The NFL Draft Quarterback Odds Are Odd

Mike Florio at informs us about where the quarterbacks may be selected in the upcoming NFL draft.

“[Malik Willis] is the favorite to be the first quarterback selected, with current odds at -145. [Kenny] Pickett is at +135. Next comes Desmond Ridder at +1000, Matt Corral at +1800, and Sam Howell at +5000.

“Here’s where it gets intriguing. Even though Willis is the favorite to be the first quarterback drafted, Pickett has better odds to be selected at one specific position in the top 20.”

“At No. 6, Pickett is a +175 favorite to be the selection. Willis stands at +400. Thus, while the oddsmakers at PointsBet generally regard Willis as being viewed as more desirable, they think Carolina prefers Pickett to Willis.”

“At No. 20, where the Steelers pick, Willis is the favorite at +500. Pickett is just behind Willis, at +600.”

This was really interesting.

Although Willis is the favorite to be the first quarterback selected, it looks to me like Pickett is the favorite amongst the teams that need quarterbacks.

A couple of thoughts:

  1. Recent rumors have it that the Steelers are really interested in Ridder at #20. Ridder is also seen as the Seahawks’ favorite. They pick at #9. So either these are smoke screens or both teams may be hoping to take Ridder in the second round.
  2. These odds might suggest the possibility that a team will trade up to take Willis. It could be the Saints as the odds are a little better that Willis will go to them than Picket. The other possibility is that a team no one is thinking of will surprise the league by trading up on Thursday night to get Willis. Perhaps its my Bears-centric point of view but this draft looks in many ways like the 2018 draft when Kansas City and Houston surprised everyone by trading up to get the undervalued Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

Although the Bears don’t have a pick on Thursday night, this whole thing should still be interesting to watch.

The Bears Need to Better Use David Montgomery in Their Offense This Year

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks about David Montgomery‘s potential role in the new Bears offense.

The Bears thought Montgomery was more suited for the inside zone and run-pass option scheme [former HC Matt] Nagy desired, and they billed him as a better fit in the passing game. The biggest difference between Montgomery and Aaron Jones — the featured running back for the Packers, for whom [OC Luke] Getsy worked the last three seasons — is that Jones is more dynamic in the passing game.

But Montgomery’s vision and patience should lead to ample success in the outside zone scheme the Bears will lean on heavily in the ground game, with second-year running back Khalil Herbert surely playing a role as well.

I think there are a couple of things that are worth noting here.

  1. Although Montgomery is not as dynamic as Jones, it is worth noting that the Bears said that one of the reasons that they drafted Montgomery was because they believed that he had some ability to expand their passing game. They obviously thought that he could catch passes out of the backfield though they rarely used him that way in games. Perhaps Getsy will find that Montgomery has more talent in this area than expected and will use him in a way that the previous coaching staff for some reason did not.
  2. The Bears absolutely, positively must do a better job of running the ball this year. The key to success for them is going to always be the play action pass while playing outdoors in Chicago. I’ll give Nagy credit for recognizing this last year and doing his best to set the offense up to succeed in this manner. Unfortunately I’m not sure that he or his staff knew how to coach the running game well enough to make it work and that was part of his downfall.

In any case, hopefully the new staff will be better be able to execute a vision for the offense and for Montgomery that better fits his skill set this year.

The Current Draft Will Tell Us A Lot About What Kind of Organization the Bears Have Become

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

Is there a position no one is talking about that the Bears could go to with their first pick in the NFL draft? — Greg W., Warrenville

You probably can rule a few spots out with the two second-round picks — and maybe even the third-round selection — on Day 2 of the draft. The Bears seem unlikely to target a quarterback, running back, tight end (it’s not a great group this year) or inside linebacker with those picks.

Everything else — wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, pass rusher, cornerback and safety — can be considered a legitimate need. That means general manager Ryan Poles can remain true to his board and have a lot of possibilities when it comes to the highest-graded available player(s) when he’s on the clock. Maybe will provide a little flexibility to trade down. One thing I have wondered of late: If the strength of this draft is in the depth — Rounds 2 through 4 or so — will other teams be less inclined to want to trade up?

It’s an interesting question.

My gut feeling is that the answer is “No“. One of the things that bugged me about former Bears GM Ryan Pace the most was his tendency to fall in love with players and, as a result, aggressively trade up for them. Many, perhaps most, of the best GMs in the NFL will tell you that they try to never do this. Too often in the end the guys you fall in love with turns out to have had almost the same chance to fail or succeed as the guys that you could have had if you stayed put. I’m convinced that was true of many of the players that Pace simply couldn’t do without and it cost the Bears a lot of draft capital. See “Anthony Miller” as the poster boy.

