Bears

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

Ryan Pace’s pre-draft press conference began with the Bears’ general manager dryly referring to it as “always fun,” which elicited a round of chuckles from the assembled media at Halas Hall. Two days before the NFL Draft commences in Nashville, there’s no chance Pace is going to publicly tip his hand for what he’s planning to do later in the week. Fun, right?

Pace did tip one thing, though: When the 24th pick comes around — the first of the two first-round picks the Bears shipped to the Raiders last Labor Day weekend — he’ll pull up highlights of Khalil Mack in Halas Hall’s high-tech new draft room. Consider it a welcome reminder of why Pace doesn't have a first-round pick and might as well hook a Nintendo 64 up to the digital draft board and challenge anyone in the building to MarioKart on Thursday night (if this is possible, Toad on Koopa Troopa Beach is always a winner). 

While the Bears won’t be on the clock until pick No. 87 in the third round (last year’s trade to move back into the second round to draft Anthony Miller is also why), Pace said the pressure on him remains the same as it was the last four years, when he made four selections in the first nine picks of those drafts. So that’s one aspect of this year’s draft that won’t change. 

Another: The Bears aren’t going to switch their philosophy to drafting for the few needs a 12-4 team coming off a division title has. For Pace, the reasoning is twofold: First, he’s always been a best-player-available guy; second, he doesn’t see any truly glaring needs on his roster. 

“We feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said. “This press conference feels a little different in that there's no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That's a great spot to be in.”

That’s not to say the Bears don’t have any needs. Another running back, a reserve receiver, a backup tight end, cornerbacks and safeties for the future — those are all needs. Teams can never have too many offensive linemen, defensive linemen and edge rushers. 

Of those, though, the only position with a path to a starting/prominent role on offense or defense may be running back. Even then, Pace said Mike Davis — who the Bears signed in March — is “built to handle a lot of carries,” so if a running back is drafted the expectation will be for him to be part of a rotation, not necessarily a true No. 1 starter-type. 

“Right now, I know running back's been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position,” Pace said. “We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.

“… I think there's probably always a storyline with every draft. I understand why it's that way, but I don't feel like we go into this draft saying, 'Man, we have to take this position or we're in trouble.' We're in good shape.”

So consider this another intentionally-murky statement by Pace in this pre-draft press conference. The Bears probably need to take a running back, but he’s not going to say that and tip his hand or paint himself into a corner three days before he actually gets to make a pick. 

(That Pace mentioned Nall, a 2018 undrafted free agent who spent last year on the practice squad, by name was at least interest-piquing.)

So as Pace took questions on Tuesday, most of the answers were some variation of “sure, it’s possible.” Trading down? Sure, it’s possible. Trading up? Sure, it’s possible — though not into the first round. Drafting a quarterback? Sure, it’s possible. A kicker? Sure, it’s possible. Not drafting a running back? Sure, it’s possible. 

We’ll have a complete picture of what Pace was actually thinking come Saturday evening. But while he didn’t reveal much on Tuesday, and doesn’t have much draft capital with which to work, this draft is important. The Bears can find players for the present and future — when their roster will be more expensive — starting on Friday night. And hitting on a few of these picks will be critical for keeping the Bears’ window to win open as long as possible. 

“If we take a player where we happen to have a lot of depth right now, but it’s a good player, that’s okay,” Pace said. “I think it’s short-sighted to say, ‘well, this guy might be able to play a little bit quicker so let’s take him.’ Let’s just take the best player. If that means it takes a little bit longer for him to play, let’s just make sure we take the best guy.”

Under Center Podcast: Bears prop bets (and a bold Mitch Trubisky prediction)

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears prop bets (and a bold Mitch Trubisky prediction)

JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan wonder if John Fox had a point about the Bears having the worst offseason in the NFL (1:00), then offer up some prop bets for the Bears in 2019 involving Eloy Jimenez's home runs and Khalil Mack's sacks (5:00), undrafted free agent rookies making the roster (10:00), when/if the Bears will cut a kicker during the season (12:45), running back production (16:30) and how many games Adam Shaheen will play (25:50).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

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Bears summer prop bets: Eloy home runs vs. Bears sacks and others

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USA Today

Bears summer prop bets: Eloy home runs vs. Bears sacks and others

With over a month until football comes back for Bears training camp, JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis & Paul Aspan are killing that time on the latest Under Center podcast by taking a way too early look at some fun Bears prop bets. Here are some of their favorites that they discussed and a couple bonus props.

Eloy HR vs. Akiem Hicks + Khalil Mack + Roquan Smith sacks

Well, That. Was. Awesome.

As far as Crosstown moments go, Eloy’s 9th inning go-ahead home run immediately jumps into AJ vs Barrett territory. Dude broke his bat and still managed to (momentarily) crush one entire fan base while convincing another the rebuild has turned a corner. Poor Jose Quintana. He never had a chance.

With his absurd hot streak of six home runs in his last nine games, Eloy now has 12 homers in 47 games which skews his pace to about one every four games. With 91 games remaining that would put his season total around 34, but it’s safe to say he’s at least in the 25-30 HR neighborhood. Now if they keep throwing Eloy inside fastballs, Akiem Hicks & Khalil Mack could each pass Michael Strahan’s single season sack record of 22.5 and it won’t matter.

As for Hicks, Mack and Roquan Smith, might as well dub them the HMS trio with a trip to London on tap. Those three combined for 25 sacks in 2018 and with five sacks thru the first four games of 2018, it looked like Mack might have a real chance to threaten Strahan’s mark on his own. But then injuries, triple teams and the constant adjustment / readjustment nature of the NFL by opposing offenses held Mack to 7.5 sacks in the final 10 games he played, even if we can all agree he deserved at least two more for this.

