tries to pinpoint the ones that fit his “Bears Box.” This references a small collection of names that have everything his team looks for. They’re not only standout athletes on the field. They’re also completely clean off it.
Pace himself said the box usually contains about 20 or so names per year, which isn’t a lot. The past two years though it’s apparent they’ve added a number of such players including Mitch Trubisky, Roquan Smith, James Daniels, and Anthony Miller. Standout talents at big programs who came with nothing but glowing reports of their off-the-field conduct.
The results speak for themselves. Trubisky went to the Pro Bowl. Smith was a Pro Bowl alternate. Daniels became a starter and didn’t allow a sack. Miller caught seven touchdowns. This strategy has proven to have merit. The problem is in order to have a decent chance of working, it requires higher draft choices.
This may put the Bears Box strategy in jeopardy for 2019.
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) April 29, 2017
Ryan Pace will have to take more risks on players than he’s used to
The thing about the draft is it’s fairly predictable for the most part. All teams tend to seek what the Bears seek. They want talented players who have zero character or health question marks. People will notice as a draft goes on that the later rounds tend to be filled with names who are followed by such question marks.
This leaves a GM with a choice. Take a gamble on one of those talents or settle for a “safer” option with a high floor but little upside. Pace is no stranger to taking risks like this. His 4th round in 2017 has become legendary for it. Eddie Jackson had a broken leg when he arrived in Chicago and Tarik Cohen was 5’6. The Bears bet that their character and athletic upside would be able to overcome those obstacles and it was a good call.
Pace will have to run his entire 2019 draft around that sort of calculated gambling. The odds of players who fit the Bears Box mold slipping all the way to the end of the 3rd round are remote. Sure, crazy things happen but usually, no player falls without a good reason. With that said, are there any names who could possibly fall at least within striking distance? Names that would fall in this limited category?
David Montgomery and Noah Fant will be names to watch
Two that would seem to warrant close attention are running back David Montgomery and tight end Noah Fant. Montgomery has been the workhorse on offense for Iowa State the past two seasons. He’s lauded for excellent vision, natural instinct, and underrated power as a runner. He also has good hands for catching the ball. So why won’t he go earlier?
Namely he excelled at a lesser program (against lesser talent) and has question marks regarding his overall speed. He’s not a home run hitter. Then again he’s been compared to Kareem Hunt, who went in the 3rd round back in 2017. So that’s definitely something to take note of as the draft approaches.
If Montgomery is Hunt, then one could call Fant the Travis Kelce. Like the Chiefs superstar he’s been an athletic and explosive pass catcher at Iowa with a good mix of size and speed. He looks like a mismatch no matter where he lines up. So what could be the problem? Two things. He’s being overshadowed by teammate T.J. Hockenson whom many see as the best tight end in the draft. Also, he’s earned a bit of a reputation as a malcontent.
It has nothing to do with off-the-field issues though. More about playing time. Fant reportedly wasn’t happy with how he was being used on offense. Something his brother fervently complained about on Twitter.
These coaches must think the #1 Guy in the nation is the 2nd or 3rd best on there team! Because they both get more reps than he does. It’s hard to believe a player who is arguably the best at his position only plays sometimes. Hard to watch that mess over and over!
— Chris Fant (@CoachFant45) October 7, 2018
Things like this tend to raise a red flag. Will he end up being a problem for his coaches? However, one could flip it around and see a young man who loves football and wants to play. With uncertainty surrounding both Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen, Fant would be an excellent piece of competition at that position.