Ryan Pace is in a difficult position as he enters the 2020 NFL draft.
Not because he’ll be making the picks in his pajamas, but because the team has several directions it could go and he can’t afford to get it wrong. This is make-or-break for Pace. He has built 90% of a Super Bowl roster, but has to overcome his biggest miss, the quarterback. After a disappointing 8-8 season in 2019, the Bears have plugged some holes, but simply need more actual difference makers.
With that in mind, the focus of the draft has to be finding impact players. While drafting for the future is a nice luxury, Pace can’t afford to worry about 2021 until it comes. He has to win in 2020 or the picks he makes for the future won’t matter.
With that thought, I put myself in Pace’s shoes. Having two top-50 picks gives the team ammunition to add two impact players. The problem, of course, is that they aren’t scheduled to pick again until the fifth round. They have serious needs at cornerback, wide receiver, right guard and safety. (One could add quarterback to that too, but the Bears seem intent on riding with the winner of the competition between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky.)
Ideally, the Bears would get two sure starters — or favorites to start — and a third player who is at least in competition for a starting job. In the later rounds, they can look for depth and fill holes at offensive tackle, tight end, defensive line and elsewhere.
In order to more accurately file a mock draft for the Bears, I used the help of the mock draft simulator from Pro Football Focus. I went into the second round targeting a pool of players with the hopes that I could move back and come away with three of them.
That group included:
WR: Brandon Aiyuk, Denzel Mims, Jalen Reagor and KJ Hamler
OL: Josh Jones, Isaiah Wilson, Robert Hunt and Lloyd Cushenberry
CB: Trevon Diggs, Jaylon Johnson, A.J. Terrell and Reggie Robinson
S: Jeremy Chinn, Kyle Dugger, Grant Delpit or Antoine Winfield.
Here is how it played out:
Pick 43: Trade with Tampa Bay
Bears receive Picks 45 and 117
Bucs receive: Picks 43 and 196
Note: By moving back, however, the Bears missed top remaining cornerback prospect Jaylon Johnson, Utah.
Pick 45: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
Hamler was one of the few remaining players out of my initial pool that was still available. With sub-4.3 speed, he’ll immediately move into the role previously played by Taylor Gabriel. Hands are the question with Hamler, which have some comparing him to Tedd Ginn Jr., not Tyreek Hill like the Bears would hope. But, his speed is so rare, the big plays will make up for the drops.
Pick 50: Trade with Kansas City
Bears get Picks 63 and 96
Chiefs get Picks 50 and 200
Pick 63: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Went with Hall over Isaiah Wilson simply because I see cornerback as a bigger need and there are other offensive linemen who could help later, whereas the cornerback position had thinned out. Hall is long and instinctive. Many viewed him as a first-round prospect before an injury during his senior season. He should start as a rookie.
Pick 96: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
Albert O. is simply too tempting to pass up. There aren’t many guys who are 6’6” 260 and can also run a 4.4. Tight end is always kind of a red shirt position in the NFL, but Pace would be asking Nagy to find ways to use the size and speed he got with an extra third round pick.
Pick 117: Prince Tega Wanogho, OL, Auburn
An interesting prospect who started the last 25 games at left tackle for Auburn. For the Bears, he would begin his career at guard before possibly kicking out to replace either Bobbie Massie or Charles Leno. He’d have a good chance to start at guard as a rookie, or possibly unseat Massie.
Pick: 163: Kenny Robinson Jr., CB/S, XFL
This would be the steal of the draft. Robinson would have a chance to start over Deon Bush. A very talented and well thought of safety prospect, who was dismissed from West Virginia for misconduct issues. He played in the XFL where he had 21 tackles and two interceptions in five games. He had seven interceptions in two collegiate seasons. Because he was in the XFL, he did not get to participate in the conventional draft process.
Pick 226: James Morgan, QB, FIU
Morgan has a lot of question marks, but he has the physical skills to play in the NFL. It was a close call picking him over another Wisconsin high school product Nate Stanley of Iowa, but Morgan’s ceiling is higher.
Pick 233: Jon Runyan, OL, Michigan
Another popular pick mocked to the Bears. Runyan is coming off of a good career at a powerhouse school. He might end up being a guard in the NFL, but that could work out well for the Bears in this situation with Wanogho projecting long term to tackle. Doubling up on the offensive line is not a bad thing.
I wasn’t able to accomplish what I set out to do in acquiring three players from my pool, but I still came away with what I think is a decent haul with potentially four starters in 2020, one more who would project to start and play a big role in 2021 and a couple other potential pieces.
Let’s hope Pace is able to do the same.