Hicks tallied 7.5 sacks and shows no signs of slowing down, so a double digit sack season for him seems to be well within reach. And Smith’s sneaky five sack total in his rookie season will likely only increase with Chuck Pagano’s penchant to blitz and ‘wreak havoc.’

This is a total coin flip, so while you contemplate, let’s go back to the latest, greatest moment in this Crosstown rivalry:

Ozzie is the freakin’ best.

Eloy was probably thinking of that moment on this entire drive up to Wrigley Field Tuesday.

And salty Cubs twitter is (are?) my favorite Cubs fans.

Relax, I’m putting you guys in the World Series later, so take it easy.

Do the Bears cut their kicker before or after their Week 6 Bye?

At least give me some credit for not leading with the obvious kicker prop.

This bet starts with the Week 1 kickoff, because based on what we’ve seen from this ‘oh this is fun --- wait they’re still in real trouble’ kicker competition, who knows if the Bears are still playing kicker roulette leading up to the opener. At first I had this at Week 3, but that puts us all in a world of despair that we don’t want to imagine.

The original prop I...um...proposed...earlier this offseason on the podcast was Over/Under: 2.5 Bears kickers during the regular season. Two kickers seem all too likely while anything over that spells disaster, so we’ll make this more of a timing thing. Which doesn’t really make it any better.

An early season change that involves anything other than a trade for Robbie Gould will send the fan base into a panic. A late season change that involves anything other than a trade for Robbie Gould? Much worse.

Oh, you want to bet that they’ll stick with one kicker all season? It won’t be hard to find someone to take that bet. Just make sure you get like 5-1 odds to make it worthwhile.

Will Trubisky throw 10 more touchdowns than Craig Kimbrel has saves? (including playoffs for both)

Here’s how this one breaks down by the numbers

Note: “by the numbers” in no way means these have been calculated by any sort of algorithm, python or R - you’ll need to find someone much smarter than me for that kind of data analysis. I’m pro-analytics but I would hope I’d be in a front office if I had that kind of brain power.

Trubisky had 24 passing touchdowns in 14 games last season and we have to account for some growth in his second year in Nagy’s system so let’s give him 30 TD in 2019. Over the last four seasons, Kimbrel has averaged right around 36 saves per season, so let’s cut that in half to 18. And also use it as an excuse to show this again.

The wrinkle in this one is the playoffs. If the Cubs are going to make a deep playoff run, they’re gonna need Kimbrel to shut the door, conservatively, every other game. 11 wins for a World Series, so let’s (once again conservatively, we know how Joe Maddon likes to use his closer) say at least 6 saves.

I know how much Bears fans don’t want to hear the Jared Goff - Trubisky comparisons, but for this example, just hear me out -  it makes sense!

Goff got the Rams to the Super Bowl (or the Rams got Goff to the Super Bowl??), with the former first overall pick throwing one total touchdown pass in the playoffs. Based off that blueprint - and mix in a Freezer Left or a Chicago Special -  it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the Bears could do the same without needing Trubisky to throw more than one touchdown pass in each playoff game. So we’re right in the range of 34 TD to 24 saves.

Stop yelling at me about not automatically assuming Trubisky is gonna be better than Goff. This is a good thing! We’re talking about the possibility of a Cubs World Series & a Bears Super Bowl.

Will the Bears have twice as many sacks vs Rodgers, Stafford & Cousins as those three QBs have passing TD vs the Bears?

I was going to make this a straight up prop of sacks vs touchdowns until I went back and looked at the numbers from their six games last season again.

Bears sacks vs Rodgers, Cousins & Stafford:                                    21!!!

Rodgers, Cousins & Stafford total passing TD vs Bears                    8

We have to account for some regression here, as the Bears sacked Stafford six times in a single game and Rodgers five times in a single game. I also can’t bank on the Bears D to keep this trio completely out of the end zone in two of the six games as they did in 2018.

Boil it down and the Bears averaged 3.5 sacks per game against their NFC North foes and that’s a tall order to run back in 2019. But even if the Bears replicate that, I’m gonna take the three princes of the north to throw 2 TD per game, which leaves the final count at 21 Bears sacks vs 12 passing TD.

Will the Blackhawks & Bulls combine for more total wins than Trubisky’s lowest passer rating this coming season?

For those of us who need want a little action on the back burner thru football season, March Madness, the start of next baseball season, the Masters, and want to (hopefully) sweat it out all the way until the end of the next NBA & NHL regular seasons.

The Hawks (36 wins) and Bulls (22 wins) combined for 58 total wins last season. Mitch turned in a total clunker against the Rams (33.3 passer rating), so if that happens, the Hawks & Bulls are probably - probably -  a safe bet.

But if you throw out that Rams game, Mitch’s 2nd lowest passer rating of 2018 was the week before, against the Vikings, when he posted a 61.9 rating (hey, they won!). Even allowing for the most optimistic of Trubisky growth spurts in his 2nd season under Matt Nagy, if ya threaten everyone at Halas Hall with a couple of Malort shots, even they would admit Mitch is gonna have at least one bad game next season.

If that (foul tasting) *hiccup* is in the 60-65 passer rating range (or if you’re optimistic about the Blackhawks & Bulls - let’s say  65-75 range) this could be an all the way down to the Bulls and Hawks final games next April, wager.

Ah April...just like June...when it’s still cloudy. Rainy. And we’re stuck inside coming up with ridiculous prop bets because it feels like summer will never show up, ever again.

Bears regular season wins vs Cubs playoff wins

Hey, if the Bears are going 12-4 again, this one is easy. This is also easy if you’re a White Sox fan who will obviously take the Bears. But whatcha thinking Cubs fans? 11 wins for a World Series...I gotta proposition for ya! (RIP Prop Joe, still too soon.)