With the Bears holding the No. 3 pick of the upcoming draft, the obvious and automatic focus settles on Player A, B, D etc. "Best available" is an operating philosophy that routinely rules the moment.
But for the Bears and the 2017 draft, another overarching philosophical principle is in play. Specifically, what is the concept (for want of a better word) guiding what GM Ryan Pace is attempting to do?
Coach John Fox, as well as Pace, want a team founded on defense, running the football and ball security. They know the franchise need for a quarterback, but a team building on defense could reasonably be expected to weight their draft decisions toward that side of the football.
Meaning: A quarterback like Clemson's Deshaun Watson could alter the entire persona of the Bears and the Halas Hall building, but if the far-and-away best option at No. 3 is defense…?
What makes this draft and the Bears' operating concept intriguing is that the chances will be there potentially to build a true elite defense. Beginning at No. 3:
"I think [Alabama defensive lineman] Jonathan Allen is one of the two or three best players in this draft," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock via conference call on Monday. "What I like about him is he dominates outside…but I think he's going to make his money on an inside pass rusher. Inside or outside, I think he's a special player."
Behind that – and last year's No. 1, Leonard Floyd, addressed the rush-linebacker spot – is the secondary, with both cornerback and safety among the strongest positions in the draft.
"This is a great corner class," Mayock said. "If you don't get one in the first round, you can come back in the second or third rounds and really help yourself."
The safety group is such that Mayock posited the prospect of two going in the Top 10, maybe Top 5.
Deciding on a "concept"
One former NFL personnel executive maintained that the salary cap all but precluded building offense and defense equally, so the need was to define an identity and build to that, within reason. Former Bears GM Jerry Angelo opted a concept that built both offense and defense equally, but with designated positions ticketed for more cap resources: quarterback, running back, one wideout, two O-linemen, one franchise pass rusher, etc. Not all 22 positions are created equal but creating offense and defense simultaneously was doable.
"It's really what a team is looking for," said Mayock, speaking both of player preferences but in a way that extended to picking players for a scheme. Or philosophy.
Different concepts, like diets, work if you execute them well.
The Bears reached Super Bowl XLI with a Top 5 defense and a mid-teen's offense. The Indianapolis Colts prevailed in that game with a No. 3 offense and a defense ranked in the low 20's in both yardage and points allowed.