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The Pace Priorities: Examining the GM’s Positional Values Through Draft Investment

| May 8th, 2018

Ryan Pace has now had four drafts with the Chicago Bears, meaning that everybody playing on a rookie deal in Chicago was acquired by him. Accordingly, I think it’s worth looking at what positions in which he has invested the most and least draft capital.

This will give us an idea of what positions Pace prioritizes, and also help us see where the Bears might need to focus their draft attention in the next few years. It’s worth noting that free agency decisions and how well players pan out influence these too, but I think you’ll see positions which have been ignored in the draft are largely the ones with the biggest roster needs.


Heavy Investment

There are several positions where Ryan Pace has made a significant investment with high draft picks, seeming to indicate these are the positions he values most on the roster. Let’s look at what the positions are, what the draft investment has been, and what the future looks like at those positions.

  • Quarterback: Ryan Pace has spent only one pick on a quarterback, snagging Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, but he traded up to the 2nd pick in the draft to do so. At a position where only one player plays, a top 5 pick is a heavy investment, and they don’t figure to be investing additional significant draft capital at the position for at least a few more years.

  • Interior Offensive Line: The position group that has seen the highest number of high picks invested is actually the interior of the offensive line, where Pace has spent two 2nd round picks (Cody Whitehair and James Daniels), a 3rd (Hroniss Grasu), and a 5th (Jordan Morgan). This shows how much Pace values what is largely considered the less important portion of the offensive line, but hopefully they won’t have to spend another high pick there for a few years. Still, it’s worth noting that Kyle Long could be cut as early as next offseason, so another day 2 pick on the position in 2019 or 2020 wouldn’t be a shock.
  • Defensive Line: Pace has also spent multiple day 2 picks on the defensive line, grabbing Eddie Goldman in round 2 and Jonathan Bullard in round 3. He also invested a 5th round pick in Bilal Nichols this year. I think this, combined with the interior offensive line, shows that Pace believes in building a team from the inside out. Depending on how Bullard and Nichols progress (not to mention undrafted free agent Roy Robertson-Harris), and if Eddie Goldman is re-signed after 2018, we could see this position addressed fairly highly in the draft again in the near future.
  • Inside Linebacker: Until 2018, I would have said this was a position with light draft investment, as Pace had spent only a 4th round pick on Nick Kwiatkoski through his first three drafts (though he did invest two significant free agent contracts here). Then he spent a 1st round pick on Roquan Smith and a 4th rounder on Joel Iyiegbuniwe (it’s gonna be a while before I can spell that without the aid of Google) a few weeks ago. Coupled with the presence of veteran Danny Trevathan, I think it’s safe to say ILB is likely not getting another high pick for a few years. Again, this is not necessarily a position that is viewed as a premium one in the NFL, but Pace clearly values having playmakers here in the middle of the defense.
  • Wide Receiver: This is another position that would have been in the light investment category before 2018, as Pace drafted only Kevin White (1st round) and Daniel Braverman (7th round) in his first three years. That’s not a lot of investment for a position that regularly has 3-4 players on the field at a time. Then he spent a 2nd round pick on Anthony Miller and a 7th rounder on Javon Wims in 2018. Two picks in the first 2 rounds over a 4 year span definitely counts as significant investment. Given the quantity of options needed at this position, I think we should expect more players to be drafted here in the next few years, but hopefully more in the early day 3 range than needing another high pick.

Quantity over Quality

There are a few positions Ryan Pace has addressed repeatedly in the draft, but not with high picks. That would seem to indicate to me that these are positions he doesn’t think warrant high draft picks, and we should expect to see them addressed regularly on day 3 of the draft.

  • Running Back: Until 2018, Ryan Pace spent a 4th or 5th round pick on a running back in every draft. Jeremy Langford came first in 2015, followed by Jordan Howard in 2016, and Tarik Cohen joined the party in 2017. Howard and Cohen are poised to form quite the formidable duo, but I expect we’ll continue to see them add depth here on a nearly annual basis.
  • Safety: Safety is another spot where the Bears have added 4th and 5th round picks with regularity. Adrian Amos was a 5th rounder in 2015, Deon Bush (and Deiondre’ Hall, if he stays at safety) were both 4th rounders in 2016, and Eddie Jackson was a 4th rounder in 2017. DeAndre Houston-Carson was thrown in as a 6th round pick in 2016 as well. Amos and Jackson appear to have this spot locked down, but Amos is a free agent after 2018 and the depth behind them is shaky, so another pick here in the near future wouldn’t be surprising either.

