Ryan Pace: From Outhouse to the Penthouse

The day after is usually a time when Bears fans have second-guessed Ryan Pace into oblivion but the first pick alone this time made the GM a winner and the rest was gravy.
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If the Bears traded up in the first round to select quarterback Justin Fields and skipped the rest of their picks, some loyalists could have called it an extremely successful draft.

The fact Ryan Pace did this and then maneuvered to obtain a tackle graded by many among the top 25 players in the draft made it seem like they'd struck oil or won the lottery at Halas Hall.

The Bears obtained both the potential opening day offensive line starter they needed and a real future threat at a position where mediocrity and disaster have reigned.

They paid a price in terms of later picks and filling needs but the heavy impact of Rounds 1 and 2 put this down potentially as Pace's best one in seven tries as general manager.

In fact, don't faint but the longtime Bear bashers at Pro Football Focus gave pace an A+ grade for his draft.

The only way Pace's draft could have come out better would have been to retain the third-round pick while also finding out the Green Bay Packers wouldn't have Aaron Rodgers next season. Well, one out of two isn't bad.

Here are the Chicago Bears grades for the 2021 NFL Draft. Read it in a hurry before going to a website to order your No. 1 jersey because they're selling out at an extraordinary rate.

Round 1: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Grade: A+

Acquiring a passer with a powerful, accurate arm, 4.44 speed in the 40-yard dash and what passes as good decision-making ability at the college level firmly places the pressure on Matt Nagy now. He's the man with the plan. An ability to develop a QB was among the chief reasons he got the nod in 2018. Fields' epilepsy is a managed situation. Pace needs praise for sitting patiently until it became apparent both Mac Jones and Fields were falling. He could have forked out a ransom to get into the top 10 and the Giants did demand a high price but not entirely unfair. 

Round 2: T Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

Grade: A+

The Lions were waiting for a tackle there and eventually took Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg. Several other teams could have also taken Jenkins as he fell but Pace moved up and took him first while getting back a fifth-round pick that was high enough to almost be a fourth-rounder. Jenkins has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The Bears have needed a big, physical tackle capable of taking over the Kyle Long enforcer role for a while and it appears they have it. The only question is whether they deploy him on the left or right side now, although in college the right side seemed his side.

Round 5: T Larry Borom, Missouri

Grade: B-

They needed other positions filled before going back to tackle but the logic here is sound. This is an offense that has been so weak on third-and-short, fourth-and-short or goal-line situations, that any big, strong blocker would be a huge help. The trouble is, players like Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade, Duke tight end Noah Gray and Iowa defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon all could have filled needs and were selected right after Borom. A group of tackles did go off the board right after this group.  In predraft ratings, Borom did look better than those blockers. So it looks like a bargain, fills the size/strength need but left other need spots unattended. With so large a gap from Round 2 at 39 overall where they selected Jenkins, to Round 5 at 151 overall for Borom, fitting a need at cornerback or wide receiver seemed a bit more responsible. 

Round 6: RB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech

Grade: A-

Need definitely did not fit into making this pick, either. The Bears traded down from 208 to 2017 to make this selection, a curious move because they only picked up a seventh-rounder in the process and seventh-round picks by Pace traditionally contribute little or wind up on the practice squad. Herbert's skill level for this pick was fine, even better because he can also return kicks. The Bears need this. He was a player who didn't get used enough in college and produced when he did, and his one-cut style might be a good complement to the stop-and-start, make-'em-miss approach of David Montgomery. PFF had Herbert ranked the 91st best player in this draft and the Bears got him at 217. That's called a value pick.

Round 6: WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina

Grade: B

A highly productive slot receiver who provided a counter in an explosive offense, he has a real knack for making defensive players miss. He's a YAC man and the Bears have been missing this in their passing game, although it might be more due to their passer and not the receivers' weaknesses. A great asset here is Newsome's great ability as a punt returner. The Bears need this as Tarik Cohen is trying to bounce back from an ACL tear and could do with a avoiding this hazardous task for at least a while. Newsome is not fast, which was the real asset the Bears needed in a receiver. He ran only a 4.59 in the 40, and said after the pro day that he doesn't usually test well. Why not? In the sixth round, though, it's a bargain to find someone with good hands, who can run a pass route, make people miss and return punts. He may not test well but he plays well.

Round 6: CB Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon

Grade: B+

Finally,  a defensive player. By taking Newsome, they missed a chance at drafting cornerbacks Tay Gowan of Central Florida and Israel Mukuamu from South Carolina in the next few slots before 228 came up. Gowan had a much higher grade than Round 6 in the view of some draft analysts. PFF had Gowan ranked as a third-rounder, the 69th best player in the draft, and he fell to 223. However, they also had Graham rated 76th overall and the Bears find him at 228. This is a player who could help either in the slot or in the outside and the versatility will help because there are needs in two places.

Round 7: DL Khyiris Tonga, BYU

Grade: B

He's probably a nose tackle in the Bears scheme, although it's possible that at 6-4, 322, they'd use him at end as well because he can make plays in the backfield. He had 8 1/2 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He also has good strength, with 35 reps on the bench at 225. One problem is he'll be 25 years old already by the time the season starts. This did hit a need, though. They always have had six defensive linemen they could fit into the rotation and appeared to have only five before the draft. 

Overall: A

Look what collaboration can do for a team. Perhaps Pace needs to operate his drafts without player visits and the combine in the future.

And to top it off, they really may not even need to face Aaron Rodgers again. 

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