On May 8, 2014, the Bears held firm. They waited. And waited. And … waited.
And it almost worked.
Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald nearly fell to the Bears in the first round of that year’s draft. He was the player they loved. He was their target.
But heartbreak was in order. The Bears watched the Rams select Donald with the 13th overall selection — just one pick before they were up for the first time in the draft.
According to three sources familiar with the situation, panic took over the Bears’ draft room at the time. They were so close to Donald and were now on the clock. The Rams were thought to be loaded on the defensive line. The Bears thought they had Donald.
With Donald now off the board, the Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech at No. 14.
It looked like a great selection at first. Fuller had three interceptions in his first three games. But now he’s more bust than boom. His inconsistent play and mental mistakes stood out in 2015 Fuller was even benched at one point as he struggled to win over defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
To make matters worse, Fuller missed all of the 2016 season after routine arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason.
Donald, meanwhile, is a young superstar. He was the defensive rookie of the year in 2014. He has been voted to three Pro Bowls in three seasons and also was named first-team All-Pro in the past two.
General manager Ryan Pace might not be familiar with that story but it’s an important one to consider when looking at his bold decision to trade up and select North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky on Thursday.
In this case, the risk and the reward make sense. The reward is a possible franchise quarterback. The risk was losing out on a player that you wanted.
Conversations with several league sources overnight revealed that there were a handful of teams who aggressively attempted to try to move up in the draft, namely the Browns, Chiefs, Cardinals and Texans. The Browns and Chiefs, per those sources, were thought to be very high on Trubisky.
It’s unknown whether any teams were close to beating out the Bears for the 49ers’ second overall pick. But their interest alone was worth action. Pace wanted Trubisky and made sure to get him.
In some ways, it was similar to last year when the Bears leapfrogged the Giants by trading up to select outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Pace wanted Floyd and made sure to get him.
It’s best not to have regrets, especially if you feel that strongly about a player.
In the end, the Chiefs and Texans did move up in the draft to get their quarterbacks, and because of their initial draft positions, they gave up more than the Bears did.
The Chiefs traded the No. 27 pick, a third-round pick and their 2018 first-round selection to the Bills to move up to No. 10 to draft Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Don’t think the Browns wanted Trubisky?
Well, they traded the 12th overall pick to the Texans for the No. 25 pick and a 2018 first-rounder. The Texans took Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The cost of swapping picks with 49ers included the 67th and 111th picks this year and a 2018 third-round selection.
The 49ers used the 111th pick to trade back into the first round to select Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster at No. 31. They selected Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas third overall.
It’s best to withhold judgement on the Bears’ move for Trubisky for a few years. Thomas and Foster surely will have their strong moments this season, but Trubisky will sit and learn.
But the picks Pace parted with won’t matter much if Trubisky develops into a franchise quarterback.
“Once you have conviction on a guy, you have to do it,” Pace said. “You have to be aggressive and do it. The comparison for me is always in free agency. You don’t really know. You set a price on a player, whether it’s a financial price or draft picks. And if you have conviction on a player, you go get him. Because the alternative is, you don’t know. Hey, maybe you call the bluff and you miss out on the player. And in this case, I wasn’t willing to take that risk.”