LAKE FOREST, Ill — It’s Friday night. Almost 9 p.m. CT. Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have waited nearly 26 hours since the 2019 NFL Draft began in Nashville to make their first pick.
And they’re still 14 picks away from their scheduled selection at No. 87 overall.
A few minutes earlier, the Los Angeles Rams traded up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to select Memphis running back Darrell Henderson at No. 70 overall. Henderson was just the third running back selected and Rams made a big move up from No. 94 to get him.
Coming into the night, the Bears weren’t locked into take a running back, but their “cloud” of desired players at No. 87 is shrinking and the running back they have unanimous conviction on is sitting at the top of the digital draft board inside their spanking new draft room that has yet to be christened with an actual pick.
Running back David Montgomery, Iowa State. That’s the name on the draft board glaring back at the entire room.
After two defensive players come off the board at No. 71 and No. 72, a familiar trade partner is now on the clock at No. 73. Since becoming the Bears’ general manager in 2015, Pace has developed a nice trading relationship with Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel. The Bears and Patriots have pulled off a handful of trades in recent years, including sending players like Martellus Bennett and Ryan Groy to New England, and pulling off the draft day trade for wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Pace knows he has a consensus in the room on Montgomery. And he has a head coach who is craving the right running back for his system. The Bears call the Patriots, but the clock is ticking. In fact, the clock is now under a minute when the two sides reach an agreement and both teams have to call the trade into the league separately before the trade is official.
Finally, the Bears get word that they can submit their pick. And with that, Nagy gets his guy.
1. The Pick A Year In The Making
Two days before the draft, knowing that NFL teams comb through public comments made by other teams, Pace tried to downplay the team’s interest in drafting a running back.
“I know running back has been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position,” Pace said. “We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.”
But as they say, actions speak louder than words. Throughout the 2018 season, it was clear that something was missing in the Bears’ running game. On tape, it wasn’t completely obvious. Was it the offensive line? Was it Jordan Howard? Was it the scheme?
Pace and Nagy answered those questions over the last four months with their actions. Not only did they trade Howard to Philadelphia, but they extended right tackle Bobby Massie and restructured the contract of right guard Kyle Long, two moves that ensured all five starters on the offensive line would be back.
As for scheme, Nagy pretty much answered that question directly at the Combine, saying he needed a hybrid running back that not only could run between the tackles like Howard, but also run threatening routes out of the backfield to stretch the defense.
So despite Pace’s best efforts last Tuesday, it was fairly obvious where the Bears were leaning. Just 90 minutes before Friday’s second round started, I was on WGN Radio and was asked to predict what the Bears would do with the No. 87 overall pick in third round. My response immediately pointed to the running back position, but also to the fact that Pace and Nagy likely coveted one specific running back. Given Pace’s aggressive track record in the draft — now nine draft day trades, including six that have moved the Bears up in the draft order — I mentioned that I would actually be more surprised if they stood pat at No. 87 than if they traded up.
With so few picks this year, they had to get their guy. And they did.
Enter David Montgomery at No. 73, after the Bears moved up 14 spots in a trade the Patriots. The cost? Swapping their fifth round pick for a sixth round pick and losing a 2020 fourth rounder (more on the Bears’ future draft capital in a minute).
The trade came three picks after the Rams drafted running back Darrell Henderson from Memphis and put the Bears one pick ahead of the Bills, who took FAU running back Devin Singletary. Pace insists that was a coincidence, and maybe it was. Given the track record of trades between the Bears and Patriots under Pace’s watch, the team they were trading with likely played a more significant role in getting the deal done than a specific fear of the Bills taking their guy.
Nevertheless, Pace had reached a familiar point in the draft. The guy his staff had unanimous conviction on was still available and he was comfortable with the draft capital it was going to cost to make sure he got his guy. Sound familiar?
While some still want to pound Pace for making a similar move for Mitch Trubisky at No. 2 overall in 2017, the GM’s calculated aggressiveness is something to be admired. It’s the same mentality that got him Khalil Mack.
