Now that Ryan Pace has been here a while, it’s possible to look at his past drafts to see what lessons can be learned from his approach. This can help us cautiously look ahead to the 2018 draft to see what he might be thinking.
With that goal in mind, I’m going to spend three weeks looking at how Pace has approached the three days of the draft, and then applying that approach to 2018 to see what players are likely being considered for the Bears this year. I looked at day 1 last week, so today will be day 2 (rounds 2-3).
2015: Eddie Goldman, DT, 39th pick; Hroniss Grasu, C, 71st pick
2016: Cody Whitehair, OL, 56th pick (after 2 trade downs); Jonathan Bullard, DL, 72nd pick
2017: Adam Shaheen, TE, 45th pick (after trading down)
Trend 1: Trade Down
Ryan Pace has been a big fan of trading down for extra picks in round 2. He did it twice before selecting Cody Whitehair in 2016 and once before taking Adam Shaheen in 2017. Given that the Bears are short a third round pick this year, I think he will be working the phones looking to do that again in round 2.
Trend 2: Think Big
Another trend that sticks out here is Pace likes to draft big guys on day 2. The smallest player out of these 5 draft picks was Adam Shaheen, who weighed in at 278 pounds. The other four picks were all linemen as Pace looked to build the trenches. Looking at the roster this year, it seems likely that this is the spot to address needs at edge rusher and/or on the offensive line.
Trend 3: Athletic Gamble
Just like we saw on day 1, Pace likes to gamble on upside and athleticism with his early picks. All of these players were above-average athletes for their position, and four of the five posted Relative Athletic Scores (RAS) of 7.9 or higher (RAS scales from 0-10, with a 5 being average, 7.5 75th percentile, etc.), meaning that 80% of Pace’s day 2 picks have been in the top 21% of athletes at their positions.
The exception was Eddie Goldman, who had a below-average RAS value because he was compared to all DTs, not just nose tackles. Just like in round 1, we see that Pace is willing to take some risks (Grasu/Bullard were small for their spots, Shaheen was raw and came from a division 2 school) as long as the athleticism gives appropriate upside.
With only one pick currently slated for day 2, it seems likely that Pace will try to trade down at least once from 39. Whether that will net him an extra third round pick is unknown, as all of his round 2 trade downs so far have resulted in extra fourth round picks.
Once he does pick, look for an offensive lineman or edge rusher to be the selection, based on the current roster needs.
- At outside linebacker, look for an athletic player who has at least 33″ arms (a threshold that has been true in Chicago and with both Fangio and Pace in their prior locations, as Andrew Dannehy has pointed out). Some names who best fit that bill are Lorenzo Carter (perfect 10 RAS), Josh Sweat (9.91 RAS), Sam Hubbard (9.82 RAS), Uchenna Nwosu (8.29 RAS), and Kemoko Turay (8.13 RAS).
- On the offensive line, guys on the interior seem the most likely target. There are a number of athletic options here who project as possible day 2 targets for the Bears if they don’t land Quenton Nelson in round one, including Isaiah Wynn (no RAS score due to injury, but a very good athlete), Billy Price (same), Will Hernandez (8.31 RAS), Braden Smith (9.65 RAS), Frank Ragnow (9.85 RAS), and James Daniels (8.48 RAS).
- At offensive tackle, look for players with at least 34″ arms (another conventional positional threshold) and good athleticism. Brian O’Neill (RAS of 9.59), Kolton Miller (9.98 RAS), and Joseph Noteboom (8.53 RAS) are the only three who really fit that bill. All three are better athletes than tackles at this point, but that hasn’t scared Pace away in the past.
- On the defensive line, options are a bit thinner in terms of projected day two picks. Two guys who could fit the bill are Rasheem Greene (8.93 RAS) or Harrison Phillips (7.94 RAS). Given their needs elsewhere, the lack of options in the draft, and the lack of a 2nd day two pick, this seems unlikely to me.
Next Tuesday I’ll have a piece looking at what Pace has done on day 3 (rounds 4-7) in the last three years. I think there are pretty good lessons to be learned about his approach there.