So it depends upon the team. I always said that Pace was the type of GM that other GMs take advantage of. Well, there are a lot of other GMs out there who are exactly the same. It is my sincere hope that GM Ryan Poles turns out to be one of those smart GMs that makes hay at their expense. If he is, there should still be plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the aggressive nature of other GMs, regardless of the talent that you think is available.

Bottom line, I think there are plenty of general managers out there who will identify players that they think should’ve gone in the first round and who will try to trade up in the second to get that player before he disappears off the board regardless of the other “second round talent” that remains available. For Bears fans, probably the most interesting aspect of this draft will be seeing if Poles can use that and turn it into badly needed picks because it will tell us an awful lot, not just about the present, but about our future as well.

Why Did the Bears Let James Daniels and Bilal Nichols Enter Free Agency?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

“While going through another rebuild is very disappointing, I appreciate your insight into the process. One thing I can’t understand is Ryan Poles not re-signing more of the team’s own free agents, several of whom the rest of the league appears to be really excited about. I get that it is a two-way street and that a player such as Allen Robinson probably wanted a new start elsewhere. What I don’t understand is James Daniels and Bilal Nichols who seemed to meet the criteria for the future being young, affordable and with upside. Is this a case of them also wanting a new start or a case of Poles just clearing out the old management’s players? — Scott S.”

“By my count, 18 players that finished last season with the Bears have signed elsewhere in free agency. They have re-signed two players that were unrestricted free agents (defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson and long snapper Patrick Scales) and also brought back three exclusive-rights free agents (tight end Jesper Horsted and offensive linemen Sam Mustipher and Lachavious Simmons).”

“I imagine you would probably feel a little differently about free agency had Poles signed a big name wide receiver or offensive lineman to mitigate the losses of Robinson (Los Angeles Rams) and Daniels (Pittsburgh Steelers) in free agency. It’s possible the team didn’t believe Nichols was an ideal fit for a 40 front. He headed to Las Vegas in free agency and the team has made some moves to shore up the front by signing Al-Quadin Muhammad and Justin Jones.

“What we are looking at is a large group of players signed to short-term contracts, many of them for only one season, and the hope is that a handful emerge as more than just bridge players and can be starters that the Bears can build around. Certainly it will not be the case for most of them, but between wide receiver Byron Pringle, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, offensive lineman Lucas Patrick as well as Muhammad and Jones, I would expect a couple to emerge as solid contributors.

“You’re going to see a lot of turnover next offseason with such a high number of players on one-year contracts. When the Bears kick off the 2023 season, the roster will look dramatically different than it did at the end of 2021. That is the goal and how the young players improve between now and then will go a long way toward determining how good the team is at that point.”

I identify with the questioner‘s feelings on this issue. I have an online friend how is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who, after they signed Daniels, asked me “what the Bears have against resigning 24-year-old promising offensive lineman“.

There are a couple of reasons that I think may have led the Bears to let Daniels and Nichols leave as free agents. The first is a question of scheme. The Bears are changing the defense of scheme to a four-man front and, as Biggs points out, it could be that the Bears didn’t think that Nichols would fit that sort of a defensive front. Personally, I think he probably would’ve made a reasonably good nose guard in a four-man front but I’m not as qualified to make that judgment as the Bears coaches.

Similarly, it has been well publicized that the Bears are changing to an outside zone scheme. They have expressed a desire to acquire more mobile and athletic office of lineman. Again, I would’ve thought Daniels might have fit that sort of a profile. But evidently the coaches do not agree.

The second reason why these players may not have been resigned is because of the cap space that they may have occupied. In particular, many general managers do not like the idea of sinking inordinate amounts of money into one particular position. They would rather spread the money out. Former general manager Jerry Angelo was a fan of this philosophy. It could well be that the Bears figured that they already had enough money spent on the interior of the offensive line because of Cody Whitehair‘s contract. The choice very well may have been between resigning Daniels or keeping Whitehair and the Bers made their choice. If that is the case, I’d say they made the right decision. Whitehair is is probably the better player.

In any case it will be interesting to see how these players work out with their new teams and whether the Bears may end up regretting letting a couple of young players get away.

How Big Is the Need at Strong Side Linebacker?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

Is the Bears’ starting middle linebacker on the roster yet? If not, how do you see that position being filled? — @mike__chicago

I expect Nicholas Morrow or Roquan Smith to fill the middle and weak-side linebacker positions. The team hasn’t announced a decision on how they will be aligned yet. You can’t rule out the possibility in certain situations they would flip. Depth is still needed but right now linebacker is one position the Bears are in pretty good shape.