2. So Why David Montgomery?
In 2012, Lou Ayeni — a former Northwestern running back — was the associate head coach and running game coordinator for Toledo and he was recruiting a three-star running back out of Willoughby, Ohio named Kareem Hunt. Hunt ended up signing with the Rockets and Ayeni coached the future NFL running back in 2013 before moving on to Iowa State in 2014.
As it turned out, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell would end up following Ayeni to Iowa State in 2016 and this time they would go after a different Ohio running back — David Montgomery from Cincinnati. Playing in the same offense, Montgomery would end up in the same role Hunt was in at Toledo.
Today, Ayeni is now the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Northwestern, but he was one of the first people Montgomery contacted after the Bears drafted him Friday. Ayeni was watching the draft with his wife, Patrice, and the two were so excited when the Bears drafted Montgomery that they accidentally woke up their son, Jayden. Five minutes later, Montgomery and Ayeni were chatting via FaceTime.
“It was awesome to see the joy and jubilation on his face,” Ayeni said.
The running backs coach said he considers Montgomery to be a son and already has offered his basement as a temporary living situation for the rookie.
“He’s going to be an extra babysitter for me,” Ayeni said.
Saturday morning, I had a chance to chat with Ayeni on The Hoge and Jahns Podcast and he discussed Montgomery’s fit in the Bears’ offense and the comparisons to Hunt. You can listen to the entire interview here, but part of the conversation is transcribed below:
You know him better than anyone. Can you give us a scouting report on what the Bears are getting here?
Ayeni: This guy. You’re getting a complete back now. He’s a three-down back, football-wise. He can run it, he can catch it, great hands. The best route-runner and hands I’ve had at that spot as a coach, and I’ve coached a couple NFL guys. I coached Kareem Hunt in college. I coached David Fluellen, who’s with the Tennessee Titans, and I’ve had some other guys who have been all-conference type players. So I’ve been fortunate to be around some pretty good guys and he’s got some really good characteristics that are high-level. And his ability to make guys miss in tight spaces is pretty special — it’s probably his best trait. But the biggest thing he’s got is he’s got the desire to be the best he can be. He’s got relentless work ethic. He’s a high character guy. He’s going to walk into that building and immediately help bring that team up another notch, which is already a pretty successful team. So I’m just excited for the opportunity he has, especially in Coach Nagy’s offense.
Listen: The Hoge and Jahns Podcast with Loy Ayeni
I’ve already heard some of these stories of David Montgomery working out late at night and being a big part of that culture change at Iowa State. I imagine you played a role in some of that and have some of those stories with him?
Ayeni: There’s plenty of them. From him working out at midnight and like 11 o’clock at night and as a coaching staff, we’re finishing up and we’re like, what’s going on in there? And he’s in the indoor (facility) with the music on doing drills and stuff and you come back a month later and then it’s him and like four other guys. And then you go a couple months later and it’s him and a couple position groups or half the ball. It was contagious. It was infectious. I’ll tell you a funny story. It was his freshman year. I think we lost a close game to Oklahoma State, it was a road game and we got home late at like midnight or something. I’m in my bed and my phone rings. It was like 2 o’clock in the morning. And when you get calls like that as a coach you’re thinking, “Oh no. What’s going on?” I see it’s David. I answer it and was like, “Hey what’s going on?” And he was like, “Coach, I need some help.” I’m just like, oh no. What happened? It’s his freshman year, what’s he doing?
He’s like, “I need some help, I need the password.”
“I need the password.”
“Password for what?”
“I’m at the office. I’m trying to watch this game. I need the password to this computer.”
I’m like, oh my goodness. You know, so, the kid, he was like so obsessed with being the best player he can be he would be up at two in the morning watching film back then. So I just think he fits Chicago. That blue-collar mentality. That Chicago toughness. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for this city and this football team.
And then going into that 2017 season — it was certainly his breakout season and a turnaround for that Iowa State program with Matt Campbell as the head coach. Tell us a little bit about what happened. You touched on it there with Montgomery’s work ethic and changing the culture, getting guys to buy in, but certainly he had a breakout year. I know he has that record for most missed tackles in that season and I believe you even got a running back coaching award out of it too that season.
