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Across The Middle: Bears Big Board 2.0

| April 18th, 2018

I consider myself the top Ryan Paceologist on the Bears writer landscape. My resume:

Trying to figure out who they’re targeting in the 2018 draft has me stumped. I came to the three conclusions above by looking at all of the evidence I could find and asking what made the most sense.

Picking eighth, the Bears surely aren’t going to be able to get the player they surely want and need most, edge Bradley Chubb. One must also operate under the assumption that running back Saquon Barkley will be gone.

There seems to be a good chance that four quarterbacks go within the first seven picks, but if they don’t, the top guys on this list might be gone. It’s also possible that the Bears trade back, which is why the list is more than eight players deep.

There are some good players that are going to be available. The problem I’m having is that I can construct a really strong argument against all of the top candidates. Still, one sticks out as the most likely simply because it makes the most sense.

The list:

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Across The Middle: Be Prepared To Be Surprised (With an Emphasis on Denzel Ward)

| April 11th, 2018

In 2016, outside linebacker was considered a strength for the Bears after Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Pernell McPhee combined for 20.5 sacks. Ryan Pace drafted Leonard Floyd in the first round.

In 2017, the Bears overpaid Mike Glennon and raved about his upside (“fired up”). They signed Mark Sanchez as a competent backup. Ryan Pace drafted Mitch Trubisky.

Those moves weren’t about value dropping to them. They weren’t about “best player available”. In both instances, Pace traded up for the player and surprised many by drafting what wasn’t considered a need.

The lesson is clear. How the Bears identify their needs is not necessarily how the media and fans identify them. And it isn’t just the first round.

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Across The Middle: Does Vic Want To Play Chess?

| April 4th, 2018

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio hasn’t shown a lot of creativity when it comes to how he uses his players, but that just might change if the draft breaks the way many expect. Because if three quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears – with Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson and Saquon Barkley also going – the best players Ryan Pace might be looking at are versatile defensive backs Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

It isn’t really fair or accurate to pigeon hole James or Fitzpatrick as safeties. They both played in the box, as slot corners or nickel linebackers, a significant amount. (An argument can be made that’s where they were at their best.) The Bears would be able to start either player at safety and move them down in sub-packages.

They’d be closer to the line of scrimmage more often than not, but the Bears have never used a player like them under Fangio.



Fangio has had chances to use extra safeties. He just hasn’t.

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ATM: Harold Landry Is The Best Player the Bears Aren’t Likely To Take

| March 28th, 2018

Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry projects as a dynamic player at a position of need for the Bears. While an ankle injury slowed him last year (before ending his season completely) he still managed 21.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons at BC. He also forced ten fumbles in his collegiate career and added an interception for good measure.

After dominating on the field, Landry put on a show at the combine last month. According to MockDraftable:

  • Landry tested in the 87th percentile or better in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.
  • His broad jump was in the 72nd percentile.
  • Many consider the agility drills to be the most important for pass rushers and Landry tested in the 91st percentile in 20-yard shuttle, 95th in three-cone drill and 99th in 60-yard shuttle.

That elite athleticism and shows on tape.



While his technique may still need some refinement, he’s incredibly active, bouncing around the edge and attacking offensive tackles before getting to the quarterback. He’s an impressive player to watch.

And the Bears will likely pass on Landry without a second thought. His arms are too short.

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ATM: Three Reasons The Bears Shouldn’t Draft Quenton Nelson

| March 21st, 2018

Quenton Nelson is widely considered to be the best guard to enter the league in several years and the Bears have a big hole at that position. But here are three reasons they shouldn’t draft the Notre Dame guard with the eighth pick.

3. Generational prospects are rarely generational players.

It seems like we have a player who is considered a generational prospect every year, but those guys almost never pan out.

It’s too early to make a call on either of the last two drafts, but look at recent history. Jameis Winston isn’t a generational quarterback like he was thought to be. Jadeveon Clowney is terrific, but hardly generational. What about Reggie Bush? Ndamukong Suh? Even Andrew Luck has been brilliant when he’s on the field. But generational? No.

The guys who end up being generational players are the ones no one — or at least very few — thought would be. JJ Watt and Aaron Donald both went closer to the middle of the first round, Randy Moss barely cracked the top-20, Aaron Rodgers went 24th.

The draft is a crap shoot. There is no such thing as a sure bet. This isn’t even the first time this decade we’ve heard someone described as a generational guard. Remember Chance Warmack? He went 10th and he’s a backup for another team now.

Nelson is bigger, stronger and more athletic than Warmack, but their predraft profiles are almost identical. It’s so rare that players who have the predraft hype of Nelson actually pan out.

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Across The Middle: Quick Thoughts On Bears Spending Spree

| March 13th, 2018

A few quick thoughts on what turned out to be a busy and productive day for the Bears:

• They paid more than they wanted to, but the Bears ended up with the best receiver they could possibly acquire this offseason. How could anybody be upset with that? The jury is still out on whether or not Robinson is actually a great receiver. He had one tremendous year followed by a mediocre year then a torn ACL. But he’s better than anyone else they could’ve gotten in free agency or the draft.

• The Bears were always going to be the team Robinson ended up with. Nobody else really had a chance. Pace and pro personnel man Champ Kelly made damn sure of that.

• Signing Trey Burton will help Jordan Howard as much as it will Mitch Trubisky. With his athleticism, Burton is going to allow the Bears to play in two-tight end sets that can’t be defended by base defenses. While he isn’t a good blocker by any stretch of the imagination, he’s still better than a standard slot receiver who would otherwise be on the field against those defenses. The end result should be a lot of soft fronts for Howard to punish.

