Not only did the Bears spend their first pick in the NFL draft at their area of greatest need — running back — Ryan Pace traded up in the first two days for the fourth consecutive year, landing Iowa State's David Montgomery with the 73rd overall pick.
The Bears sent the 87th and 162nd selections in this year's draft, as well as a 2020 fourth-rounder, to the New England Patriots to move up 14 spots — and two ahead of the rival Green Bay Packers, we should probably add — for the two-time All-American.
Chicago gets also pick No. 205, which is a sixth rounder, in the deal.
At 5-10 and 222 pounds, Montgomery helps replace the size of Jordan Howard, who was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles, and brings the type of proven three-down skill set that neither Howard nor incumbents Tarik Cohen and free-agent addition Mike Davis have shown to date.
Montgomery, a co-captain in Ames and 1,000-plus rushing yard back in each of his past two seasons, fits the "hybrid" back mold that Matt Nagy covets for an offense that finished only 27th in the NFL in yards per carry last season.
It's the second consecutive year that the Bears have pulled off a trade with the Patriots, who had Chicago's second-rounder earlier Friday as the return in Ryan Pace's move back into Round 2 for WR Anthony Miller. One key difference is that the Bears have an extra second-round pick in next year's draft as part of the Khalil Mack deal and also figure to receive a compensatory pick for the first time in a decade, the result of Adrian Amos' signing with Green Bay.
What should Bears fans expect from Montgomery, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native who was a second-team All Big-12 Academic pick last season? PFW Draft expert Greg Gabriel describes the "tough and very competitive" Montgomery as "probably the safest running back in the first two days of this draft," because he was such a consistent performer during his three seasons with the Cyclones.
Montgomery has similar size to former Matt Nagy pupil Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in 2017 prior to being dismissed from the Kansas City Chiefs last season amid assault allegations. The Bears actually discussed the possibility of signing Hunt before he was quickly scooped up by the Cleveland Browns, whose general manager, John Dorsey, drafted Hunt with the 86th overall pick.
The Bears' interest in running backs in this draft was hardly a secret, with them spending a lot of their top-30 visits at the position, including with Montgomery. Despite signing Davis on the opening day of free agency to a two-year deal including $3 million guaranteed, the Bears' long-rumored decision to trade Howard to Philadelpha in exchange for a conditional 2020 sixth-round pick all but ensured they'd add another runner to the backfield.
In Montgomery, they found a guy who lacks great speed but not balance, between-the-tackles strength and determination and receiving ability. The Bears have maintained that they plan to use a committee backfield this season, but don't be surprised if Montgomery ultimately leads the team in rushing as a rookie.
Although it's unclear whether the rival Packers, who were rumored to have interest in Montgomery, were preparing to take him with the 75th overall pick that was eventually spent on Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger, another growing rivalry — with the Eagles — added another layer Friday night. Philadelphia spent the 54th overall pick on Penn State's Miles Sanders, whom the Bears showed as much interest in as any back during the pre-draft process, after acquiring Howard in March.
In the end, the Bears, who began the draft with a league-low five picks, deemed Montgomery was worth boldly trading up for, which has become a hallmark of Pace's tenure. However, this is the first trade anyone would argue could qualify as a missing piece for a defending division champion that fully expects to compete for a Super Bowl.