Ayeni: Yeah, it was pretty cool. Basically all I had to do was put him in and press play. It was great. You know, that year was special because after his freshman year when we struggled — I think we were like 3-9 or whatever — he really took it upon himself that he didn’t want to be a part of that again. And that’s when he started working out on his own late and started bringing his teammates with him. After the season, we in the program knew this kid was something special. I always called him a captain. I thought that year he should have been a captain because he showed so much leadership at a young age. But if you watch our game against Iowa, we lost the game in overtime, it was like 44-41. They had three great linebackers led by Josey Jewell (now with the Broncos). That great D-line they have, they always play great defense. And he had some runs and some touches in that game that were incredible. And I think that game kind of showed our team — and Iowa is always consistently good and well-respected, the Big Ten and Northwestern fans know the battles Northwestern and Iowa has had — but that’s a big rivalry, Iowa State-Iowa. If you watch that game, and even though we lost, you saw this kid was special. I mean, he was truly special. And then we go in, I think it was two weeks later, and we had to go to Norman, Oklahoma and we didn’t have our quarterback. Our quarterback ended up getting kicked off the team. And we go in there and they’re ranked No. 4 in the country with Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and we find a way to win that game in Norman, Oklahoma. And David was instrumental. It wasn’t a flashy game, but it was tough yardage. He had a couple big pass plays where he caught the ball and made some guys miss and his leadership on the sidelines that game, reminding guys that we got to play four quarters, we got to finish, we got to do these things, it was instrumental in that win. And then the same thing with the TCU game a couple weeks later where I mean, we really couldn’t do much running the ball, but his leadership, his mentality, the way he controls the sideline, controls his teammates to keep pushing, it was evident. We had a chance to compete for a conference title, we ended up winning our bowl game that year. He’s everything you want in football player — leadership, character-wise. I know he’s not the most explosive or the fastest guy, but when you talk about heart, character, determination, desire, he’s got those things and those things carry a lot of weight when you’re playing big time ball games.
There are a couple interesting coaching connections here and you brought up Kareem Hunt’s name earlier. You recruited Kareem to Toledo before you went on to Iowa State and, of course, Matt Nagy had Kareem Hunt in Kansas City. Really, last year, it was obvious that Nagy was craving that piece of the puzzle in his offense in Chicago. Hunt and Montgomery both played in Matt Campbell’s system and there seems to be a fit here within the Bears system in a similar role. How are those two players similar on the field in what they can do?
Ayeni: They both love football and they’re big time competitors. I mean, I remember Kareem, very similar things with him. I remember both of them as freshman and I can tell you each time when I knew these guys were special — I was like, this guy is going to be a pro. And the desire to be the best is definitely in both of those kids. Kareem is a little more natural in the sense that he can run out of bed and be the same guy. What he was doing in the NFL is the same thing he was doing in high school. Where David is a guy who works for everything he’s got. The extent and level that David takes it to is at a whole different level that I haven’t been around as much at this spot. But on the field, they are both three-down backs. They can both run it, they can both catch it. They got great contact-balance. That’s a term everybody wants to use these days to compare these guys that can stay on their feet and break tackles. But their contact-balance — when you watch David and Kareem — is eerily similar, which is why they break a lot of tackles. I think that 2017 year, David led college football in most broken tackles for us and Kareem led the NFL in most broken tackles, so it’s pretty interesting that both those guys did that in the same year. But they can both catch the ball extremely well and they both are willing blockers, so you don’t have to take them off the field on third down if you don’t want to. You can use them in the pass game, you can use them to protect the quarterback, and they are both — I’ve been fortunate to be around both of those guys and they’re both like sons to me. I’m just really proud to say I coached both of those guys.
3. No Regrets
When you make nine draft day trades in five years, it can be a little confusing to track the consequences of those trades down the road. In general, fans tend to overrate the impact of giving up mid-round picks, as was certainly the case in 2017 when Pace gave the 49ers a third and fourth round pick, plus a 2018 third round pick, to move up one spot to secure Trubisky.
