Part 5 of a 10-part series previewing the NFL draft and analyzing the Bears’ needs.
In March 2015, two months after he was hired as the Bears’ general manager, Ryan Pace said he’d like to find a college quarterback each offseason.
“I think it’s a good idea to add a quarterback every year,” he said. “Sometimes that’s going to be in the upper rounds, sometimes that’s going to be in the later rounds or college free agency. I mean, I played with Tony Romo at Eastern Illinois, so I know what you can do with college free agency there.”
Through three draft cycles, though, Pace has selected only one quarterback and signed another one — remember Shane Carden? No? — in the days following the draft. The draft pick, though, was the one that mattered — Mitch Trubisky, for whom he traded four picks to move up one spot last year.
This offseason, Pace surrounded him with backup Chase Daniel and third-stringer Tyler Bray, veterans who know coach Matt Nagy’s offense. The Bears seem set at the position — unless Pace and Nagy fall in love with a late-rounder. The Bears don’t need a passer beyond a camp arm, but Bray shouldn’t be the reason they shy away from a developmental prospect, either.
More interesting then, is how the teams that surround the Bears in the first round wade through this year’s quarterback crop. The Browns and Jets are locks to each select one at in the first four picks. The Giants and Broncos, who have veteran passers set to start in 2018, will have to weigh the value of drafting a quarterback of the future against players who could help them win now.
USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen have been tied closest to the Browns, who draft No. 1 and 4 overall. UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield could also go in the top seven before the Bears draft eighth.
“That would be huge,” Pace said at the NFL’s annual meetings. “If four quarterbacks go in front of us, I’m all for it. I think you see the value of that position right now when you see people posturing to get up in the draft and get a quarterback. It’s critical.”
Among those posturing teams, the Bills hold Picks 12 and 22 and the Patriots, who could eye Tom Brady’s backup, 23 and 31. The Cardinals, who draft 15th, could try to move up, too.
“The Bills, where they’re situated right now and with the capital they have and with this particular class of quarterbacks, I won’t say they’re pot-committed,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “But I think at this point in time you’ve got the ammunition to try to get up there. I think you have to do it.”
If one of the top four quarterbacks is available at No. 8, the Bears could explore trading down. Pace, who has traded up in the first round the last two years, would undoubtedly love to recoup draft capital after trading away this year’s third-rounder in the Trubisky deal.
In a top-heavy draft, though, it’s unlikely that a player in Pace’s top “cloud” lasts beyond the top dozen picks. Finding a match, then, would be tricky.
Grading the Bears’ need:
Low. One year after trading Picks 3, 67, 111 and this year’s No. 70 to move up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, the Bears believe they have their franchise quarterback. This offseason, they surrounded him with two backups who know new coach Matt Nagy’s system: Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.
On the roster:
Trubisky ($7.26 million average annual salary), Daniel ($5 million) and Bray ($795,000)
Top five draft prospects
- Sam Darnold, USC: For all the dot-connecting of the past few weeks — Darnold’s parents sat with the Browns owner at his pro day! — the best guess is Cleveland’s No. 1 pick comes down to Darnold or Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
- Josh Allen, Wyoming: His arm strength is sexy, but his completion percentage is not.
- Josh Rosen, UCLA: Jim Mora has been quiet for a while. That’s good for the UCLA passer.
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: For all the hype about his histrionics, he was a more successful college quarterback than the three above. It’s not close.
- Lamar Jackson, Louisville: He’s a first-rounder.
I’m intrigued by …
How this draft class compares to last year’s — a decade from now. The Bears were criticized for taking Trubisky when they could have waited for more ballyhooed quarterback prospects in 2018. This year’s class, though, developed flaws in the last year, from Darnold’s and Rosen’s on-field struggles to Mayfield’s outbursts.