Ignoring Need to Seek Greatness

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace on Tuesday suggested he would stick to his draft board even if there are players showing up at No. 20 who play positions where the team is already well stocked.
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Ryan Pace's thinking goes right in lock step with every other general manager in the NFL, even if people question whether this is true about the way the Bears boss judges quarterbacks.

Pace came awfully close to echoing that old GM line during Tuesday's presser via Zoom when discussing his thought process behind selections and needs.

He did everything but say it. You know the line: best available athlete.

"You're also thinking now and you're thinking the future," Pace said. "I think, for us, the draft's just about collecting talented players. Not just focusing on a need right now.

"We talk about that every year and how that can get you in trouble. We've referenced it in the past, when you manufactured, you push needs up the board. For us, collecting the best talent we can, and that goes for any position, and just building our roster in total going forward."

So he's a talent collector. He needs to collect more.

If Pace's comments are taken at face value, then there are players in this first round who he could select and they might not even fit a Bears need.

He's going to take them simply because they have a higher grade than anyone else.

It will be a tough sell if he chooses a guard instead of a quarterback just because the guard has a higher grade. Fortunately for the Bears, Alijah Vera-Tucker is the only possible guard draftniks see in Round 1 and he's actually an effective college tackle who could try to start first at tackle.

The Bears have too many guards to take another one no matter how good they think he is. 

Regardless, this all opens the first round up to new possibilities.

Here's who could be an athlete too good to pass up without playing a need position, when the Bears pick at No. 20.

LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

This would floor people because they have Danny Trevathan now to team with Roquan Smith, but it would definitely be a case of thinking about the future. Really, if they drafted Owusu-Koramoah, Bears fans would eventually love him. He's right out of the Chicago play book as a big hitter and big-play defender. The trouble is, they've been running that play book far too much.

Edge Jaelan Phillips, Miami

He could be the best edge rusher in a draft with a lot of decent edges but no one who really stands up with beast mentality and says he rules. At 6-5, 260, he's more prototypical size for the spot and ran an outstanding 4.56 in the 40, which is more believable than the times posted for the Penn State edge rushers. He also has a 36-inch vertical to swat down passes. He wasn't impressive at UCLA but transferred to Miami and made eight sacks last year. The real problem here isn't ability and best-athlete available. It's the angry mob with pitchforks and torches coming for Pace after he just spent $70 million for an edge rusher last year in free agency. And Robert Quinn made two sacks and six quarterback hits.

Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

Pace would really have some explaining to do here. Ojulari is a one-man wrecking crew but Pace has spent half his career recruiting Georgia players. Well, that's an exaggeration but he has been drinking the red, white and black Kool-Aid a bit with Leonard Floyd, Riley Ridley, Roquan Smith and Javon Wims. Pace would also have to explain why he drafted another undersized edge rusher from Georgia. Floyd was only around 240 pounds and thin as a rail. Ojulari is only 6-3, 240 but might be the best edge rusher in the draft.

Safety Trevon Moehrig, TCU

No need to worry here. Pace never values safety high enough up the board to take one in Round 1, let alone at No. 20. He has selected four and none higher than the fourth round. Moehrig is a nasty open-field tackler and closes well, just like Adrian Amos did. Except, Pace got Amos in Round 5. Seeing him as best player on the draft board at No. 20 would be a good reason to trade down, and the Bears definitely could use another long-term answer at safety opposite Eddie Jackson. Just not here.

Running Back Najee Harris, Alabama

Harris might have the credentials to be taken at No. 20, although it's more likely to be late first round if he's a first-rounder at all. After the Bears would go no higher than third round for David Montgomery as a starter, it's hard to believe Pace would ever take a running back in Round 1. But Harris can do it all, including block in the passing game. He's going to be a huge asset to some team and it wouldn't be hard to sell Chicago on a running back as a best available athlete. It's always been a city where running backs and linebackers are kings.

Defensive Lineman Christian Barmore

The only interior defensive lineman worth taking in Round 1 and calling him a non-need who would fit as best available is stretching the truth a bit. The Bears definitely could stand to add a dominant defensive lineman with Akiem Hicks likely to be out of contract after this year, and without line coach Jay Rodgers around now to coach up lower-graded players to successful careers like he did with Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols. So taking the best interior lineman would make some sense and Barmore is a big-play beast. Can he play quarterback though?

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