The 2021 NFL Draft will look a little different for Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
Since Pace became GM in 2015, he has selected four players in the first round — Kevin White, Leonard Floyd, Mitchell Trubisky and Roquan Smith.
If Pace doesn’t move up in this year’s draft to select a quarterback, which seems unlikely with how much resources would have to be given up to do so, this will be his first time selecting a player outside of the top 10 in the first round.
For an organization that currently has plenty of needs on the roster, the Bears should stay put with their No. 20 overall pick and let the right player come to them.
Looking back at Pace’s four first-round picks, three of them are no longer on the team. It’s clear the seventh-year GM has struggled to properly identify talent early in the draft. So no way should he be allowed to act on conviction and mortgage future draft capital to select his guy.
If anything, Pace needs to become more open-minded and comfortable with taking several prospects with the 20th pick. This could prevent him from adding another bust to his already long enough list.
What helps Chicago is there is a high chance five quarterbacks are drafted within the first 10 picks. That gives the Bears a better probability to select a quality player later in the first round.
And outside of quarterback there are still three prime positions the Bears can upgrade: offensive tackle, wide receiver and cornerback.
Let’s say Oklahoma State right tackle Teven Jenkins or Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw are on the board when the Bears are officially on the clock. If Pace were to draft either one, that would be a decision Bears fans could celebrate.
Jenkins is an immediate Day 1 starter at right tackle and brings a physical style of play that is currently lacking on the Bears’ offensive line. And Darrisaw would become the eventual replacement for Charles Leno Jr., and depending on Leno’s play, that could be sooner rather than later.
Maybe Jenkins and Darrisaw are gone and the Bears don’t want to reach for any other tackles in the first round. It could happen. But what if Alabama Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith is still waiting to hear his name called or how about Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore?
Smith and Moore are playmakers that any offense would love to have. Plus, it appears the Bears will be looking to add a receiver with Chicago apparently talking “with a number of teams,” according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport’s tweet on Wednesday afternoon.
Alright, the tackles aren’t there and neither are the right wide receivers at No. 20. How about a home-grown cornerback in Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II? Or Virginia tech’s Caleb Farley if he is available?
Newsome and Farley would both be the next in line to start opposite of Jaylon Johnson — even despite signing veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant. And Newsome could potentially play as the nickel to begin his career and then transition to outside given his fluidity when changing directions.
Now, will all those guys be there when the Bears are on the clock?
Of course not.
But the point of all this is the Bears will have an opportunity to draft a player with the 20th overall pick that can immediately help the team this season and become a focal piece moving forward.
The only question is, who that player will be?