LAKE FOREST – Barring an incredible turn of events – and the willingness to part with a major piece of the team – there won’t be much for the Bears’ “Draft War Room” to do on Thursday’s night.
The team doesn’t have a first round pick, and even Ryan Pace admitted they probably won’t be able to go up and get one. So on that first night, the general manager has a video for those who work for him to watch as the first round goes along.
“When our pick comes up, Khalil Mack highlights will come on instantly,” said Pace, referring to the All-Pro linebacker the Bears traded this year’s first round pick along with next years in order to acquire. “That’s the first thing that will happen.”
He might want to have video of Anthony Miller early on Friday when the second round selections are being made. That’s because the Bears had to part ways with their second round pick for this year to acquire the pick to get the receiver from the Patriots.
No one’s complaining. Mack made an immediate and sizable impact on the team while Miller fought through a nagging shoulder injury to make 33 catches for seven touchdowns.
Yet barring a deal, Pace won’t get to make his first selection till the 87th pick in the third round sometime later on Friday evening. It’s one of just five selections he’ll have in the draft, including a fourth, fifth, and two seventh-round picks.
This is a departure from Pace’s first four drafts in which he had a pick in the Top Ten each season. For the Bears franchise, it’s the first time not having a pick in the first two rounds since 2009 and 2010, with a few of those gone to Denver in the Jay Cutler trade.
Unlike past years, however, Pace doesn’t need a major retooling of a roster that missed the playoffs. With the Mack trade, picks from previous seasons, and free agent pickups, the Bears went 12-4 to win their first NFC North title since 2010. No major pieces to the puzzled are needed, only parts to help get the team to the top of the NFL.
But if you think that lessens the pressure for the general manager, it’s not the case. In his pre-draft news conference, Pace made it clear that his mindset remains similar to the ones in which he had more work to do since 2015.
“The pressure feels the same to me. I feel like with fewer picks and with later picks, the onus is on us as scouts to hit on these picks and to keep this momentum – I feel like we have this momentum – to keep this momentum going,” said Pace. “We need to nail this draft. So I feel that the pressure is the same.”
They’ll just have to wait a little longer to feel it during draft weekend in 2019.