If you consider their lack of picks in the first, third, and fourth rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, you’ll find the Bears many positive post-draft reviews quite remarkable.
Diving into the picks they did make, Ryan Pace sat down for an interview with Bears Radio play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak. You can watch the full video at the end of this post, though I’ve pulled some highlights and chipped in with some additional commentary of my own below. Enjoy!
The Bears Have Been Targeting Cole Kmet for a Year
As it turns out, the decision to draft Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet with the team’s first overall pick (which came in the second round) was a long-time in the making: “Our Midwest scouts — Scott Hamel, Jeff Shiver, Chris Prescott — they have been pounding the table for this guy for it seems like a year. So when he was there in the second round, we were really excited to get him.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Chicago Bears GM fell in love with a prospect.
Pace also talked about how Kmet is the prototypical “Y” tight end and someone with the skill set to grow into a solid two-way contributor at the position. Indeed, Kmet’s lengthy presence on their radar speaks volumes as to what the organization thought about him then and clearly thinks about him now. I suppose having conviction in a player is good, so I hope this turns out well.
Jaylon Johnson’s Secret Skill
Moving on, Pace highlighted something their other second round pick, Jaylon Johnson, does that might not be on everyone’s radar: “A lot of corners, sometimes they panic when the ball is in the air. That’s when you see PIs or they drop the coverage. He’s really poised and calm and confident when the ball is in the air.”
Much has been made about Utah corner Jaylon Johnson’s coverage skills. In fact, it’s those skills that have me the most excited about any prospect the Bears drafted. Now, if he can pair those skills while avoiding needless penalties, it would be wonderful.
Gipson’s Got the Tools, Bears Need the Toolbox
In a normal year with a regular training camp, I’d bet dollars to donuts Trevis Gipson would be a summer-time fan favorite. Pace’s explains why: “As a rusher, you feel the power, you feel the strength. But he also uses his hands really well. He’s got the quickness to counter inside. He played really well at the Senior Bowl. We had him graded high, so that’s what triggered us going up to get him.”
Obviously, Gipson is a player the Bears liked at a position they deemed valuable. Hence, they traded up to get him. No, he’s not going to replace Khalil Mack or Robert Quinn any time soon. But developing a third pass-rusher with some upside is better than overpaying for one in free agency.
Love for Kindle Vildor Suggests an Evolution in Pace’s Talent Evaluation
Of everything said in this interview, Pace’s comments on the Georgia Southern cornerback stood out to me the most: “He kind of came on the map in 2018 in that Clemson game which has been talked about. He played really well against top-tiered competition. He’s been productive throughout his college career, has the skill set we’re looking for.”
Oh … so Pace does (1) watch Clemson football, (2) values what a player does against the best competition, and (3) finds it important that a prospect has been productive throughout the full body of their collegiate work. If only that line of thinking was applied to picking a quarterback ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft. But I digress. After all, it’s better to see the error of your ways and evolve as a decision-maker/talent evaluator than it is to keep trying to make “fetch” happen.
Speed Kills, But It Has to Be Game Speed
Speaking of lessons learned, I think Pace and his staff learned one with their selection of Tulane receiver Darnell Mooney: “He’s got good speed. That was confirmed when he ran 4.3 at the Combine. And it’s not just speed you see, you know, in shorts at the Combine. That’s 4.3 speed you see on tape.”
I found myself thinking back to Jeremy Langford, the first late-round running back Pace drafted in Chicago. Langford had great timed speed during his Combine run, but never looked that fast in the game. I’m as guilty as anyone for falling for eye-popping 40-times. But there really is a difference between game speed and timed speed. And if a 4.38-second 40-time lines up with what the on-tape speed looks like, then by all means, that’s a guy who needs to be drafted and added to the roster.
The Developmental Blocker Vibes Are Real
Once football returns, Bears die-hards will probably latch onto any down-the-depth-chart competition on the offensive line. And to that end, Arlington Hambright and Lachavius “Pig” Simmons are more than just great names – they’re also intriguing prospects! The learning curve for offensive linemen is always a challenge, so toss your great expectations out the window. Instead, focus on why each was selected in the first place.
Pace on Hambright: “He’s really athletic and he’s tough. And I think you take those two traits, it makes him intriguing.”
Pace on Simmons: “Outstanding football makeup. One of the hardest workers in the Tennessee State program. Just really dedicated to his craft.”
Earlier in the offseason, we discussed the traits we were hoping the Bears would look for in offensive linemen. I feel as though they’ve checked those boxes with these two developmental targets. Here’s hoping at least one pans out over time.
For Pace’s full commentary on his draft class, check out the video embedded below: