Rebuilding a team is a lot like a large truck make a right turn. You may know it’ll eventually get to its destination, but there are a bunch of moving parts and some understandable doubt along the way.
This time last year, the doubt was loud and clear, especially with GM Ryan Pace’s five-player draft receiving some low marks from most NFL analysts and insiders. And when the dust settled at the end of the 2017 NFL season, there really weren’t really too many good vibes surrounding the organization as a whole. But things are different now. The marks are high, as is the optimism. And the vibes are mostly good.
Most recently … Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook of NFL.com ranked the draft classes for each of the NFL’s 32 teams, while giving each team a grade, and you won’t have to go far to find the Chicago Bears on the list.
- Chicago Bears (A)
- Cowboys (A)
- Cardinals (A)
- Broncos (A-)
- Packers (A-)
- Falcons (A-)
- Ravens (A-)
- Redskins (A-)
- Giants (B+)
- Colts B+
For the rest of the rankings, grades, explanations, and attendant write-ups, head over to NFL.com. As for the rest of the NFC North, the Packers (5th, A-) faired best (grumble), while the Lions (16th, B+) and Vikings (B, 25th) were a fair bit lower.
As you can see, the Bears not only received the top overall ranking this season, they’re also one of just three teams who got the standalone “A” grade in the draft. And it’s not difficult to see why. After doing everything possible to make Mitch Trubisky comfortable this offseason (hiring one of the brightest, up-and-coming offensive minds in Matt Nagy before adding pass catchers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton), the team kept the good times rolling in April.
Here’s part of what NFL.com had to say:
“The Bears maintained this game plan in the draft — well, after No. 8 overall, when they acquired their defensive Mitchell Trubisky, Roquan Smith …. After that, Ryan Pace went back to pampering his 23-year-old signal-caller. Daniels, an interior O-lineman who spent much of the pre-draft process as a first-round mock mainstay, feels like a steal at No. 39. And Miller instantly become a favorite of anyone who popped in his tape, as a hyper-competitive playmaker who gets absolutely everything out of his 5-11, 201-pound frame.”
So basically, Pace’s draft class earned the top overall ranking as the team’s offseason commitment to putting quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the best situation to succeed continued in the draft … which was only gravy on top of adding linebacker Roquan Smith, whom the duo dubbed the defense’s Trubisky, with their first round pick.
The road to redemption wasn’t going to be smooth for Pace, but the blueprint was always out there. And for what it’s worth, he’s followed it as well as you could hope. In fact, reading about Pace’s recent decisions in a positive light comes as a bit of a surprise, especially considering how some felt about him earlier in the offseason.
In addition to taking his fair share of heat for his efforts in last year’s draft and free agency period, Pace was ranked as the league’s worst general manager and his front office was voted among the worst teams when it comes to preparedness in contract negotiations in a poll of NFL agents. If either of those were to be reconsidered, however, I’m guessing Pace and his front office would move up at least a few spots.
That this crop of picks has been highly regarded by pundits across the NFL landscape is just icing on the cake. Sure, draft grades don’t mean much until the players hit the field – and we’ll probably need to drive that point home amidst the countless positive reviews – but if this group comes close to living up to their grades, then the Bears’ rebuild will take a significant step forward … and almost immediately.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.