NFL Draft 2021: 3 bold predictions for Bears, Ryan Pace originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The NFL Draft is finally here, but there are still a few more hours for some last minute (exhausting) speculation.
Given the pressure general manager and head coach Matt Nagy are under, this is an enormous draft for the Bears and Thursday night feels like it could be another defining night for the franchise that is talked about for years.
With that in mind, here are three bold predictions that are sure to be wrong:
Bears will have a new quarterback Thursday night
I’m wording it that way for a reason, because a few different scenarios could play out. If you’ve been following along this offseason, you know I think quarterback needs to be prioritized above all else – and I believe the Bears have that mindset too. Signing Andy Dalton did not reflect that mindset but attempting to trade for Russell Wilson did. That’s why I believe Dalton is only half of Plan B. Pace and Nagy have spent months doing their due diligence on this outstanding quarterback class and they can’t afford to just come away with late-round prospect.
"To be honest, just the depth, the totality of that group, it is deep this year," Pace said this week. "And they’re all different. Every team is going to evaluate each one of these players different, no different than any position."
Whether it’s a huge trade up for Trey Lance or Justin Fields, or a trade back for Kellen Mond, or even a surprising trade for a different veteran quarterback, I believe Thursday night is the time for another big swing at the position. While unlikely, there are still some around the league who believe the door remains cracked open for a Russell Wilson trade, although it feels more like a door that simply won’t latch as Pete Carroll holds it closed.
Bears will select a wide receiver in the first 3 rounds
Pace has drafted six wide receivers in six years, including four in the last three years. That’s not unusual considering teams usually have three wide receivers on the field these days. That said, only two of those picks were made earlier than the fourth round and both – Kevin White (first round, 2015) and Anthony Miller (second round, 2018) – haven’t worked out. With Allen Robinson’s future with the Bears beyond 2021 still in doubt, that leaves a significant need at the position. Pace did well to land Darnell Mooney in the fifth-round last year, but it would be very surprising if the Bears did not add to their receiver room this weekend. Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore are two to watch, perhaps even in the first round if the Bears don’t land their quarterback.
Bears will make at least 3 trades this weekend
Pace isn’t afraid to move around in the draft as he’s averaged 1.83 trades per draft in his six years with the Bears. That’s impressive considering the lack of draft capital he had the last two years after trading for Khalil Mack.
“As an organization, we’ve got to be ready for every single scenario. However this thing plays out, however this board falls, that’s where all the preparation comes into play," Pace said. "I feel like we’re in that spot, whether it’s trading up, staying put, trading back — all those things are in play for us and it just comes from the preparation."
Back in 2017, when the Bears traded up to draft Mitch Trubisky, Pace ended up making three trades in that draft. This year, he’s equipped with four sixth round picks, which aren’t necessarily valuable, but can always be used to move around in the middle of the draft, especially considering the Bears don’t have a fourth-round pick right now.
I expect more movement from Pace and that could even start Thursday night.