Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune writes one of the numerous pre-draft stories that appeared this morning. And one of the better ones:
“That’s what Bears general manager Ryan Pace encouraged other teams to do Wednesday when he talked vaguely about the NFL draft, which kicks off Thursday night at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre.”
“‘We have more than 11 names we’re prepared to go with,’ Pace said, indicating he’s willing to trade down.”
As Biggs points out, this isn’t anything new. Everyone wants to trade down and accumulate more picks. It takes two to tango. But the Bears may be more motivated than most to do so. Let’s finish up with Biggs before I explain why.
“Three offensive tackles — Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin — could be gone in the first 10 picks and while no one at Halas Hall has declared Charles Leno the left tackle for seasons to come, it has been discussed. Those calling for the Bears to draft a left tackle in the first round forget how solid Leno was there in his first 13 NFL starts.
“Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott probably goes in the top 10, too, and coach John Fox doesn’t seem eager to use their top pick on a running back as he has had his most success rotating backs.”
“Fox built elite defenses with the Panthers and Broncos with the benefit of a dynamic edge rusher getting — Julius Peppers and Von Miller, respectively. There isn’t a defensive player like either one in this draft, but Georgia’s Leonard Floyd is an ideal fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker and would add a dimension of speed the defense lacks.
“[Defensive coordinator Vic] Fangio‘s pass rush was manufactured largely last year without players who could win one-on-one matchups consistently. One way or another, the Bears need to change that in this draft. That could lead them to Floyd or perhaps Clemson’s Shaq Lawson.”
Biggs has the Bears taking Floyd in both a need and a value pick at 11 after the top offensive players go off the board, including Elliot and all three offensive tackles, in the top 10.
The problem is that is highly unlikely to happen. I participated in four mock drafts over the last couple weeks and each time the defensive players flew off the board in the top ten where teams have the biggest needs. Picking for the Bears at 11, I was usually left with two offensive players at the top of my board before I got to the nearest defensive player. Not finding a partner to trade with, in two drafts I took Elliot, in one Conklin and Stanley in the last one.
Could the Bears pass over one of these players to take a defensive player? Of course. But only if the draft falls exactly as Biggs mock draft did or if they had them graded differently than most media experts seem to have them.
Otherwise, left in the situation I consistently found myself in, I think the Bears take the best player available.
I hear your scoffing. Everyone knows that teams never actually just pick the best player available and that need always factors in, right? Right. Kind of.
People like to use the phrase “best player available at a position of need”. But “need” is a relative term. The truth is that any position on the field can be improved if you acquire the right guy. If that guy is available, he fills a need. Because the only need a team really has is to get better.
That’s why, despite declaring that they are satisfied with the running backs they have, they made a bid to sign C.J. Anderson. And that’s why they’ll take Elliot if he’s at the top of their board. It’s not because they “need” a running back by the classic definition. It’s because they don’t want to pass on any running back that will make them better.
Are they happy with Charles Leno as Biggs says? My eye tells me that that they should be. He played very well last year. But if Ronnie Stanley or, perhaps, Jack Conklin fall and they think that the player will be better in that slot than Leno, the bet here is that they take him.
What the Bears need to do tonight, and what I believe that they will do, is get better. And it doesn’t matter at what position. As long as it happens.