The Chicago Bears stood pat on Thursday night, selecting Roquan Smith with the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Smith is dependable and you won’t find many people who take issue with the decision. So now our attention turns to Day Two, and general manager Ryan Pace has options.
At the moment, the Bears own the No. 39 overall pick in the second round. However, that’s the only selection they own Friday, where rounds two and three play out.
Ideally, they’d love to recoup the third-round pick they lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Mitch Trubisky trade during the 2017 NFL Draft. And they’ve got two very clear avenues to do that, along with a third more unconventional route back into round three.
First and probably most simple, they could trade back from No. 39. The Bears would likely have to slide all the way back into the 50s in order to recoup a third-round pick outright.
If there’s a player or two that they like who they’re not entirely certain will be available in the 50s or they can’t find a willing trade partner who will outright send them a third-round pick to move into their draft slot, Pace could even move back a couple times.
That would allow them to survey the draft board and bide their time while adding a couple mid-to-late round picks that can be used for the second route back into round three, which would be to come back up from round four.
The Bears own pick Nos. 105 and 115 in the fourth round, and they could theoretically package either to get back into the game at the end of Day Two. Per the draft trade value chart, which is a commonly used instrument to weigh the cost of moving draft picks, you potentially could package No. 105 with No. 181 (sixth round) or No. 115 with No. 145 (fifth) to get back into the very tail end of the third round.
The price of waiting obviously will cost you an extra pick in the later rounds where presumably you’d like to add depth. However, the benefit of waiting is that you’re virtually assured of getting a starter at No. 39 and then can target a specific player available when you swoop back into the third.
With the Bears in need of another wide receiver, if Courtland Sutton from SMU is gone when they’re on the clock at No. 39, their next best bet might be a player like Deon Cain from Clemson late in round three. Which makes the swoop their best play.
Then there’s the happy, albeit unconventional, medium. You take a player currently on your roster and turn him into a third-round pick.
In reality, there are only a couple handfuls of players on the entire Bears roster at the moment that could command that sort of return in a trade. And Chicago isn’t in a position to give most of those players up as they continue to rebuild this franchise.
However, there’s one player who makes plenty of sense despite the fact that it might not be incredibly popular with Bears fans: Jordan Howard.
Despite two extremely productive years as a starter in Chicago, it’s not exactly a given that Howard is worth a third-round pick outright. Given his numbers, two more years of cheap contract control and the fact that he was a fifth-round pick himself in the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s possible he could fetch a third-round pick with the right trade partner but it’s not a certainty.
But let’s move forward as if he is worth a third-round pick to somebody.
From a traditional standpoint, we get it. It’d be unsettling to trade a 23-year-old running back with 2,435 rushing yards in his first two seasons.
However, what you have to understand is that he’s an extremely one-dimensional player, which doesn’t fit particularly well with what Matt Nagy wants to do offensively. And you can find value at running back just about anywhere.
The Bears are only a year away from having to begin negotiations on a long-term contract extension for Howard as he enters the final year of his contract. And hollow numbers based on the fact that he was the focal point of an offense that lacked talent at the skill positions will mean he wants to be paid like an upper-echelon back.
Even if he belongs in that category (it’d be hard to say with certainty that he does unless he proves to be more well-rounded in this offense), the fact that you found him in the fifth round to begin with tells you a lot about the position as a whole. If you trade Howard now, you stay ahead of the curve at a position that has become more about value than talent.
You turn a profit (fifth-round pick in 2016 turns into a third-rounder in 2018) and then you jump back into a very deep pool of running backs in this draft class and try to land another talented back on the cheap for the next three or four years. It’s a risk, but given their success with Howard and Tarik Cohen, it’s fair to say this front office can evaluate running backs at this point.
Ultimately, however the Bears might get back into the third round, it all comes down to the value being right. It’d certainly be nice to have a second pick on Day Two, where you can presumably grab another starter.
But you don’t want to do it at the cost of losing out on a potentially great player at No. 39 or giving up too many assets later in this draft or future drafts. And if Nagy thinks he can make Howard work within this offense, you probably want to use the final two seasons of his contract to see how much more productivity you can milk from the situation.
What’s nice is, the Bears roster has started to take form this offseason. The organization isn’t in perfect shape by any means, but they’ve seemingly positioned themselves decently to begin turning the page and that affords them plenty of options on Friday.
Now it’s up to Ryan Pace to take advantage.