INDIANAPOLIS — Two quarterbacks have been selected with the third overall pick in the last decade with widely varying results: Matt Ryan (2008, Atlanta) just led the Falcons to the Super Bowl, while Blake Bortles (Jacksonville, 2014) threw 51 interceptions while the Jaguars went 11-37 in the last three seasons.
Both players were the first quarterbacks taken in their respective drafts, but both could also be deemed "reaches" in the sense that they weren't necessarily among the three or four highest-rated players in each draft class.
Of course, teams have different evaluations of players than what can be found online, but CBS Sports ranked Ryan as the No. 7 overall player in 2008 and Bortles No. 6 in 2014. Both the Falcons and Jaguars needed a long-term solution at quarterback — Atlanta because of Michael Vick's suspension/jailing, and Jacksonville because of Blaine Gabbert's ineffectiveness — and decided to address that need through the draft.
The Bears likely will be in a similar spot this spring with the third overall pick in April's draft. While general manager Ryan Pace said Wednesday there's a possibility Jay Cutler will return, the assumption is he won't, though the team liked what Brian Hoyer (no interceptions in 200 attempts) did for them in 2016.
The questions then become: Are any of the quarterbacks in 2017's draft class worth being the third player selected, someone who could be a franchise-altering player? Or would the Bears be "reaching" — as in, not taking the best player available — to pick DeShone Kizer, DeShaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky there to fill a need?
"I think you have to get value," Pace said. "I think when you talk about reaching at any position it's hard. I've referenced teams that I've been a part of before where I feel like we've done that, and I've learned from that experience. You just have to be careful about doing that.
"I think what happens with us is that you get competitive and you know you need this position — and it doesn't happen the day of the draft, it happens in the months preceding the draft. You start convincing yourself that you need to start pushing a certain position up the board. And that's when the mistake is made. So we have to be conscious of that at any position.
"And there are positions in this draft that are really strong. And some of those positions fit our needs. And then there are certain positions in the draft that aren't very strong. So you just have to recognize that."
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The Bears will begin to find out if Kizer, Watson and/or Trubisky are worthy of that high of a selection this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where they'll have an opportunity to gather measurable data and interview each player to get a sense if any of them can be someone who not only has the requisite skillset but also mindset to be a franchise quarterback.
Coach John Fox, when asked about what intangibles he wants a quarterback to have, said he's looking for a quarterback who has the right trait to make the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line better with him.
"We call it, first in, last to leave type of mentality," Fox said. "That raises all boats with your teammates. Successful teams I've been a part of had that intangible, and that's something we're trying to build on."
Watson, on the surface, would seem to have that kind of a boat-raising mentality. Clemson was a perennially good, but not elite, program until he took full control of Dabo Swinney's offense in 2015; what followed was back-to-back trips to the College Football Playoff championship game, culminating with January's gripping last-second win over Alabama.
But what the Bears find out in the next few days — and over the coming weeks — will be a crucial step in determining if taking a quarterback at No. 3 would be a reach or fair value for that spot.
"You feel a guy when he comes in the room: Does he have that charisma? Does he have confidence? Is he naturally football-intelligent?" Pace said. "I know it's only 15 minutes, but we have a plan in place to pull that quickly out.
"But after this, we're still going to visit their schools and have 30 visits at Halas Hall. So there's still a long process to play out. But this will be the first time for a lot of our guys to see these guys eye-to-eye, which is important."