Light Investment

These are positions which have largely been ignored in Pace’s draft so far. Not coincidentally, these are positions which project to be Chicago’s biggest needs in the next few years. I’m thinking we’ll see more draft capital spent at each of these spots in 2019 and/or 2020, much like we did with ILB and WR in 2018.

  • Outside Linebacker: Outside of a first round pick spent on Leonard Floyd, there had been no draft picks spent on edge rushers until Kylie Fitts was taken in the 6th round this year. Expect that to change in 2019, likely with Chicago’s 1st or 3rd round pick.
  • Offensive Tackle: The only pick spent on an offensive tackle through 4 years was 2015 6th rounder Tayo Fabuluje, who washed out of the NFL after his rookie season. The position has been ignored for three straight drafts, which makes some sense considering the Bears were ok with a duo of Charles Leno and Bobby Massie. But this is now one of the oldest positions on the roster; on opening day, Leno will be 26, and Massie and top backup Bradley Sowell will both be 29. Massie’s contract is up after 2018, and I think one of their top picks in 2019 will likely address this position.
  • Cornerback: If Deiondre’ Hall stays at safety for 2018, that will mean Ryan Pace has not spent a single draft pick on a cornerback through four years (though admittedly UDFAs Bryce Callahan and Cre’von LeBlanc have helped make that possible). On the outside, their top three players (Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Marcus Cooper) past their rookie deals, and we should see some picks coming up here in the next few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if they treat CB like they do S or RB going forward and mostly spend mid to late round picks there.

I find it interesting that these are three of the highest paid positions in the NFL, meaning they’re spots most NFL teams think are the most important, but ones Pace hasn’t invested much in yet (after QBs, which are far and away the highest paid/most important, the next 4 in some order are WR, CB, edge rusher, and OT). Besides QB, Pace has generally prioritized his premium draft resources on non-premium positions, but I think that will change in the next few years.

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  • That Guy

    Wood, I’d be with you on your analysis if Pace had taken over a stocked roster. The thing is, the roster had some glaring holes. You can’t just say that “Pace values interior linemen over tackles,” because the OTs he inherited were somewhat functional, while the GCG situation was a pressing need.

    You’re seeing trends where the reality was defined by how crappy the roster was at certain positions, versus being merely somewhat incompetent at other positions.

    • there are 2 starters left that he inherited on the entire roster: G Kyle Long and OT Charles Leno. He has rebuilt the entire roster as he sees fit.

      • willbest

        POD ain’t dead yet!

    • Big Mike

      So you add studs to a steaming pile of garbage? By the time you clean up the garbage your studs are off their rookie contract. Makes no sense.

      • evantonio

        I don’t think he’s saying that. He’s saying it’s hard to say he undervalues certain positions when glaring holes had to be filled because the roster was a steaming pile of garbage, as you said.

        • Big Mike

          It’s still wasteful to get a stud pass rusher in the draft if you DL, ILB, OL, QB, all suck. Get your QB, build around him. Build up your interior line, then go get your fance studs. Also, this year the Edge Rush draft class wasn’t that great. Pace’s strategy makes perfect sense.

          • willbest

            Amos looked like he was on the verge of getting cut after 2016, despite a promising 2015. In 2017 he looked, and rated very well. What changed? He wasn’t the only nfl caliber DB on the field.

            A stud pass rusher that commands double team on any pass play lasting more than 2 seconds takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the D.

            While not as amazing as having an Aaron Rodgers at QB on the offense, it will still make everyone around them better.

          • Big Mike

            Good point. Works both ways though. A better interior DL, Secondary etc makes an edge rusher more effective. My preferences is you add that after you’ve got some things handled. Next year’s draft class by quite a few reports is much stronger at Edge than this years which was rated by a few as hot garbage after Chubb ( who went 2-3 spots after most experts had him going).

          • evantonio

            i just hope one of those rushers will be there at 32.

          • Jokey

            Lol when does the season start, can we fast forward thru summer?

          • CanadaBear

            NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            sorry, my time machine isn’t working because of malware.

          • Big Mike

            16-0. Don’t think of it as a 1st round draft choice. Think of it as the 1st pick of the 2nd round.

