How will delayed college football season affect Bears?

The Bears trudged through the last two years without a first-round pick to spend on one of college football’s best players. When they return to the first round next year, though, there might not be any current college football stars to be had.

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The Big Ten postponed its fall season on Tuesday.

The Big Ten postponed its fall season on Tuesday.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

The Bears trudged through the last two years without a first-round pick to spend on one of college football’s best players. When they return to the first round next year, though, there might not be any current college football stars to be had.

When the Big Ten and Pac-12 decided Tuesday to postpone college football until early next year, it set up a series of questions for NFL front offices. Wednesday, Bears coach Matt Nagy said general manager Ryan Pace can handle those challenges.

“Right now, being completely candid, that’s gonna be for Ryan and his people,” Nagy said. “For me, we’re so laser-focused on what we’re doing that I wish I could tell you more. But Ryan will have a plan with his crew as to how we’re gonna handle that.”

While the Big Ten and Pac-12 won’t play this fall, the other members of the sport’s Power Five leagues are —at least for now —plowing forward. The SEC and ACC have been the most vocal about playing in the fall. The Big 12 leaned in their direction Wednesday when it released the conference schedule it intends to play starting next month. As with every detail surrounding the coronavirus, though, anything can change at any time.

Barring a revelatory season from either Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles, the Bears figure to be in the market for a quarterback next year. The uncertain state of college football though, sets up the following draft hypotheticals:

• Will the Big Ten and Pac-12 actually play in the spring?

• If so, would Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields skip the season to get ready for the pros? Would the Bears draft him if he hadn’t played a college game in — presuming the NFL Draft remains in late April — almost 18 months?

• What happens if Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger begin the season in the fall and then are delayed for weeks at a time? Would that expose them to greater risk of injury? Would they quit to prepare for the NFL?

• What about Trey Lance? The North Dakota State quarterback, whom ESPN sent to the Bears in a mock draft Wednesday, had his Missouri Valley Conference season pushed to the spring. Could he handle playing a college season and a pro season in the same calendar year?

That’s merely a slice of one position.

The Bears also would have to find ways to evaluate stars — Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, Michigan State offensive tackle Jordan Reid and Purdue receiver Rondale Moore — who already have announced they are opting out.

If college football is played in the fall and spring, the Bears would have to rethink the workloads of their scouts and adjust to what would be a compressed time period between the end of the spring season and the draft.

Among the other questions: If college football fizzles altogether, would the NFL break from tradition and play games on Saturdays? It’s on the table — to maximize eyeballs and advertising dollars.

“In regards to Saturdays, I don’t know where that’s going or where things will be, but we’re prepared,” Nagy said. “Every day, going into this year, we’re prepared to expect the unexpected. So whatever they tell us to do, we’ll do, and be ready.”

A college football fan, Nagy sympathized with Tuesday’s decision, calling it emotional for everyone involved.

“You look at it from the kids’ perspective — and who knows what their decisions are and what they end up doing for next year? Or for this spring?” he said. “But you have to respect all these decisions that are made, No. 1. I think that’s what we all need to do. There’s reasons behind it.”

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