Yes, this question of what the Bears need to do at linebacker is an interesting one. Given that the Bears plan to spend a lot of time in the nickel defense, you might claim that two starters are really all they need. However I would point out that new head coach Matt Eberflus said directly that he believes that strong side linebacker is an important part of the defense that he plans to run. In particular, he thought that finding a strong side linebacker who could slip inside in the nickel might be important. This could indicate that either Morrow or Smith may be moved to the bench when the Bears are in the nickel at least sometimes.

I recently participated in a mock draft where I was stuck in an interesting position with the second of the Bears second round picks. The best player on the board by a fairly big margin was Georgia linebacker Quay Walker. Even though I didn’t consider it to be a strong need for the Bears, I did consider it to be a need and I went ahead and selected him.

Something tells me that GM Ryan Poles might get roasted if he does something similar. But you wouldn’t see much criticism from me. I have a feeling that the third linebacker spot is very much in their plans and that it might be a bigger need than most fans in media members state.

Free Agency Is Not a Good Way to Build a Football Team Even When You Have the Cap Space to Spend

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

I see this season and next as being a rebuild. Evaluate the players on the roster in Year 1 and gut it again and fill out the roster with a bunch of one-year free-agent deals. Is 2024 when we can expect the Bears to compete again? — @illini8208

There’s no question the Bears are in the beginning stages of a rebuild, and with so many players being added to the roster this year on one-year contracts, there will be considerable overhaul again in 2023. The hope, of course, is that a handful of players they have added will emerge as good fits and be re-signed. The Bears will have a full complement of draft picks next year, and depending on how they advance on offense this season — assuming they do — they could be considerably improved in 2023, when [GM Ryan] Poles will have a ton of salary-cap flexibility to be more aggressive in free agency. The key will be seeing what kind of roots the team can put down on offense and defense in the year ahead.

I tend to agree with this in so far that I think I understand what the Bears are doing this year. They showed that they were willing to spend in spots where they thought they saw value with Larry Ogunjobe. But this is a rebuild year.

Where I hope I differ with many fans and media members is in guessing what the team wants to do in year two. After $45 million in dead cap comes off the books, many understand that the Bears will likely have a lot of space, though perhaps not as much as many people think after they fill out their entire roster this year.

What I think many people expect that the Bears will go on free agents free next year. I hope that that is not the case. I hope what they are planning to do is to spend money to retain players that they signed this year that work out and that they like. But I would hate to see them overpay and blow all kinds of cash on veteran free agents.

Free agency is not a good way to build a football team. The Bears need to develop the players that they are signing and drafting and get them to the point where they want to resign their own. I hope that next year will be the beginning of that process.

Drafting for Need? How Could the Bears Not Draft for Need?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

“With so many needs going into the draft, will Ryan Poles double up on any position? — @joe_vizo”

“I will be as direct as I can: It’s way more important for Poles to find players who can be contributors than it is for him to fill specific roster ‘needs’ that you and I can identity right now. Fast forward to the spring of 2024, and no one will look at his draft picks from this year and say, ‘Hey, they got these two guys and they plugged holes in 2022.’ We will look at the 2022 class and ask how many of those players are in a position to help the team win in 2024. Could they double up on certain positions? Sure. Are there positions where they need two or more players? No question. What’s most important is finding players who can stick and be part of the future — no matter what position they play.

I totally agree with this but I think it’s important to point out here that “drafting for need“ is something that the Bears will be doing almost no matter who they take in the draft this year.

There are generally two ideal approaches to the draft. You can plug all of your holes in free agency and then take the best player available. If you are a competitive team in good shape, this is the path you take. However, if you are a team like the Bears, you go for door number two. You leave all of your needs open and then take the best player available at a position of need. And, boy, do the Bears have needs.

They need players that all three levels of the defense, they need wide receivers and they need offensive lineman. There’s almost nowhere other than running back and quarterback where they won’t be looking for an upgrade drafting for depth at either of those positions is not out of the question. It’s really unlikely that the best player available won’t be filling a need.

Let’s All Welcome Cliff Stein Back to the Negotiating Table

Adam Jahns at The Athletic writes about his take always from an interview with GM Ryan Poles at the owner’s meetings.

“Extra point, Part 2: Poles has turned to Cliff Stein, the Bears’ senior vice president/general counsel, to handle player contract negotiations and the salary cap.”

“‘It was really cool to see Cliff back at it,’ Poles said. ‘You could tell he has a lot of respect from the agents from the time he did it before. They were excited to see him and hear his voice. And he has a wealth of knowledge that I know helped me and it helped Matt. And we have a nice little team that we’ve put together. So he was a big part of this.'”

