It’s good the Bears don’t need a quarterback because this draft class stinks at the position
Waiting until this year to draft a passer would have been a disaster.
Someone should mail a fruit basket to former Bears general manager Ryan Pace in Atlanta.
While Pace left new GM Ryan Poles a teardown-worthy roster, he also gave him a gift. Pace’s decision last year to trade up to draft Ohio State’s Justin Fields cost the Bears their first-round picks last year and Thursday, but it yielded something for them to dream about at quarterback. Fields still needs developing, but he gives the Bears hope.
Waiting until this year to draft a passer would have been a disaster. There likely will be two or three quarterbacks drafted in the first round, but none — not Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Liberty’s Malik Willis or Ole Miss’ Matt Corral — is as good as any of the five that went in Round 1 last year.
This class, which also features North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, has the worst high end in a decade, if not a generation. That is strange, given that the coronavirus college season in 2020 — which didn’t cost players eligibility — rendered the draft deep at other positions.
‘‘I can’t explain that at all,’’ Poles said. ‘‘I think you get in different cycles and different years, certain strengths and weaknesses.’’
Last year, Pro Football Focus had five quarterbacks — Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (first), BYU’s Zach Wilson (second), Fields (third), North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (10th) and Alabama’s Mac Jones (14th) — ranked among its top 14 picks before the draft and three more among its top 84.
This year, Willis is PFF’s top-rated quarterback at 30th overall. Three others are among the top 106 picks.
Had the Bears not traded for Fields, they would have picked seventh Thursday. Taking a quarterback there is a reach by every metric.
That might not stop desperate teams from trying, of course. The Panthers, picking sixth, need an upgrade over Sam Darnold, and the Falcons (eighth) and Seahawks (ninth) dealt their starting quarterbacks this offseason. The Saints (16th) might want a development project. The Steelers (20th) might eye local guy Pickett to challenge Mitch Trubisky. The Lions pick second and 32nd and might use the latter pick on a passer.
The top of the draft will be dominated by linemen. Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson might go No. 1 to the Jaguars, though Georgia defensive end Travon Walker, whose NFL Scouting Combine was better than his college tape, might sneak into the top spot. Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux lacks consistency but is as talented as anyone and might go in the top five.
Alabama’s Evan Neal and N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu top a deep class at offensive tackle, and Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton lead all defensive backs.
Six receivers might be drafted in the first round: Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, USC’s Drake London, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson.
The Bears will look at receivers when they pick twice in Round 2 and once in Round 3 on Friday. They won’t, however, look for a quarterback. For that, they should be thankful.