What matters most, of course, is that the players you actually select are good.
The 49ers ended up with 10 draft picks in 2017, but two years later, that draft class looks like a full-blown dumpster fire. By comparison, Pace only drafted five players that year, but three of them (Trubisky, Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen) were Pro Bowlers last season.
What fans need to realize is that these moves are all very calculated. The Bears use multiple point charts to judge the “fairness” of draft trades before they are made. They discuss all possible scenarios before the draft. Pace isn’t just making decisions with his gut on the fly.
Timing also matters. For instance, after losing his 2018 third round pick in the Trubisky trade, Pace traded a 2019 second round pick during the 2018 draft to select wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round. So while some fans were so upset about losing the 2018 third round pick in the Trubisky trade, Pace ended up getting two players in the second round instead (including starting guard James Daniels). Of course, that meant giving up 2019 draft capital, but Pace correctly forecasted a breakout year in 2018 and also understood that most wide receivers take a year to develop before breaking out. In that sense, Miller essentially was the Bears’ 2019 second round pick, but with the added benefit of developing in Matt Nagy’s system in 2018 — all while catching 33 passes for 423 yards and seven touchdowns with an injured shoulder.
Of course, the Miller trade happened before Pace gave up two first round picks for Khalil Mack — another move that involved timing. Pace, again, correctly identified that Mack was the missing piece and catalyst to what turned out to be an NFC North title in 2018.
So now it’s 2019. And Pace doesn’t have a first and second round pick. But that’s OK, because running back is now the biggest position of need — and in Matt Nagy’s offense, you don’t need a Todd Gurley type that requires a first round pick. No, there’s a slew of running backs that should be available in the third round. The only problem? The Bears were so good in 2018 that the No. 87 overall pick falls in the later portion of the third round. To get their guy, they may need to trade up again.
So be it. Because, again, the NFL Draft isn’t about having the most picks, it’s about making the right picks. The Bears only had two picks in the first five rounds of the draft, but they ended up with David Montgomery and wide receiver Riley Ridley — another weapon now at Nagy’s disposal. Time will tell if those picks will work out, but if they do, the lack of quantity won’t matter.
As for 2020, despite Pace continuing to spend future draft capital, he’ll still have more to work with than he did this past weekend. As it stands right now, the Bears will have at least three selections in the first five rounds (including two second round picks), and two additional fifth round picks could be on the table depending on conditions stipulated in the Mack and Howard trades.
The bottomline: don’t fret about trade picks getting traded. Pace is doing just fine with his draft day trades — mainly because he keeps drafting well.
4. Ridley Me This
Some general managers get reputations for falling in love with athletic track stars who might not necessarily be good football players and Pace may have been put in that camp after using his first two first round picks on Kevin White and Leonard Floyd — two raw players with freakish athleticism. White never panned out, while Floyd is starting to show significant flashes of being a very good pass rusher.
But in the big five-year picture, Pace has actually been very balanced in his selections. As a quarterback, Trubisky falls into his own category, while Roquan Smith covered all the bases as a speedy linebacker with a high-football IQ — a player who could start right away. As for his mid-round selections, some have been freaky fast (Tarik Cohen), some have lacked explosiveness (Jordan Howard) and some have been injured (Eddie Jackson).
Most of them have worked out though, likely a result of staying true to the overall evaluations and sticking to the draft board.
That appears to once again be the case with Riley Ridley, who fell to the Bears in the fourth round, in part, because he lacks high-end speed.
“Honestly, we were (surprised he was still available in the fourth round),” Pace said. “So it was a guy, again, stayed true to our draft board and his name is sticking up there. All of us had high grades on him so we were excited to get him at that point in the draft. No doubt.”
In many ways, Ridley is the complete opposite of Kevin White as a draft prospect. White possessed high-end height/weight/speed, but wasn’t very polished as a route runner and wasn’t asked to run a high variety of routes at West Virginia. At 6-1, 199, Ridley is a little smaller and doesn’t possess the same speed, but he is a very polished route runner. He also has long arms and big hands, naturally plucking the ball away from his body, which allows for a large catch radius. White was somebody who needed space to catch-and-run, while Ridley might not get a ton of separation, but will catch the ball in traffic.