          • Johnnywad

            I don’t think that’s his suggestion. If you have lots of positions in dire need, you can still pick something similar to BPA. It doesn’t necessarily mean you value that particular position more than another.

          • Big Mike

            Edge Rusher’s weren’t that good in this years draft. It was a position of need, but the supply and value just wasn’t there. That’s my take after looking at some post draft analysis of the class. Which is way better than pre-draft analysis because of the deception that goes on ahead of the draft. What I’ve read is that most GMs think edge rusher will be very strong next year. Something like the 5-10th best edge rushers all would been top 5 this year. Chubb would have been like the 3rd or 4th best guy. I need to find that write up. Don’t have it handy.

      • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

        The strategy kind of makes sense from a cap management perspective. Get your cheap players like your dline and interior oline in place. Then get your expensive edge rushers and T. The cheap players will come off rookie deals first, and the 2nd deals for those positions are cheaper than 2nd deals for the expensive players. This gives you a year or 2 with your expensive players on rookie deals

        • Big Mike

          It’s always about cap management. Bears window of opportunity to have a lot of cap space is = to Trubisky’s rookie contract. Most people that are all about signing the edge rusher are looking at year to year cap space if anything. But you want a 2-3 year window of your top, top studs on rookie deals. It takes a lot to get over the hump and actually win the SB.

    • Johnnywad

      I tend to agree with you. There are far too many variables influencing each position and pick.

  • Irish Sweetness

    So now … we have data showing that Pace ignores the most important (and therefore expensive) positions. Fail to prepare …

    • Big Mike

      What it says is the following. You build your foundation first. You don’t reach to fill a need. When you do fill one of those premium positions, you have very good players surrounding him.

    • GiveNoFuq

      Or maybe he just stays true to his draft board.

  • CanadaBear

    Between small sample sizes and the dumpster fire Pace inherited, I’m not sure you can predict the trends all that accurately. I’m not looking at anything in particular, just in general. As always, thanks for the stats dive.

    • Yeah, I say in the article I think OT and edge in particular will be more heavily invested in over the next few years.

      Fangio’s D in SF never invested that highly in CB, so I think that’s a spot where we’ll see more of the S/RB “throw a bunch of day three picks at it and see what sticks” approach.

  • T.dyon

    Edge projects to be much better next year in the Draft. Timing is good.

    • Yep. OT too.

      • Big Mike

        The edge rush mad contingent is beginning to bore me.

        • CanadaBear

          If Leonard would learn some body control when he’s rushing the passer, he could easily get double digit sacks if healthy. He blows right past the QB if the QB makes a move on him. Hopefully he gets a handle on that. He keeps filling out and isn’t skinny the last time I saw him.

          • That anonymous Jeff GM talked about how Floyd should be more productive but isn’t coached up to play discipline.

            Shades of Shea swooping around the corner right past the QB.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            I think Floyd has a much higher upside than Shea.

          • Johnnywad

            Bold.

          • * SB champ Shea

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            It would also help out if he would actually rush the passer, instead of dropping in coverage so often.

          • CanadaBear

            Floyd was going to be a project and has been. Overall, I’m happy with the pick other than the injuries. I think having Smith on the field will change the equation a bit.

      • Johnnywad

        Bears will be picking in the mid 20s next year. So we’re gonna miss out.

    • Big Mike

      Nobody believes me 🙂

      • T.dyon

        I responded to the article, what was the point you were making ?

        • Big Mike

          I’ve been saying this all along. Your’s was the first post I read also making this comment.

  • leftcoastdave

    Good breakdown and easy to see the rationale. The trenches were built first. The OTs are perfectly serviceable. You can only draft what is available. This year two receivers were drafted, two pricey position players. Why draft receivers until you have your QB set?
    The only real need at this point may be Edge and Pace used his picks this year on BPA over Edge for the simple reason of the lack of great players available at that position. Also do not discount his focus on Denver and a trade.

  • TomC

    OT depth scares the crap out of me.

    • NO team has great OT depth. Sometimes a team has 3 OTs only because they drafted a replacement for one of their older OTs ready to retire, or luck into one like the cowboys, but it’s rare for a team to carry 3 good OTs. If the 3rd one is that good they move him to OG in the meanwhile until an INJ happens

      • beninnorcal

        True, but do the Bears even have TWO good OT’s?

        • If I had to grade them, Leno would get “B” , Massie a “C”.

