Bears Envision More Than Projects in This Draft Group

Cole Kmet and several others could have chances to contribute immediately say Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy
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Bears GM Ryan Pace finished his assessment of the weekend's draft and it became pretty obvious as the picks went by that there were some areas they couldn't address.

He refused to let it spoil his day.

"We definitely feel like we've improved our team," Pace said. "Now we've got to go out there and we've got to compete and we've got to stay healthy but we definitely feel like we're in a much better position."

The absence of safety help or draft picks for defensive line and inside linebacker depth stood out as potential problems, yet both Pace and coach Matt Nagy have a vision for the group and some of them could contribute immediately.

Nagy anticipates using second-round pick Cole Kmet at the Y tight end position.

"I think that you know a lot of times in this offense the U tight end is brought up a lot and then like we've told you several times that's been a position that Ryan and I first talked about when I got hired here," Nagy said. "But sometimes what can get lost in the shuffle is that quote-unquote Y tight end."

The Y is the in-line position and the U moves around more, running more downfield routes like former Bears tight end Trey Burton did.

Nagy recalled looking at film at season's end of Kmet.

"We were joking he's like Robocop, you know, this guy he can block, he can catch, he can do a lot of good things," Nagy said, oblivious to the fact the Bears already had a Robocop at tight end named James Thornton. "You never know how things are going to go but local kid, just a super person and a really special player. So we're excited to see the growth in him."

Still, challenging to start from Day 1 at the Y position seems a stretch.

"Obviously, being in close proximity to Notre Dame and the relationships we have there, his football IQ is off the charts," Pace said. "His work ethic is off the charts. His preparation is off the charts.

"All those things, there's no question in our mind he'll be able to pick up this offense extremely fast because of all those traits."

The rest of the group besides second-round cornerback Jaylon Johnson sounds like project material, but talented in some cases. The trade of a fourth-round pick from next year to get outside linebacker Trevis Gipson in the fifth round meant bringing in someone who has plenty to learn but the athletic ability td contribute in spot situations rapidly.

"The first trade, giving up that future four to go up and get Gipson, for us, without having to give up a pick in this year's draft that was valuable for us," Pace said. "Again, he was a player we had graded high and we wanted to make sure we got him."

The other trade to move up out of Round 6 for wide receiver Darnell Mooney brought the Bears something very specific and that was speed in the form of a 4.38-second 40 . And Nagy plans to make quick use of the Tulane standout.

"Not only does he have the speed, but here's a kid that's an exceptional route runner," Nagy said. "He has a snap at the top of his routes." 

It's rare for someone with this kind of speed not to rely on that as a crutch. 

"The other thing that jumped out to all of us as we were watching tape, he's one of those guys, where there's a lot of stuff on tape and he shows where he makes the first guy miss and when you're able to do that with the acceleration that he has it can turn a 12-yard gain into a home run and a touchdown and we like that," Nagy added. "It was really intriguing to us and we're ready to see a lot of it."

Pace saw the other fifth-round pick, Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor as someone who can play a big special teams role immediately. He saw at the Senior Bowl that Vildor wasn't in awe of athletes from bigger, established football powers by picking off a pass in practice and then one in the game.

"So he's got high-end ball skills," Pace said. "He can play inside. He can play outside. We stress confidence when we talk about the corner position and he definitely has that confidence and that playing demeanor that we look for."

The two offensive linemen chosen in Round 7—Colorado's Arlington Hambright and Tennessee State's Lachevious Simmons—might seem like an afterthought. The only seventh-round pick of Pace's to work out so far is wide receiver Javon Wims.  

However, four of the 10 offensive linemen who started in the Super Bowl were chosen either in the sixth round, seventh round or as undrafted free agents. Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was a seventh-rounder.

Simmons' long reach had Pace thinking he can handle playing tackle in the NFL.

"He's got 35-plus-inch arms," Pace said. "His work ethic, there's just a lot of upside with him.

"With Simmons, he could play tackle, he could play guard. Just the passion and energy jumps out."

The Bears didn't draft a quarterback and Pace said it just didn't match up correctly for one, and the safety position is a hole. But there are still some free agents they could consider.

"We started the draft with three picks in the first five rounds and we ended up with five selections within those first five rounds," Pace said. "We identified a cloud of players we knew we could acquire in that fifth-round area of the draft today. So, we just maneuvered around to make that happen."

Now it's up to the team to start maneuvering around the practice field, when and if it can happen this season.