“I think there are certain route runners that just know how to set guys up,” Pace said. “For as big as he is, he knows how to drop his weight and quickly get out of break points. So when you’re watching him, you consistently see him separating from man-coverage and I think it’s because of his physical skillset but also because he’s a very good route runner. So that’s one of the first things that jumps out — just how defined his routes are, how crisp his routes are and how he knows how to set guys up.”
That will put Ridley in position to be an early contributor as an outside receiver. That’s where Nagy envisions using him, in part because the slot — or “Zebra” position — requires a much more complex understanding of the offensive system, which can be a lot for a rookie wide receiver to handle (that was something Anthony Miller was dealing with last year).
As for Ridley’s reputation for winning “50/50” balls, the Georgia product isn’t satisfied with that positive label. When he visited Halas Hall before the draft, he told the Bears, “I’m not a 50/50 guy. I win all of them.”
5. 6th Round: CB Duke Shelley, Kansas State (5-9, 173)
As we move through the remaining three Bears draft picks, I’ll give you Pace’s take and my take, starting with Shelley, a four-year starter at Kansas State who did not receive an invitation to the Combine:
Pace’s take: “He’s so scrappy. If it’s completed, it’s earned. He’s very sticky in coverage. He’s highly, highly competitive. He’s just very athletic. When you look at his PBUs and his interceptions, they’re coming in a very athletic manner. They’re not gimmies. Everything is earned. So I would say his competitiveness and how athletic and how sticky he is in coverage. His ideal spot is the nickel.”
My take: A four-year starter on the outside at Kansas State, Shelley’s lack of size will force him into the slot at the NFL level. He tore a ligament in his toe trying to return an interception at the end of the Wildcats’ win over Oklahoma State in October. The injury required surgery, but he was able to return in time for his Pro Day where he did enough to get drafted. The tape shows a smaller, physical defensive back with above-average ball skills, projecting well in the slot. Shelley should provide good depth behind Buster Skrine and perhaps eventually take over that job in the future.
6. 7th Round: RB Kerrith Whyte, Jr., Florida Atlantic (5-10, 197)
Pace’s take: “We were aware of (teammate Devin Singletary), but naturally when you’re watching the tapes, you’re watching two really good running backs, but two different styles and they both jumped out in different ways. And that’s another private workout that we had where we worked out both of them together. We think they’re both really good players and we’re excited to get (Whyte) where we got him. And I just think his speed just jumps out when you’re watching the tape. And then you throw in the special teams value that he brings, too. I know I feel like with him, that’s one where the scouts, the offensive coaches and the special teams coaches are all excited about, because he brings that kind of versatility.”
My take: The knock on Singletary, who was drafted one pick behind Montgomery in the third round, was that his touches and production dipped in 2018. A big reason for that was Whyte, who Lane Kiffin could not keep off the field. Whyte possesses the home run speed that Montgomery lacks, but he doesn’t have the same instincts or ability to change gears in traffic. Whyte could be an immediate factor in the return game (the Bears are much improved in the kick return game with Whyte and Cordarrelle Patterson) and he gives Nagy an additional weapon to work with. Offensively, Whyte will ideally be a guy who gets a few touches per game, forcing opposing coaches to spend some time game-planning for him. He’s going to have to earn a roster spot though and he might not be someone who is always active on game day.
7. 7th Round: CB Stephen Denmark, Valdosta State (6-2 1/2, 220)
Pace’s take: “It’s funny. (Nagy) always jokes with these guys when they switch from receiver to corner — he questions their hands, right? But all we see is a guy with these kind of measurables and this kind of talent, and you turn on the tape and — whoa — it catches your eye. Then we send (defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend and assistant director of p layer personnel Champ Kelly) down there to work him out at Valdosta. And they come back, and they also had the video. We can test him in things we want to see. How does he flip his hips? How does he transition? And then on tape, for a guy that just switched to that position, his ability to track the ball — he has ball production, interception production. His ability to stay calm on a deep ball and get his head around with poise and track the ball is very intriguing. So this late in the draft, it’s just a very interesting, intriguing prospect for us to take. I can tell you this: When we go to rookie minicamp, he’s going to be one of the guys I’m going to be most interested in watching, just because of the traits that he possesses.”
