With just two drafts under his belt, Ryan Pace is doing something neither of his predecessors did. He is using the draft to build an offense and support the quarterback.
One of the first things I wrote for DBB came at a time when we didn’t know if Jay Cutler was going to be the quarterback. It was clear the Bears had failed to provide the quarterback with necessary weapons and I argued Pace needed to do better.
Through two drafts, he has.
In three years with the Bears, Phil Emery drafted seven offensive players, four of which were in the first four rounds. From the year before he made the trade to acquire Cutler until he was fired, Jerry Angelo drafted 12 offensive players, five of which were picked in the first four rounds, three of which were in 2008.
In two years, Pace has already equalled Emery’s total in terms of total offensive players drafted and offensive players in the first four rounds. That’s just one fewer than Angelo managed to pull the trigger on in four years. You could argue Emery’s total should be higher since he spent two third round picks for Brandon Marshall, but one of those picks was acquired from Angelo trading Greg Olsen. The net for both of them is one third rounder, which still puts them both well behind Pace’s current pace.
In all, the Bears have drafted 26 offensive players since 2008, that’s 13 fewer than Baltimore, 9 fewer than Green bay and 6 fewer than New England. All three of those teams have also taken at least 16 offensive players within the first four rounds. Seattle has taken 24 offensive players since drafting Russell Wilson in 2012.
Part of the problem was total number of draft picks, but they all had control of the number of picks they had. Angelo traded picks for Cutler, but also got one back — which he used for Johnny Knox. He also sent a second rounder to Tampa Bay for Gaines Adams, who was just a flat out bad player.
Both Pace and Emery also whiffed on too many picks. Angelo used the 14th pick on Chris Williams in 2008 and took Earl Bennett 70th later in that draft. The next year, he spent a third rounder on Juaquin F-Ing Iglesias before nabbing Gabe Carimi with his final first round pick in 2011. The only offensive player Angelo drafted from 2008-11 who you could say exceeded expectations was Matt Forte.
Emery had two big hits with Alshon jeffery and Kyle Long, but the Bears never got anything from Evan Rodriguez, barely anything from Ka’Deem Carey and minor production from Marquess Wilson.
Hey, the draft is a crapshoot. Ted Thompson took Brian Brohm in the second round. GMs are going to miss, but the good ones know the importance of investing a plethora of assets in guys who help their quarterback. Neither Emery nor Angelo even tried to do that.
Emery and, to a lesser extent Angelo, tried to supplement their lack of activity in the draft with free agents, which, ultimately, proved to be a story on why teams should build through the draft. Angelo had big flops in Orlando Pace, Chester Taylor and Brandon Howeverthehellyouspellhislastname. Emery acquired Marshall, Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett, none of whom are with the team anymore. (Matt Slauson was a late signing who exceeded expectations.) Give him credit, but most of that credit should go to Slauson for busting his ass and getting better.
Angelo had the team close, but ignoring the offense ultimately cost him. When Cutler went down, they couldn’t do anything. Emery’s method worked for one year. Well, sort of. They had the second best scoring offense in the league but he and Angelo allowed the defense to age to the point where they couldn’t stop a nosebleed. Pace has managed to retool the offense, while completely overhauling the defense.
It’s far too early to say what Pace’s hit total will be. Jeremy Langford showed promise as a rookie and the consensus thought is that Kevin White is too talented to not be good. Solely because of the sheer number of players he has drafted in two years, he has set himself up so he doesn’t need all of them to be good. If he hits on 50 percent of his guys — either White or Braverman, either Whitehair or Grasu and either Langford or Howard — he’ll be sitting fine.