          Both have been durable, which may get them a +

          It’s no secret Pace wouldn’t mind upgrading Massie, but this is why hitting on mid rounders and not waiting 3 yrs to be agressive in FA matter.

          If Grasu became good, maybe they draft an OT (or OLB) instead of another C.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            Pace should be strung up for missing on a mid rounder, I just can’t believe a mid round pick failed to pan out.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    This team will be good. If not this year, by 2019.

    Last year had wide receivers with zero separation. That should be different this year.

    Questioning Howard’s hands? I don’t give a fuck. Anybody ever worry about Emmitt Smith’s hands? His job is to run, and he has been an unexpected monster doing that with any semblance of an offensive line. He’s played injured and still excelled. His will is unmatched. His health is what matters in terms of his performance, not his hands.

    The D. just needs some seasoning. Fuller was re-signed….and I just hope the rooks are good.

    Miller looks awesome.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    It’s really awful of how bad of a cook I’ve become. I used to be a good one, but it’s just too many years of being a bachelor at this point. I made lima beans….and it’s edible, but with no taste at all. Even with salt, turmeric, and pepper. God, I’m ashamed compared to anything my mom has cooked.

    When trusting Taco Bell over anything I make at home, that just means I just suck.

    I still can cook a decent chili. I should go back to one of the three things I can make out right. Like spaghetti.

    • CanadaBear

      “When trusting Taco Bell over anything I make at home, that just means I suck.” That scares me KBF. That stuff is poison. Almost any Mexican restaurant where everything is in Spanish would be a better (safer) choice. Usually the crappier the bldg the better the food!

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        there is a nice Mexican place where I get rice and beans. But I get lazy after bars and it’s not open late.

        They remodeled the outside a few years ago and that suggests they are doing well.

        Always showing soccer on good screens it seems.

        • CanadaBear

          Cool. Ya kinda scared me because Taco Hell is the bottom of the barrel for me. Haven’t had it in at least a couple of decades.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            my folks visited me last week two times before and after going to Epcot. I think my mom made close to 8 dinners out of thin air during those times.

          • CanadaBear

            Mom’s are the best. Although TBH my mother was a terrible cook. Other than that, you couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            well…if she only hadn’t been a cult member. Families are complicated.

            And frankly, I’m the strangest one of the bunch.

          • CanadaBear

            I think almost all families have some dysfunction it’s just matter of degrees. Sounds like you’ve got your fair share!

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            What I need is fresh ginger. Even the worst cooks in the world are better with ginger and beans.

          • CanadaBear

            Not that it’s the healthiest thing in the world but a lot of those sauce envelopes at the store (to make sauces, gravies, etc) pep things up nicely.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            there are these green hot peppers you can get at Indian stores. It’s what I should have been using.

          • CanadaBear

            How hot are they?

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            Not too hot, but they have taste.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            my mom and I at times get a batch, mince them with a grinder, and store them in the freezer.

          • CanadaBear

            I love hot peppers but I can’t go much past jalapenos these days. Never could handle the really hot ones likes Habeneros. I’ve never had a Ghost pepper for obvious reasons.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            it’s weird…my father used to just love the hot peppers raw but he avoids them now because it screws with his system.

            The guy who married my sister used to tell restaurants make it so hot that nobody else would eat it. And that happened only one time at the Bombay Club in Boston where…he couldn’t eat it.

            He unfortunately has some bizarre sensitive wheat allergy now where he can’t even step foot in my mom’s kitchen even though he loves her food. Even flour dust in the air fucks with him.

          • CanadaBear

            I can still handle eating them, it’s the other end. Not good. That’s really fucked up about the allergy. What a pisser.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            also what’s good for most dishes is heating with oil black mustard seeds. Which I’m too stupid or lazy to do lately.

            Makes almost any dish better.

          • CanadaBear

            Sounds like you can definitely cook. Good on ya. I’m amazed how many guys can’t.

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            Habenero Cabot cheese with good bread is a decent enough meal for me at times.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            I love Taco Bell. Liek KBF implied, it’s great drunk food.