My take: What a fun pick. This is a cornerback in a wide receiver’s body. After spending three years at wide receiver, Denmark shifted to the defensive side of the ball in 2018 and put up impressive numbers (55 tackles, eight TFLs, three interceptions, nine pass breakups), earning attention from the Bears and a few other teams. Who knows if Denmark can develop into an NFL cornerback, but it’s worth a flyer in the seventh round. I join Pace in being very excited to see this guy at rookie minicamp.
8. The Kicker Party
Pace and Nagy have vowed to fix the kicker situation and short of pulling off a draft-weekend trade for Robbie Gould, they appear to be working exhaustively to find the solution. After multiple kicker competitions in the offseason led to the signings of Chris Blewitt, Redford Jones and Elliott Fry, it appears five more kickers will be at Halas Hall this weekend during rookie minicamp. One of those kickers — John Baron II from San Diego State — was signed as an undrafted free agent, but four others will tryout at rookie minicamp. The tryout kickers include: Emmit Carpenter (Minnesota), Casey Bednarski (Minnesota State-Mankato), Spencer Evans (Purdue) and Alex Kjellsten (McNeese State).
Consider Bednarski an early fan-favorite, just because of his social media. Not only does his last name make him sound like a perfect Bear, but the long-haired kicker has this video of him nailing a 70-yard kick shirtless before doing a backflip:
Watch out, Tarik Cohen.
As for Gould, the 49ers don’t sound like they are in a hurry to trade him, but Pace is not ruling out the possibly adding a veteran kicker at some point. Saturday, I asked him this carefully worded, somewhat tongue-in-cheek question:
Have you guys ruled out signing or bringing in a veteran kicker? Would you consider somebody who is demanding a trade and very clearly would like to play in Chicago?
Pace’s response: “Really, the last couple of days have been narrowed in on the draft, so we wouldn’t rule out — as far as bringing in a veteran kicker, we just want to increase the best competition and create that. So however that unfolds, it unfolds.”
Frankly, the 49ers don’t have to be in a rush to trade Gould. It’s not like you need your kicker to be involved in install-meetings or even training camp for that matter. If I’m the 49ers, I look for replacement kickers immediately. Maybe they find one. If they do, there are always teams still looking for a kicker like Gould in late August or early September — that team might even be the Bears.
Conversely, as much as I’ve advocated for Gould’s return to the Bears, they don’t need to rush a trade either. Their thorough kicker search could yield a reliable winner — and one that won’t cost nearly $5 million. But this remains an interesting situation to monitor and I doubt it will be resolved anytime time.
9. The Undrafted Free Agents
Some thoughts on a few of the Bears’ undrafted free agents:
WR Emanuel Hall, Missouri (6-2, 201) — One of the biggest undrafted surprises this year, Hall is talented enough to win a roster spot on the Bears, even at a loaded position. He told the Kansas City Star: “This will be a chip I’ll carry forever.” Hall missed part of his senior year because of a groin injury and the death of his father, but still ran a 4.39 40-time at the Combine — even with that groin injury reportedly lingering. He’s fast, which makes him dangerous in Matt Nagy’s offense. He will be one of the more interesting players to watch in the preseason.
TE Dax Raymond, Utah State (6-5, 255) — Another player I thought would be drafted, Raymond has the ability to backup Trey Burton as a matchup tight end. He’s an older prospect — a 24-year-old rookie — but the roster spots behind Burton and Adam Shaheen are hardly locked in. Raymond has a chance to stick.
OG Alex Bars, Notre Dame (6-6, 312) — Bars went undrafted after suffering a torn ACL/MCL in the fall, but he reunites with former position coach Harry Hiestand in Chicago and has NFL size.
