Now comes the hard part.
The Bears were all but certain to get a playmaker or instant starter with the eighth overall pick of the NFL Draft. But Friday is arguably where general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears’ personnel staff earn their money. Their second-round pick — 39th overall — at this point is their only pick Friday. (They traded their third-round pick to the 49ers last year to acquire the No. 2 overall pick and take Mitch Trubisky.) Barring a trade, the Bears won’t pick again until Saturday, in the fourth round (105th overall).
So considering the quality of the pick (seventh overall in the second round), the Bears’ needs and the pick being their only swing of the day, Pace has almost as much pressure to hit on this one as the first-round pick.
Pace obviously will have a lot of options at No. 39, but his biggest needs are pretty clear: a pass rusher, a wide receiver and a guard/center. Pace will have an opportunity at all three positions with the second-round pick.
Among the top available players whom the Bears are most likely to be interested in are Iowa center James Daniels; Boston College defensive end Harold Landry; Texas-El Paso guard Will Hernandez; Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver; Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison; Texas guard Connor Williams; Georgia edge rusher Lorenzo Carter and four wide receivers: SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Oklahoma State’s James Washington and Memphis’ Anthony Miller.
There were the usual minor surprises in the first round. Daniels (17th overall) and Landry (18th) were the only players in NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock’s top 20 who are still available.
“We’re really fired up about [Friday],” Pace said, referring to coach Matt Nagy, director of player personnel Josh Lucas, assistant Champ Kelly, director of college scouting Mark Sadowski and others in the personnel department. “There’s another opportunity to get better. There’s a lot of players available that excited us. So right now, Matt, Josh, Sadowski, Champ, they’re sitting in my office, waiting for me to come back up and kind of get this thing rolling and keep improving our team, because we definitely improved our team tonight.”
Pace will be ready to deal in the second round. In 2016, Pace acquired two fourth-round draft picks by trading down from No. 41 to No. 49 to No. 56 in the second round (and drafted Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair). Last year, he netted two third-day picks when he moved down from No. 36 to No. 45 and took Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen.
“You’ve seen the last couple of years our ability to move around in the second round if need be. Or if there’s a player we love, shoot — we can go up [in the second round]. Having two fourth rounders helps us. I think this is a pretty deep draft in that area. So we’re comfortable that we’re going to get some good players in that part of the draft, too.”
Based on need and potential, Landry might be a player worth trading up for. The 6-2, 252-pound defensive end was considered by some the second-best pass rusher in the draft behind North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb and a lock for the first round. He had 16½ sacks as a junior in 2016 but only five in eight games last season because of injury.
Landry, though, is considered a bit of a boom-or-bust kind of player — undersized and weak against the run. But he still has elite pass-rush potential that was deemed worth the risk in the first round.
Somebody will be able to take that risk at a slightly lower cost Friday.