Personally, I was glad to see this. Stein is far more conservative than what was needed in the Ryan Pace era where the Bears were constantly manipulating the cap to put off charges into the future. Stein dates back to the days when the Bears were far more financially responsible and rarely overpaid for a player.

Stein has actually talked to agents during the draft and told them that the Bears wouldn’t take their player without a promise that there wouldn’t be a hold out. I think we’re going to be back to the days when the Bears were among the first organizations to get all of their draft picks signed.

Aiming for High Draft Picks Through Poor Performance Is a Loser’s Game

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

What’s worse for the next two years? The Bears stink and Justin Fields plays poorly and they get a top-three pick or Fields does great, the Bears win six to eight games and a first-round pick next year between 15 and 17? I feel like both are lose/lose. — @nieldan20112581

No one said digging out of the current predicament would be easy. This is certainly a glass-half-empty outlook at the near future. I don’t think the Bears will be great in 2022 by any stretch, but they’ll have to be especially poor — with what appears to be a much easier schedule than the 2021 slate — to have a top-three pick. If they’re that bad, quarterback play will be a major problem, the defense will be significantly worse and injuries likely will be a huge issue. If Fields “does great,” there’s no way that’s a lose/lose for the team. That would mean the Bears have taken a massive step toward solving their long-standing quarterback dilemma. That’s the biggest issue they face, and there are a lot of questions for Fields and the offense in 2022 because he struggled as a rookie. I guess your sweet spot is Fields plays well and the Bears have a lousy record and get a high pick in the 2023 draft. If you’re rooting for the team, you have to want the quarterback to play as well as he can. If that means a middle-of-the-pack pick in 2023, great. It beats the alternative of Fields playing poorly and quarterback being a huge issue again at this time next year.

I have always thought that fans who believe in losing to get higher draft picks are barking up the wrong tree. As a fan of a team, I think you should always root for the team to win.

This perception that your team is going to be much better because they’re drafting higher is simply not correct. Time and again its been shown that tanking doesn’t work. The Miami Dolphins didn’t go to the playoffs last year. The Browns tore their team apart for multiple years to lose and to attain more, higher draft picks. they are hardly world beaters.

If you are a bad organization, tanking won’t help you. You’ll blow the picks and fail to develop your players no matter where you drat them. On the other hand, if you are a good organization, you don’t have to tank. You’ll find good players no matter where you draft.

I think we can all hope that the Bears win as many games as possible this year and, more importantly, they turn out to be the kind of organization under the new leadership that can find and develop players without feeling that they need to improve their draft position by losing. On the other hand, if they do feel that is the way to build a team then I will consider it to be a very bad sign.

Ryan Poles and the Art of the Deal

Adam Jahns along with Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic reviews George McCaskey‘s comments to the media at the owners meetings.

McCaskey: ‘Well, that’s where I’ve been impressed with ([GM Ryan] Poles’) discipline because he was very calculated in how he assessed various players that were available as unrestricted free agents and the limit financially that he was willing to go to with each player. He stuck to his plan and I was impressed with that.

‘That’s where I come back to his quality of being self-possessed. There’s something about him. It’s really difficult for me to put my finger on, but he’s very confident and exudes that, and I think the other people on the staff pick up on it.'”

Jahns: I couldn’t help but think of Pace and his spending habits when McCaskey made these remarks. Pace and Joey Laine, his director of football administration, set their price parameters for free agents, too. But whether Pace’s attempts to give John Fox some veterans to work with or Pace’s pursuit of the Bears’ next quarterback, it can also be argued that the team went outside of those parameters to add personnel. You always overpay in free agency. Poles said that himself. Pace once described free agency as “treacherous waters” but the Bears also were a bad team that had to overpay in order to land certain free agents. Look at the Jaguars. They have to do the same seemingly every year.

I totally agree with Jahns here. My understanding is that agents jumped for joy when they found out that the Bears were involved in the bidding for one of their players. Sure, its possible that Pace set parameters on a player and then decided what they were worth. But Pace fell in love with players and I’m convinced that he basically decided that when he wanted someone he simply wouldn’t be out bid. This is ordinarily something that you hear GMs say that you should not do. Pace did it constantly.

There’s been a lot of talk about the philosophies that Matt Eberflus brings to the Bears and how they are a return to the days of Lovie Smith. But right now I’m being reminded far more of returning to the days of Jerry Angelo when the Bears were known to never overpay for a player.

The art of the deal involves always being willing to walk away from the negotiating table. Right now I’d say that Poles understands that is sometimes the only responsible way to build an organization.