Chicago Bears fans have speculated for a long time about what GM Ryan Pace will do in the upcoming draft. Hopes are high that this might finally be the time he decides to trade down early. He’s done it a number of times in the 2nd round before in 2016 and 2017. The Bears have no picks in the 3rd or 4th rounds this year. Moving down would solve that issue. Yet anybody who has watched this man operate for five years knows the truth.
At some point, that trigger finger of his will start to itch. He’ll see a player that is high on his board start to tumble a bit. He’ll convince himself this player might be the one that ends up putting his team on the road to constant contention for a Super Bowl. The final piece to the puzzle. Then he’ll start working the phones, trying to find a fair enough deal to move up and grab the guy.
Here’s something to remember. In five drafts to this point, Pace traded up three times with his first pick (Floyd, Trubisky, and Montgomery).
There are benefits to this idea, at least from a 2020 perspective. If he jumps into the bottom of the 1st round for this player, it ensures he’ll have a 5th year option installed in the contract. Something that can be immensely valuable if the player ends up being a stud. The problem, of course, is it means giving up more draft capital. Something that has burned him a number of times already.
Still, the man can’t help himself. So who most likely have his heart?
Here are five names who fit the Ryan Pace box
#1 – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Anybody with some common sense can see the Trubisky era is in its death rows. The odds of him beating out Nick Foles for the starting spot and saving his job are remote. He’ll likely spend this year on the bench and be gone in 2021. That would leave Foles as the only guy of note on the roster with just two years left on his contract. Pace might want to go after a new long-term option at QB as soon as possible.
Jordan Love has the makeup of the type he prefers. One with an elite ceiling in terms of talent but also significant question marks regarding his tape. While Love is more experienced than Trubisky was back in 2017, he also comes in with questions about accuracy and decision-making. He’s mobile with a powerful arm and shows the confidence to attack defenses down the field. The good news is he’d have more time to develop on the bench than Trubisky did. That might make the gamble worth it.
#2 – Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
The Bears are desperate for speed on offense. They were punished constantly by a lack of big plays. Part of this was just poor execution but also not a lot of explosiveness. Taylor Gabriel was their lone speed option at wide receiver and he battled health issues last year. It’s why he was released. Now Pace has zero such options on the roster and haven’t found any in free agency. This points a huge red arrow at the draft for where he plans to get it.
Laviska Shenault stands out as the sort of guy they’re looking for. On the tape, he is a big-play machine. He can strike from anywhere on the field. Not only does he boast true vertical speed but is much better as a hand-fighter and route runner than he gets credit for. He was the alpha dog in Colorado and acted like it. So what’s the catch? Shenault has a growing reputation for being injury-prone. Since the end of 2018, he’s dealt with labrum, toe, and core injuries.
#3 – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
One issue that is getting a bit overlooked is the void still present at the second outside cornerback spot opposite Kyle Fuller. While Prince Amukamara was never a star, he was always steady. Now he is gone. This leaves the Bears with three options to replace him in Kevin Toliver, Tre Roberson, and Artie Burns. Toliver was Amukamara’s backup the past two years. Roberson is a CFL star who failed in his first NFL stint. Burns is a bust 1st round pick from Pittsburgh. Not a lot of certainty there.
With their pass rush upgraded thanks to the arrival of Robert Quinn, the Bears could bring it all together with another solid cover corner. C.J. Henderson fits everything defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano would want in a cornerback. He’s big, long, athletic, smooth, and fast. Everything a team looks for in a modern boundary corner. The problem is teams have questions about his tackling, which could dent his stock just enough for him to fall into a range where the Bears might pounce for him.
#4 – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The Bears experimented last year with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix next to Eddie Jackson at safety. It wasn’t exactly a failure, but it was deemed an awkward fit. Clinton-Dix didn’t fill the strong safety role, which required Jackson to do it instead. This kept the Bears’ best defensive playmaker out of his most natural role as a deep coverage safety. Their goal with Clinton-Dix departing should be to find somebody who can take over that box safety job, allowing Jackson to return to what he does best.
Most view McKinney as the best all-around safety in the draft. A versatile player who can fill just about any role, be it the deep safety or the box one. He has the size and aggressive temperament to handle the latter without much issue. His tackling and ability to blitz are both well-documented. If anybody looks like the ideal wingman to Jackson, this is it. Grabbing him could solidify the back end of the Bears defense for years to come.
#5 – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
The Bears have big question marks on their offensive line. This includes both tackle spots. Charles Leno regressed from his solid 2018 campaign and Bobby Massie suffered multiple injuries that knocked him out towards the end of the season. It feels like both players could be winding down their times in Chicago but are protected at the moment by their contracts. Pace being a forward-thinker and a guy who falls in love with traits might consider seeking an eventual replacement for one of them this year.
Josh Jones is an exciting blocker with all the talent teams look for from size to athleticism and temperament. His primary issues center around footwork and hand usage. Two things that are very coachable. A year on the bench learning under long-time offensive line coach Juan Castillo would be the absolute perfect setup for him. Next season the Bears could have their left tackle of the future, allowing Pace to resume his search for the next quarterback.