The Chicago Bears are approaching what might be GM Ryan Pace’s most important draft. It could also very well be his last. With holes to fill throughout the roster and eight picks at his disposal, Pace sets out on a weekend in search of impact talent and players with upside. With all eyes on the 2021 NFL Draft, let’s check out some of the more promising draft-eligible prospects who have been rumored to be persons of interest.
Performance, Rankings, Accomplishments
• Measurements: 6-4, 224 pounds, 31.5-inch arms, 9.125-inch hands
• 2020 stats: 1 game, 15/30 (50%), 149 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 15 rushes, 143 yards, 2 TD in a showcase game before declaring early for the NFL Draft
• Career stats: 19 games (17 starts), 208/318 (65.4%), 2,947 yards, 30 TD, 1 INT; 192 rushes, 1,325 yards, 18 TD
• Accomplishments: Walter Payton Award (2019), Jerry Rice Award (2019), Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year (2019), First-team All-MVFC
• Position ranking: 3rd (ESPN), 4th (Pro Football Focus), 4th (The Draft Network), 4th (Pro Football Network)
The NFL.com Draft Profile Says…
Lance’s strengths include:
• “Film junkie with high football IQ and an NFL frame.”
• “Processes progressions very quickly and can work to his fourth read when protected.”
• “Taking care of the football is a priority for him.”
It’s a snapshot of what Lance brings to the table, but those three stand out to me when discussing a player with limited starting experience. Those are good traits that are hard to find.
Chicago was among the teams with representatives at Lance’s showcase game in October. More recently, GM Ryan Pace was at Lance’s first Pro Day back in March. In an alternate universe, we might be talking about how Pace and Seahawks GM John Schneider linked up in Fargo, N.D., talked shop, and pushed through a Russell Wilson deal. Instead, it’s an anecdote that is part of a story which ends with the Bears holding an empty bag.
Where’s the Fit?
Drafting Lance would take a leap of faith. But it’s one that could be rewarded with a special talent who owns a limitless ceiling. Lance carries loud tools — a rocket for an arm, high-end athleticism, foot-speed, and a frame that makes him hard to bring down. Putting all of that into a player who is willing to take down-field shots, is a good decision-maker, has poise, and a championship pedigree (albeit, at the FCS level) is enticing. If you were building an ideal quarterback, it might look like Lance.
But there’s a catch. I’m working under the presumption that 2021 draft decision will be made by a GM in self-preservation mode. With that in mind, I struggle to see Pace hitch his wagon to a quarterback with limited college experience who might be best served using the 2021 season as a redshirt year much like Patrick Mahomes did in 2017. In another universe, this is an easy decision to make for the Bears. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton isn’t Alex Smith. And the Bears offense on its best day doesn’t sniff what the Chiefs have. Because of that, I can’t imagine the Bears rolling the dice, moving up in the draft, and taking Lance.
In a way, that kinda stinks because Lance has the tools that everyone from coaches to fans would usually drool over. Drafting Lance after what Bears fans have experience at quarterback in recent years would be like opening the shiniest new toy as Christmas morning came to an end. And perhaps that is still a real possibility. But as I said earlier, it would take a grand leap of faith. Unfortunately, this front office hasn’t done much to merit confidence in taking such a leap. Even still … I don’t think I’d mind if it did.