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Finding Value on Day 3

One area where Ryan Poles would do well to duplicate Ryan Pace's skills is to unearth draft talent in the final four rounds, as an examination of the top 10 late-round steals for the Bears in the seven-round draft era reveals.

The final day of the NFL Draft is when general managers must work their magic to unearth players everyone overlooked in earlier rounds.

Some would argue it's where their reputations are made, although it was pretty apparent Ryan Pace could produce on Day 3 and two silly mistakes he made on Day 1 did more to cement his reputation—Kevin White and Mitchell Trubisky.

It's apparent if it weren't for the final day of the draft Pace might have been gone long before he got to make seven drafts, and it's going to make a big difference for GM Ryan Poles going forward as well.

Poles this year will need to prove he can draft on Day 2 because the three key picks they have—Nos. 39, 48 and 71—will not include a first-rounder and they have many roster holes. They'll need to come away with players who can start at some point in Year 1 considering how they've gutted the roster of many veterans. Finding them in Round 5 and Round 6 is a possibility.

The current draft setup with seven rounds began in 1994 when the Bears had put Rod Graves in charge of player selection, in cooperation with coach Dave Wannstedt.

Here are the top 10 late-round steals the Bears have made in the era of the seven-round draft ranked in order.

10. LT Charles Leno Jr.

This came down to a tossup between Leno and wide receiver Johnny Knox, who was a fourth-round pick in 2009. As popular as Knox was and remains, he played only three years and injuries kept him from showing his true potetial just when he started to blossom. Leno was taken in the last round by Phil Emery, started six straight seasons and never missed a game the last five. He has virtually always seemed to find a way into the top half of the league in Pro Football Focus' grading system at a tough position to play. Then he was good enough when he went to Washington to start every game and earn a big raise. Besides being a starter for so long, Leno also led the Bears in penalties committed over his time as a starter.

9. DE Mark Anderson

GM Jerry Angelo got immediate dividends from a situational pass rusher chosen out of Alabama at No. 159, with 12 sacks in the 2006 season that proved huge as the team went to the Super Bowl. Anderson played seven seasons in the NFL and what many Bears fans might not remember is he also made 10 sacks playing for another team that made the Super Bowl, the 2011 New England Patriots.

8. G Chris Villarrial

Taken 152nd overall in Round 5 by Graves in 1996, he started for eight seasons and then went to Buffalo and started in three more. It's one thing to find a late-round starter for a few years, but for more than a decade in the NFL it's uncommon and even more rare when it's a player out of the Division II level at Pennsylvania's Indiana University.

7.  WR Marcus Robinson

Graves took this high-leaping, 6-foot-3 receiver out of South Carolina in the fourth round, 108th overall, in 1997 and then it appeared he was going to be a wasted pick as minor injuries and a lack of confidence in his hands left him with only four catches for his first two years. In the third year he had 1,400 yards receiving with nine touchdowns. Injuries eventually shortened his career to five Bears seasons but he played for Baltimore and Minnesota, as well, and scored 43 touchdowns.

6. RB Jordan Howard

Selected No. 150 in Round 5 by Pace, Howard exploded on the scene as a dominant power style back, averaging 5.2 yards an attempt with 1,313 yards as a rookie in 2016. He never attained that kind of success again but still gained 1,122 yards in 2017. The major factor in keeping Howard from being an all-time Bears great at a position where they've had great players was Matt Nagy. He didn't want Howard, who had 935 yards in 2018. He wanted a more shifty back with receiving ability for a different type of offense, and Pace gave him away for a sixth-round pick to the Eagles after a 935-yard season in 2018.

5. CB Nathan Vasher

The 110th pick in Round 4 of the 2004 draft by Angelo, he quickly became known as "The Interceptor." Vasher made 16 interceptions in his first three Bears seasons, a figure which seems completely ridiculous now when the Bears have had one interception by all of their cornerbacks combined in each of the last two seasons. Vasher had eight interceptions alone in the division-winning 2005 season. He ran into injury issues and eventually left after 2009 for Detroit for a year. He was a key contributor for the Super Bowl team as a starter on the side opposite Charles Tillman.

4. DE Alex Brown

A steady starter and impactful player over eight Bears seasons and nine total in the NFL, he made 41 tackles or more every one of his years in Chicago and had 43 1/2 sacks before leaving after one season for New Orleans in 2010. Angelo obviously wanted bigger pass rush impact over consistency, and signed Julius Peppers before the 2010 season to play right defensive end instead.

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3. S Eddie Jackson

A few years ago the current Bears starting safety would have rated No. 1 here without question, but three straight years of average-to-poor football changed this. The 112th pick of Round 4 in 2017, no doubt fell to Day 3 because he had a broken leg in his final year at Alabama. Jackson made the Pro Bowl twice, All-Pro once, had a 2018 season like few safeties in the league have had with six interceptions and 15 pass breakups, but since then has had two interceptions and none for two years. His skills are there and Matt Eberflus hopes the cover-2 approach and HITS system can bring it back out of him.

2. S Adrian Amos

Picked by Pace in the fifth round at No. 142 overall, he proved to be the safety they decided they could lose in free agency and he has made the Bears regret this ever since by going to Green Bay and being even better than he was in Chicago. And he wasn't bad at all then, either. It was said he didn't play the ball as well as Jackson but he's had six interceptions the last three years to Jackson's two. He also has made 25 pass breakups in three years since leaving the Bears to 18 during the four years he started for them. His sure tackling—10.8% missed tackles or better each season since leaving Chicago—is greatly missed in the Bears secondary.

1. WR Darnell Mooney

Mooney has done it for two years through some extraordinarily volatile conditions at quarterback. No Bears wide receiver draft pick made as many as the 142 catches he has for his first two seasons in the franchise's history. The 173rd pick in Round 5 for 2020, Mooney last year had to become the No. 1 receiver due to lack of injuries and the misuse of Allen Robinson. He delivered by improving his catch total by 20 to 81 and yards per catch to 13.0. Last year Ja'Marr Chase was the talk of the league with 81 catches as a rookie. Mooney had 81 catches last year. Mooney's yards per catch (13.0) were better last year tha Davanten Adams (12.6), D.K. Metcalf (12.9), Christian Kirk (12.8), Michael Pittman (12.3), Odell Beckham Jr. (12.2), Stefon Diggs (11.9) and Robinson (10.8). With Justin Fields now entrenched at quarterback, it's going to be interesting to see what he eventually is able to achieve if leaned upon from Day 1.

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