For only the fifth time in their 100-year history— and the first since 2010 — the Bears didn't make draft picks in Rounds 1-2. That didn't prevent them from adding three exciting new weapons for third-year QB Mitch Trubisky and a pair of intriguing late-round developmental defensive backs.
After kicking off the draft by moving up 14 spots in a trade with the New England Patriots to select Iowa State RB David Montgomery at No. 73 overall, coach Matt Nagy beamed about his new feature runner.
"He's the whole package. He has the hands. He's a three-down back. He's everything that we're looking for," Nagy said, adding that he's "about as real a person as there is, very authentic, very passionate."
Even prior to their decision last month to trade Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles, no position beside kicker had generated the same level of consternation among fans as running back. As a play caller, Nagy said that now having three guys who can do it all will make divvying touches difficult, but that's a welcome problem and makes it easier to create mismatches.
The Bears adding Georgia WR Riley Ridley in Round 4 (No. 126 overall) was "a great example of us taking the best player on our board," GM Ryan Pace explained of Ridley, the little brother of Atlanta Falcons 2018 first-round All-Rookie WR Calvin Ridley. Riley, whose route running, hands and ability to consistently win at the catch point were all singled out by Pace, confidently told his future boss on his top-30 visit: "I'm not a 50-50 guy. I win all of them."
If Ridley's Round 4 availability or the Bears previously trading up wasn't the first big draft surprise, it might have come later Saturday with the selection of two cornerbacks — Kansas State's four-year starter Duke Shelley with the 205th overall selection and Valdosta State's Stephen Denmark at No. 238 — flanking the addition of yet another running back, Florida Atlantic's Kerrith Whyte.
The double dipping at both positions created a fascinating juxtaposition: The "scrappy" and "competitive" but also undersized Shelley and the 6-foot-3, 200-pound converted wideout with "ridiculous measurables" in Denmark and the big back with instincts and elusiveness in Montgomery and Whyte, who has 4.38 "standout speed."
"It kind of worked out that way, so a little bit is (coincidence)," Pace said. "But we talk about it. Especially when we get in the later rounds, and we’re talking about Whyte or [Denmark,] I think you’re talking about the traits they possess, ability to help on special teams was big in our discussion. And so those were the things that we valued."
Perhaps above everything, Pace likely values the position he finds himself in now in Year 5 as the Bears decision maker, when enjoying the fruits of his labor — including a 12-4 division champion team and roster with minimal holes — means not feeling pressure to reach on picks at need positions.
"I think we went into this draft with that in mind," he said. "The roster is at a point where we don't have to force anything."
And if that means opening with a running back but circling back with a value pick like Ridley at an already-deep position, it sure is fortuitous that the picks are likely to aid the ascension of the most important player on the roster.
"The more weapons that we can supply to the quarterback and to our coaches, the better," Pace said. "And then just our confidence with the offensive coaching staff, how creative they are and how they can maximize all these guys."
As for the kicker, the Bears didn't draft Cody Parkey's potential replacement but are expected to sign UDFA John Barron II as the fourth member of the most talked about PK battle in the league and probably franchise history. Pace was asked directly about whether Chicago would consider trading for Robbie Gould, the franchise scoring leader and disgruntled 49er requesting a trade closer to home.
"Right now, really the last couple of days it’s been narrowed in on the draft, so we wouldn’t rule out … as far as bringing in a veteran kicker , we just want to create the best competition. However that unfolds it unfolds."
It was then that Nagy interjected by asking a member of the media whether he wanted to join the competition, but he followed the joke to close Saturday's news conference with some refreshing perspective.
"The one thing I just want to say real quick — I’m going to be up front and honest, too, with the whole kicking thing — the elephant in the room," Nagy said. "We already talked to our team about it. It’s good.
"... So this [water bottle] is half full, not half empty. So that’s where we’re at right now. So all this kicking stuff and the field goals and everything like that, we’re open. So we can use the, ‘hey, the Cody Parkey miss.’ It’s OK. It doesn’t hurt me. It’s fine. It’s good. So you guys can say it. We’re good with it. So use it. Talk about it. It’s a healthy thing. So we feel good about it and we’re gonna get this thing right."
Like the results of their new draft class, only time will tell whether Chicago's kicking riddle is truly solved. But Pace and Nagy clearly wouldn't let it detract from what they believe was a very successful weekend.