Ryan Pace had an active Day Two of the 2018 NFL Draft. After wisely picking Iowa center James Daniels with No. 39 overall pick, the Chicago Bears traded back into the second round to draft Memphis receiver Anthony Miller on Friday.
The trade up to the No. 51 slot was pricey, costing Pace this year’s No. 105 overall pick (fourth round) and a 2019 second-round pick. But that’s the price of doing business when you don’t have a third-round selection.
Trading back into round two was a stunner. Many fans and writers, including our own Ryan Wooden, thought Day Two would include a trade to recoup a third-round pick lost in last year’s trade for Mitchell Trubisky. Yet, Pace showed his patent aggressiveness to move back into the second round to land a player he covets.
He reportedly was trying to trade back into round one on Thursday to draft Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley. So his pursuit of Miller shouldn’t have been too surprising.
Miller stands at just 5-foot-11, but he’s been a productive playmaker during his college career. Miller has the speed and elusiveness to make plays downfield, but he also is dangerous on screens and slants. These will definitely be valuable traits in Matt Nagy’s hybrid west coast offense.
When you watch his highlights, the first comparison that comes to mind is former Pro-Bowl receiver Steve Smith. Like Smith, Miller is shorter in stature but has a thicker frame (200 pounds), and he’s a feisty competitor who will fight for the football against larger defensive backs.
His talent willed him to highly productive junior and senior years, catching at least 90 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in each season. That certainly caught the eye of most general managers across the league.
What’s very encouraging is that Steve-Smith-like competitiveness. Miller penned an open letter to GMs on the Player’s Tribune on April 24, explaining why the chip on his shoulder will make him a great receiver for years to come.
The start of his college career is evidence to that. After receiving no offers coming out of high school, Miller was a walk-on who sat his freshman season. He worked tirelessly to receive a scholarship as a redshirt sophomore in 2015.
He exploded on the scene that year as a secret weapon, catching 47 balls for 694 yards and five touchdowns. His performance against rival Ole Miss was a coming out party. Miller hauled in 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in a 37-24 upset win over the then No. 13-ranked Rebels.
His skill set and desire to succeed are intoxicating, and it’s probably why Pace was willing to roll the dice. Adding a fast, feisty receiver who can play in the slot or split out wide is worth the gamble of losing a pick this year and in 2019.
However, the bust potential could be very costly for the Bears. Miller was red-flagged for his foot injury, which caused him to miss the Senior Bowl. Foot injuries can nag players not only throughout a season but also throughout their career. That especially is the case for receivers who rely on quick cuts and movements to get open. Pace already hitched his wagon to the oft-injured Kevin White and hasn’t seen any dividends since selecting him No. 7 overall in 2015.
Miller also has a tendency to drop easy passes thrown his way, especially on shorter routes. Bears fans were subjected to plenty of on-target throws from Trubisky being dropped in open space. Is that something you want to see from a pricey second-round pick?
Still, the upside might have been too risky to pass on. Aside from the Cameron Meredith situation, you could argue that Pace has struck gold all offseason. From the free agent signings to the drafting of Daniels and linebacker Roquan Smith, he’s been making all the right moves to help bolster his young roster.
Trading up to draft Miller certainly helps improve the receiving core that includes newcomers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Matt Nagy is going to have plenty of options for creativity, and the offensive weapons certainly appear to be greater than they were in 2017.
For Pace, if Miller has a solid rookie season, the Meredith situation won’t even be a conversation. And if Miller’s career is highly productive, the risk of trading up certainly will have been worth the reward.