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ATM: Guessing The Bears 2018 Big Board

| March 7th, 2018

Under Ryan Pace, the Bears have primarily targeted great athletes at positions of need in the first round. After the Combine, there’s no reason to expect that to be different this year. Here is how I suspect the team’s Big Board may look, as of today, with the assumption that top players like Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley and Minkah Fitzpatrick will already be off the board.

10. Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama

It’s entirely possible that the Bears are sick of waiting for Jon Bullard to emerge. There’s no reason Bullard shouldn’t have been starting over Mitch Unrein in his second season, but it didn’t happen. The Bears need a third stud up front so they don’t run Akiem Hicks into the ground.

9.  Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Ridley came in a bit smaller than expected and didn’t test very well, coming in the seventh SPARQ percentile. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a good receiver, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be a great one and probably not worth a top 10 pick. Still, he could be a good option for the Bears if they were to trade back into the middle of the first round. More likely, their best bet will be addressing the receiver position in free agency.

8. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Doesn’t have the size or length the Bears look for at cornerback but he’s such a great athlete, they could overlook that. Generally thought to be the best CB in the draft.

7. Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

There’s a lot to be said about taking a guard in the top 10 but much of it could be moot if a team were to switch Nelson to tackle. Regardless, I don’t think the Bears would’ve hired the best offensive line coach in the world to take an already-polished guard in the top 10. Harry Hiestand gives the Bears the ability to take a guard in the mid-round and count on him developing into a stud so they can use their premium picks on premium positions.

6. Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College

This is my personal favorite option for the Bears but he falls just short of their arm-length standard. Landry’s arms measured 32.875 inches and if you look back at Pace and Fangio’s recent histories, you’ll see that 17 of the 19 defensive line and edge players their teams have drafted have had arms measuring at least 33 inches with the only exceptions being late round picks. Is Landry close enough? I hope so, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

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ATM: Players to Watch At The Combine

| February 28th, 2018

The NFL’s annual meat market is here.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it doesn’t matter. The Bears, in particular, seem to value athleticism with their early picks and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different.

Here are a few players to watch when the combine really gets rolling later this week.


Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Ridley is generally thought to be the top wide receiver but there are questions about whether or not he deserves to be a top-10 pick.

After a 1,000-yard season as a freshman, Ridley failed to reach that mark again in his final two years. While much of the blame for that has gone to Alabama’s horrendous quarterback play, there are still questions about the wideout.

One major thing NFL teams will need to see is if Ridley is taller than six-feet, like he is listed. If he comes in shorter, teams are going to question his ability to play outside. Since 2010 only two receivers who measured under six-feet were drafted in the top-10. Neither — Tavon Austin and John Ross —  have worked out so far.

Even if he is six-foot-one, Ridley needs to show he has at least good athletic ability to create separation from defenders.

Read DBB’s Saturday Scout column on Ridley HERE.


Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

You don’t often see off-the-ball linebackers who look and move like Edmunds.

Expected to measure in at around 6’5″, 250 pounds, Edmunds is a player a lot of teams are going to want to take a close look at. In addition to his freakish size, he flies around the ball and could be a menace covering the middle of the field.

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ATM: Trubisky, Pace Could Put Bears Atop NFC North With Big Off-Season

| February 22nd, 2018

In twelve months we could be talking about the Bears as the kingpin of the NFC North, as long as General Manager Ryan Pace pushes the right buttons and quarterback Mitch Trubisky takes a big step in the seven months leading up the 2018 season.

It seems crazy to suggest the team that has finished last in the division the last four seasons could win it next year. But 12 months ago it would’ve been crazy to suggest the Rams could win the NFC West or that the Eagles could win the Super Bowl. The Bears have talent on their roster, they just need two of the three most important men in their organization to deliver.

A lot of credit has been given to the coaching staffs of the Eagles and the Rams –  deservedly so – but their quarterbacks took a leap largely because of their off-season work away from the organization. Both had personal quarterback coaches who helped them hone their fundamentals, an area Trubisky needed a lot of improvement in last year.

A new coaching staff and offense could help Trubisky, but he needs to improve his footwork if he’s ever going to be a great starting quarterback. He seems to understand that because he has already spent time this off-season working with Jared Goff and coaches Tom House and Adam Dedeaux at 3DQB.

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ATM: Letting Sitton Go Creates An Unnecessarily Big Hole at Guard

| February 21st, 2018

Ryan Pace’s decision to decline the option on Josh Sitton needlessly creates a big hole in the middle of the Bears offense.

There’s no doubting that Sitton isn’t the player he once was, but he was still better than most other guards in 2017. He was stout against the run, held his own as a pass-blocker and — despite his age and, well, shape — his ability to get to the second level was still top of the league. Sitton is a big reason why the Bears have been among the best rushing attacks in the league the last two years.

Sitton wasn’t cheap. But he wasn’t expensive either. His salary cap hit of $8 million would’ve put him 13th among guards. If the Bears try to upgrade in free agency, they’ll almost certainly have to pay more. Sitton’s ex-teammate T.J. Lang, one of the top guards in the 2017 free agent class, signed for $28.5 million over three years; $7.5 million more than Sitton received from the Bears. Lang’s cap hit in 2017 was $10.9 million and jumps up to $11.7 million in 2019.

The Bears could look to the draft to replace Sitton. Quenton Nelson is a popular name, but using the eighth pick on him seems rich.

[Editor’s Note: It’s not!!!]

But Nelson would immediately be slated to make more than Sitton did and about as much as Long earned in his last contract. And there are other questions about Nelson’s athleticism that need answering going forward.

This draft figures to be rich at guard, and the Bears could nab a starter in the second round, but why not keep Sitton and draft a position of need there?

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