        • AlbertInTucson

          I have been meeting best friend and blog lurker, Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog, for lunch, weekly, for more years than I care to admit to. Our latest favorite Mexican restaurant had a fire recently. We had to go all of 4 blocks to find a suitable replacement. Such is Tucson when it comes to Mexican food.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      Convenience is the killer as a bachelor. It is too easy just to order takeout or delivery. When I decided to get back into cooking for myself it was a huge pain. Luckily I grill a lot, so making steaks/pork/chicken on the grill allowed me to focus on side dishes. If you fuck the sides up you still have a hunk of meat to eat. I would mess up things as simple as steaming vegetables properly or cooking rice. Once I got the basics down on the side dishes, I found it easier to be more elaborate on the main dish.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    I had one of the worst birthdays turning 21 a long time ago. Since it was Cinco De Mayo a few days ago I’m having memories. Was pretty much in the process of breaking up with my blonde Iowa straight-A girlfriend who wanted to be a neuroscientist. Went to dinner with her, my sister, and her eventual husband at a Mexican place. Drank a pitcher of margaritas.

    Earlier in the day, she was being so difficult that I almost walked out of the movie we were watching. In the theatre. I think some X-Men thing.

    Shit, I was an angel visiting her parents in Iowa on her birthday. And now, and at the absolute worst time, you’re being a complete bitch to me when I’m turning 21….my birthday?

    I’ve done some Google scholar searches since. No published papers since the one and only one she had in college. So she never became what she said she wanted to be.

    I have had a very weird life. The weirder stuff I won’t say. I just never have had a good birthday.

    • evantonio

      Cinco de Mayo is my bday as well. Happy belated day, my brother in birth!

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      Next year try partying with strippers and cocaine.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        Never been to a strip club. And I’ll keep cheap cigars and whiskey as a vice.

    • Juan Stone

      You should have walked out of the movie my man. A man must never let a woman make “his” decisions for him. Just sayin.

      Peace.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        I was young.

        But thank God it didn’t work out. Like not my style at all. Elitist cunt.

        I think if we ever would have had a child it would have been the next Hitler.

        • Juan Stone

          It’s funny, I was just thinking about my first love in h.s the other day. Boy did she come close to breaking my heart.

          She married a Turkish convert and I married an Irish Jewel. Very glad things worked out the way they did.

    • AlbertInTucson

      Sigh.

      21st birthday.

      So far in the rear view mirror I can’t even see it.

      • Johnnywad

        But still kickin.

        • AlbertInTucson

          Yes. STILL beats the alternative.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    I just have images in my head of Trubisky throwing to wide receivers like he was Kurt Warner.

    The kid is going to be good.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis
    • AlbertInTucson

      Funny stuff: Warner actually consideried a comeback at age 46.

      SMH.

      • Johnnywad

        That would have been a train wreck. I suspect Brady goes out on a gurney well shy of 46.

  • BerwynBomber
  • KentuckyBearsFan

    The Beatles – “Hey Jude”

    • AlbertInTucson

      While I am a Beatles fan, HEY JUDE is just not a favorite.

      Quite the opposite.

      “NAH, NaH, NAh for 4 minutes+?

      No, no, no, thank you.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        yeah you got a point. I think on British radio when it first came out it was the longest song of that duration ever played.

        I love Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Come Together, and A Day in the Life.

        • AlbertInTucson

          I am much more of an “Early”Beatles guy. The Red greatest hits set as opposed to the Blue.

          • AlbertInTucson

            I wasn’t much on them after I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND but, yeah, LOVE ME DO caught my interest

            IMO, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is one of the best albums, ever.

            Not to mention a great film.

          • AlbertInTucson

            My “Early Rock #1” CD contains 31 tracks.

            It starts with A beach Boys tune followed by a Beatles. Then 3 other 50s /60s songs then Beach Boys, Beatles, 3 more songs, repeat same pattern.

        • EnderWiggin

          I always preferred their early 60s bebop tunes – ‘Help!’ ;Love Me Do’, etc.

        • AlbertInTucson

          I actually prefer Elton John’s version of “Lucy…”

    • CanadaBear

      The ’70’s Man! Great psychedelic version of I Am the Walrus.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        Thank you. I think I’ve listened to this 4 times already.

  • Juan Stone

    Jeff thinks Trubinsky had a promising year and his unemployed pro personel buddy thinks Trubs had an unimpressive season? Hmm… I’m guessing Trubinsky landed somewhere in between last year. At this stage, either one of them can be correct.

    • KentuckyBearsFan

      No one expected anything of Goff after his rookie season. Trubisky is better than Goff.

  • Johnnywad
    • KentuckyBearsFan

      Damn it.

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