The success Ryan Pace enjoyed drafting in 2020 came accompanied by one potential mistake.
Considering the mistakes Pace has been accused of making in the past, this almost seems like nothing.
At least, it seemed like nothing until now. It currently looms large because of its impact on the 2021 draft.
Pace's overall success last year can't be denied. Without picking in the first, third, fourth and sixth rounds, he turned a three-round process for his organization into a success by drafting three players who made big or immediate impacts with a playoff team — Jaylon Johnson, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.
In fact, it severely hurt the team when Johnson and Mooney were unavailable in the playoffs.
They also got some use out of fifth-round cornerback Kindle Vildor, which could prove valuable experience going into this season.
The potential mistake came in Round 5 when Pace traded away a fourth-round pick from this year to Minnesota in order to draft edge rusher Trevis Gipson.
Assistant coaches said they loved Gipson's effort and impact on scout team. He won an award they hand out periodically for top scout team player.
Still, with 71 snaps on defense and 48 special teams snaps Gipson's contribution was next to nothing.
They didn't really feel this mistake last year, although it would have been better if they had someone to pick up Robert Quinn's slack when he decided to make two sacks on the year after getting a $70 million contract.
Gipson needs time to develop at a new position and Pace even said as much after the pick. So it's not fair to count this move as a mistake by Pace on its face or hold it against Gipson.
But the effect of the trade is definitely a problem. Losing the fourth-round pick now puts them in a bind for two reasons.
1. Meeting Four Needs
There are four real needs which must be addressed with Day 2 talent or better.
Pace has shown he can find starters in Rounds 4 and 5. Mooney, Eddie Jackson, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Adrian Amos all came in this portion of the draft. So at worst, they need to have picks in each of the first four rounds to address these four needs.
The problem is some of the needs they have can't be properly addressed after Round 4. Round 5 quarterbacks are virtually useless. Round 5 offensive linemen normally take a while to develop. In fact, Round 5 wide receivers rarely provide the kind of impact Mooney had last year. Round 5 cornerbacks are usually called special teams players or slot defenders.
The Bears need are a cornerback, a wide receiver, a quarterback and a tackle and they won't find the answer in Round 5. It's always possible to come up with a starting candidate for the hole at safety in the fifth round or later and a third tight end can be found then, as well.
It's not easy to address four needs with three picks and the Bears don't have the fourth-round pick. Even sports writers can do that kind of math and see something else has to happen.
The saving grace for Pace in this could be wide receiver Anthony Miller. If they can trade Miller along with some of the glut of sixth-round picks Pace has accumulated, then maybe they could acquire an extra fourth-round pick or better.
Miller is only part of the reason they might need a slot receiver and they could even use their first-round pick for one. If Kadarius Toney is there, it can't be ruled out. In fact, if the team found it possible to forgive Miller for his fight in the playoffs then his return wouldn't be the worst thing they could do.
It's just, they need an upgrade. They need more speed on the receiver corps and there are several options in different rounds possible, like Rondale Moore and D'wayne Eskridge in addition to Toney. Those could all be gone by the end of Round 3.
So, Miller and what they could get for him in return become keys to meeting these four needs after the mistake made of trading their pick last year.
2. Trade Killer
The other problem with not having a fourth-round pick is it keeps the Bears from moving up in a trade, or possibly even down.
If they wanted to deal up in Round 1 to address their long-term need at quarterback or for a tackle, it's easier to do if the fourth-round pick is available later to address one of the more pressing short-term needs at receiver or cornerback.
Dealing away a second-round pick this year along with the 20th pick and a future first-rounder or two would be a real killer for this Bears draft and possibly the 2021 season if they decided they had to move up and take Trey Lance or Justin Fields. In that case, the absence of the fourth-round pick means holes in their lineup go unfilled.
There is a way around it and it's not really acceptable. They simply trade away future picks like last year when they made this mistake.
Then where are they next year when they have needs again and they don't have the draft pick they traded away?
Trading away future picks is a situation which leads to a cycle of repeating mistakes.
A team has to keep trading away picks to make up for lost picks. Eventually it leads to a franchise void of talent and with no way to recoup it other than expensive free agency.
In other years, free agency provides a safety net.
With the Bears hanging onto the edge of the cap throughout 2021, they lack this insurance. Also, there's no telling how much cap relief they'll get in 2022.
Trading away future picks is simply bad business unless there is an obvious special talent available.
So far, no one has seen this with Gipson.