Ryan Pace knows it’s not fair to judge a draft until years after it takes place.
That doesn’t mean he and those around the league don’t do it.
“You know what’s funny about that, is after the draft, the scouts or coaches will sit back and we’ll look at the board and we’ll say over the years – and I’m sure it’s going on everywhere – we’ll say, ‘Look at these guys draft or look at these…’” the Bears’ GM said.
“You don’t know, two or three years from now, somebody you could be saying that about and it ends up being a great draft.”
Maybe Pace’s first draft will be — or maybe not.
It will be years before we know for sure, but here are some initial impressions from the Sun-Times’ experts:
OK with Kevin White at No. 7?
ADAM L. JAHNS: I’m always skeptical when a player’s “upside” is praised. White only had one really productive season in college. But after meeting White and talking to coaches from various points in his life, it became clear where that “upside” is rooted. His character deserves special mention. The Bears might have a superstar on their hands.
PATRICK FINLEY: Totally — and not just because I had him in all three of our mock drafts. (Self-satisfied sniff!). The Bears had to play the board, and it dictated that the best player available was the dynamic wide receiver. Pace was downright giddy, and he should be.
MARK POTASH: Yes. White already is an upgrade in the locker room and has enough tools for a veteran coaching staff to turn him into a Pro Bowl receiver. The big question is, how soon? Having Jay Cutler at quarterback should be a good thing for White, but if he’s a slow learner, it could become problematic in 2015.
The Bears will regret:
JAHNS: Having only drafted two defensive players. I get that’s not what their draft board told them to do at those respective moments, and I respect that. But the Bears defense is coming off its two worst seasons ever. They have aging players on defense, others coming back from major injuries and a bunch of unknowns. More help would have helped.
FINLEY: That Leonard Williams didn’t slide one more slot. The draft’s safest star, the former USC defensive end fell to the Jets at No. 6. Fixing the defense won’t happen overnight, but he would have sped up the timeline. Second-rounder Eddie Goldman fills a need at nose tackle, though.
POTASH: Only having six picks. With so many holes to fill and a deep draft, particularly in the Bears’ areas of need, GM Ryan Pace could have used 10 picks in this draft. That means he’ll have to hit on a higher percentage that most — but that’s not out of the question. Pace at least acted like he had done this before.
The Bears will be happy they:
JAHNS: Didn’t become unhinged and sacrifice future drafts (and success) to trade up to draft Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. The Bears liked him and weren’t scared of him system-quarterback stigma. But the Bears are best served trying to work with Jay Cutler, who has been professional through the regime change, and waiting until next year to target a QB.
FINLEY: Didn’t move Martellus Bennett for, likely, a Day 3 draft pick. The tight end wants a new contract and has steered clear of Halas Hall, a move that clearly annoys Pace and knew head coach John Fox. Even if the Bears don’t budge on his contract, a grumpy Bennett is still a more valuable asset than a lottery-ticket late-round selection.
POTASH: Didn’t bite on Randy Gregory and drafted Goldman in the second round. Gregory might or might not be a superstar, but it’s not a risk the Bears can take at this time. Goldman, a legitimate late-first round pick, is a good fit for Vic Fangio’s defense and a great guy to have on your team.
The Bears filled this need this offseason:
JAHNS: This is tough because they have so many. But drafting White to replace Brandon Marshall was a great start to the draft. Pace also managed to address safety. Veteran Antrel Rolle (free-agent signing) is the type of safety defensive coordinator Vic Fangio desires and Adrian Amos (a fifth-round pick from Penn State) should push for playing time.
FINLEY: Offensive weapons. The Bears filled a hole of their own making by drafting White and signing Eddie Royal to replace the traded Brandon Marshall. Fourth-round pick Jeremy Langford and free agent Jacquizz Rodgers give the team much-needed depth behind Matt Forte, whose deal is up after this season and doesn’t figure to play as many snaps as he did last year.
POTASH: They got rid of Marshall and gave themselves a chance to even upgrade that position by drafting White. The Marshall trade might have been addition by subtraction overall, but it still left a void in the offense. The signing of Royal and drafting of White gives Cutler targets he can work with.
They did not fill this need:
JAHNS: Big questions remain at inside linebacker and on the defensive line. But beyond Kyle Fuller, I have doubts at cornerback. Reminder: the NFC North is filled with star receivers. The Bears better hope Tim Jennings rebounds in 2015, free agent signee Alan Ball works out and that Al Louis-Jean makes huge leaps in his development.
FINLEY: Long-term defensive answers. Save outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Antrel Rolle, the Bears didn’t sign a single defender to more than a one-year deal. They drafted only one in the first four rounds, too — surprising, given that their last two seasons of defense were the two worst in franchise history.
POTASH: The Bears will enter training camp with big question marks at inside linebacker. They signed Mason Foster and Sam Acho in free agency. Among the holdovers, Jonathan Bostic and Christian Jones are intriguing potential-impact players. Shea McClellin is a wild-card. And Khaseem Greene has to win a roster spot. That they did not draft a linebacker indicates they like what they have.
JAHNS: B-plus. The Bears’ decision to always draft the “best player available” according to their board and to not reach on players will make evaluating Pace’s picks and his approach much easier for all.
FINLEY: B. The Bears’ first two picks are unassailable, but I would have preferred they draft more than one defensive player the rest of the way.
POTASH: C. With rare exception, all drafts are average until you see what how players actually perform in the NFL.