2020 NFL Draft: Ryan Pace nets Bears two starters, but did he reach on Cole Kmet?

2020 NFL Draft: Ryan Pace nets Bears two starters, but did he reach on Cole Kmet?

The Bears’ most valuable asset in building their 2020 roster was always the No. 43 overall pick. Did Ryan Pace maximize its value by drafting a tight end?

That feels like the central question to evaluating what the Bears did on Friday night. The Jaylon Johnson pick, 50th overall, landed a guy a lot of draft observers thought would go higher. We'll leave that one alone for now and throw it in the "good" bin. But evaluations for Kmet were all over the board. 

So when Pace said the Bears had “scenarios” to trade down from both of their second round picks, it’s worth wondering if he could’ve waited longer than picks 43 or 50 to grab Kmet. 

[MORE: Watch Cole Kmet's incredible reaction to being drafted by the Bears]

But there’s no way of ever knowing if Kmet would’ve been available with the 50th overall pick or later. He was the best tight end in this year’s draft, and the Bears weren’t the only team with a need at tight end. Pace figured he wouldn’t be on the board, and given the red-line need for better play at that position in 2020, he decided to take him. 

“You’re always looking at supply and demand in the draft,” Pace said. “You know what positions thin out fast. For us, I just think when you looked at Cole, and again, I just feel like I said the same thing about Jaylon, but just the complete package. 

“For him, it’s hard to find these tight ends, these “Y” tight ends that are really well-rounded in that he’s an asset in the pass game because of his size and his hands. He’s one of those guys that knows how to post up and body, collision and push off. He runs really well for his size. But his blocking — he’s just got the frame and the size and the temperament, the demeanor where I think he’s, we all think he’s still going to get a lot better as a blocker. 

“To find that well-rounded “Y” tight end, there’s not a lot of them. So for us to get him where we did, it was really advantageous for us.”

Maybe it’s illustrative here to look at the six players taken between the Bears’ picks of Kmet and Johnson. Essentially, the Bears chose them over:

S Grant Delpit (44, Cleveland)
S Antoine Winfield Jr. (45, Tampa Bay)
WR KJ Hamler (46, Denver)
DL Marlon Davidson (47, Atlanta)
EDGE Darrell Taylor (48, Tennessee)
WR Chase Claypool (49, Pittsburgh)

You can argue that any of those guys would’ve been better value-wise than Kmet at No. 43. Delpit and Winfield are excellent, physical safeties who could’ve paired well with Eddie Jackson. Hamler is an elite deep threat, and Claypool’s size and speed make him an intriguing weapon. There’s also no such thing as having too many good defensive linemen or edge rushers. 

But the Bears needed a tight end, specifically someone to man that “Y” spot, if they want to truly fix Matt Nagy’s offense. And I don’t see the problem here being the Kmet pick; it’s with the Bears’ failed tight end from a few years ago.

Ideally, the Bears would be talking about a second contract for Adam Shaheen right now while being happy with Trey Burton entering Year 3 of his four-year contract. Pace invested a second-round pick in Shaheen and a lot of guaranteed money in Burton only to have neither pan out in the long term. Burton was cut last week; Shaheen was notably absent from Pace's comments on Friday regarding his "Y" tight ends. 

[MORE: Cole Kmet explains why he turned down a shot to play for the White Sox]

This is how you wind up with a 33-year-old Jimmy Graham manning the “U” and Kmet being drafted with the Bears’ highest pick in 2020. Is it perfect? Hardly. But it might be the best solution available for the Bears this year. 

So I’m less concerned with when and where the Bears took Kmet than I am with it being a manifestation of a problem that’s been brewing for years. 

If the Bears traded down and Kmet went off the board, it would have reduced the possibily of fixing the problem created by previous misses at tight end. And given the position’s importance in Nagy’s offense, taking a swing at tight end doesn’t feel like a reach. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s any less disappointing that the Bears had to do it. 

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NFL will reportedly cut 2020 preseason in half; will drop Weeks 1 and 4

NFL will reportedly cut 2020 preseason in half; will drop Weeks 1 and 4

It's long been rumored, but on Wednesday things became a bit more official: the NFL will reportedly cut the 2020 preseason in half: 

Shortening the preseason has been a topic of conversation around the league for a while now, but a new urgency has been attached to the idea because of the ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic. As states continue struggling with rising infection rates, beginning the season on time looks more and more unlikely. The NFL has already altered their season schedule to accomodate for a delayed start or early-season interruption. 

It's especially bad news for the Bears, who were planning on using all four preseason games to determine whether Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky would win the starting quarterback job. Without half their preseason games (they'd lose games against Cleveland and Tennessee), things obviously become much trickier. 

Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson has talent to contribute quickly

Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson has talent to contribute quickly

In talking to various trusted football minds around the NFL recently, two common thoughts come up when discussing Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson:

1. He should have been drafted in the fourth round.
2. He was playing out of position at Tulsa.

It’s very possible that the latter impacted the former. The Bears traded up in the fifth round to draft Gipson at No. 155 overall and they’ve been very decisive with their plan for him – he’s going to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in Chicago.

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Many of the “tweener” pass rush prospects in the NFL Draft play in different fronts in college than they do when they transition to the NFL. In Gipson’s case, he played in a three-man front at Tulsa, but was used more as a five-technique on the line of scrimmage. With the Bears, he’ll be in a base 3-4 defense, but playing a different position on the edge.
You don’t have to watch a lot of tape to understand why Bears general manager Ryan Pace and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano want to use Gipson on the edge. At 6’6 ⅜” and 261 pounds, he has an 81 ¼” wing span that can’t be taught and his lengthy frame doesn’t give him a lot of leverage when he lines up in tight spaces on the line. He’s better off using that length on the edge and, in my opinion, his best college tape came when he was lined up wide.

Realistic rookie expectations: Gipson is a bit of a project because he’s switching positions and he certainly hasn’t been helped by COVID-19 shutting down offseason practices. But the Bears aren’t asking him to start right away. They have Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to rush the passer. Gipson has the talent to contribute as a rotational player and perhaps he can provide an occasional spark off the bench. His college production doesn’t lie. Gipson had 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Tulsa.

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