First, the bad news: the Bears only have five draft picks this year, with none higher than the No. 87 pick.
Now, the good news: that’s where Ryan Pace has made his paycheck. In his four drafts at general manager, Pace has drafted two Pro Bowl players (safety Eddie Jackson and running back Tarik Cohen) and two players who started for multiple seasons before departing (safety Adrian Amos and running back Jordan Howard) in the fourth round or later.
“They’ve done a good job identifying really good Day 3 players,” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said.
Pace will have to do the same later this month. Here’s what a successful draft would look like:
Round 3 (No. 87 overall): A running back. The Bears like Penn State’s Miles Sanders, whom Kiper considers the third-best running back in the draft, but he might not be around when they pick. Bears coach Matt Nagy worked out Ohio State running back Mike Weber. Other options include Iowa State’s David Montgomery, FAU’s Devin Singletary, Texas A&M’s Treyveon Williams, Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams and Washington’s Myles Gaskin.
The Bears could find value by picking Stanford’s Bryce Love or Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson, whose knee injuries will cause them to fall in the draft.
“This is a year where you can find running backs in the third-to-fifth rounds,” Kiper said.
Round 4 (126): Help outside. The Bears brought back Aaron Lynch to back up Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd, but they could still use young depth to challenge Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving. Keep an eye on two Mid-American Conference outside linebackers: Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby and Akron’s Jamal Davis.
“Edge guys, there’s going to be some depth,” Kiper said.
Round 5 (162): A tight end. With Zach Miller unlikely to play again, the Bears have only three tight ends on their roster. Kiper has circled San Diego State’s Kahale Warring as a Day 3 sleeper. The 6-5, 252-pounder has room to grow. Before his high school friends convinced him to try football his senior year, he had never even played catch. He’s versatile enough to fit in Nagy’s offense, but could he be a willing blocker?
Round 7 (222): Cornering the market. The Bears are thin behind starting cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Buster Skrine. Veteran Sherrick McManis played slot corner late last year, but his value comes mostly on special teams. If the Bears view any remaining cornerbacks as an upgrade over Kevin Toliver, they could draft one here, or even earlier. If they don’t find a cornerback they like, they could pivot to an offensive lineman.
Round 7 (238): The elephant in the room. If you’re going to draft a kicker, you do it here. The Bears figure to add to their kiddie kicking corps, which features two players, Redford Jones and Chris Blewitt, who have never even made it through an NFL training camp.
The Bears could eye Utah’s Matt Gay, who has perhaps the strongest leg in the draft, or LSU’s accurate Cole Tracy.
“Of course they have to find a placekicker at some point,” Kiper said. “I think, this year, there are some interesting guys.”