TE Ian Bunting, Cal (6-6 5/8, 247) — The Hinsdale native caught the eyes of scouts at Northwestern’s Pro Day where he ran routes and caught passes for Clayton Thorson during the quarterback’s throwing session. Bunting is tall, but never put up big receiving numbers in college. He started his college career at Michigan before transferring to Cal.
OG Tommy Doles, Northwestern (6-4, 292) — Doles will attend the Bears’ rookie minicamp this weekend on a tryout basis. A three-year starter at Northwestern, Doles was a captain and has outstanding character.
10. Final Draft Thoughts
First, a couple thoughts on the Bears, and then some on the rest of the league:
- One reason why it’s never a bad idea to stick to the “best player available” mentality is because it can give you trade pieces. With the additions of Ridley and Hall, the Bears’ wide receiver room looks loaded right now. You would think Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson and Anthony Miller are all locks to make the roster, which means there’s likely an odd-man out between Marvin Hall, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley and Emanuel Hall. Of course, injuries happen and the practice squad could be an option, but maybe a guy like Wims gets Pace an extra late-round draft pick if he performs well in the preseason.
- You know who has flown under the radar this offseason? Mitchell Trubisky. Consider that a good thing, but it will be fun to see how he looks with all of these new weapons when OTAs start next month.
- It’s weird to say, but I loved Washington’s draft. Dwayne Haskins was my No. 1 quarterback and I believe in his talent. Montez Sweat will be good despite the heart concerns. And there wasn’t a mid-round wideout I loved more than Terry McLaurin, who now gets to catch passes from his Ohio State teammate. Now the question is, will Haskins be the starter by Week 3 when the Bears visit Washington on Monday Night Football? My guess is yes. In my opinion, he’s already better than Case Keenum.
- How did Mississippi State only go 8-5 last year? They had three defensive players (Sweat, Jeffery Simmons and Johnathan Abram) drafted in the first round. I mean, I knew their offense wasn’t great, but it must have been horrible.
- I wasn’t surprised to see the Carolina Panthers draft a quarterback, as they selected West Virgnia’s Will Grier in the third round. And I’m not buying that they just drafted him just a backup. I sense Cam Newton’s act is tiring in Charlotte and it’s not a secret that the injuries are piling up. The problem? Grier was a big reach in the third round. He was my No. 8 overall quarterback this year with a sixth round grade. My full quarterback rankings can be found here.
- I’d love to see Vic Fangio succeed in Denver, but I thought the Broncos were showing way too much faith in Joe Flacco by passing on Haskins in the first round. Fortunately they were able to land Drew Lock in the second round, but Lock needs time to develop as his mechanics are inconsistent. I don’t have a lot of faith in the Broncos’ ability to develop a quarterback, but maybe Fangio’s new offensive staff — led by Rich Scangarello — can prove me wrong.
- Random picks I liked: TE T.J. Hockenson (Iowa) to the Lions; C Garrett Bradbury (North Carolina State) to the Vikings; RB Josh Jacobs (Alabama) to the Raiders; WR N’Keal Harry (Arizona State) to the Patriots; OL Cody Ford (Oklahoma) to the Bills; RB Miles Sanders (Penn State) to the Eagles; WR Parris Campbell (Ohio State) to the Colts; EDGE Chase Winovich (Michigan) to the Patriots; WR Miles Boykin (Notre Dame) to the Ravens; DE Anthony Nelson (Iowa) to the Buccaneers; QB Clayton Thorson (Northwestern) to the Eagles.
- Random picks I didn’t like: DL Rashon Gary (Michigan) to the Packers; WR Hunter Renfrow (Clemson) to the Raiders; QB Gardner Minshew II (Washington State) to the Jaguars); QB Trace McSorley (Penn State) to the Ravens.
- Despite pouring rain on Thursday night, the NFL was thrilled with how the draft went in Nashville. According to the league, over 600,000 people showed up on Broadway for the three-day event and 47.5 million watched on television. As one league source told me, “We’ll definitely come back here.”
Consider the NFL Draft notebook unloaded. Now it’s on to rookie minicamp.