Upon diving into the numerous possible candidates who could be taken by the Bears with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, I often find myself asking whether this player will be the best available talent when the team goes on the clock.
Fortunately, we have plenty of time to analyze the prospects and debate which bring the most to the table. And over at NBC Sports Chicago, Bears insiders John Mullin and JJ Stankevitz get us started by breaking down some of the team’s best options, after first examining the potential picks before it’s the Bears’ turn on the clock.
And while it’s still very early in the process, I’m starting to wonder – like Stakevitz – if the Bears wouldn’t be better off trading out of the eighth overall pick (either up or down).
If you recall, Pace has traded up in each of the last two drafts (snagging Mitch Trubisky and Leonard Floyd along the way), but hasn’t moved down in the first round yet. If Pace bucks the trend and trades down in the first, Stankevitz offers up names of guys who could be in play later in the round, including Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward (who we discussed recently), Texas outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, and Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey.
However, we can’t necessarily rule out the possibility of Pace moving up in the draft for a third straight season. Sure, it doesn’t seem as though the Bears have the assets to trade up again, but there’s a non-zero chance that Pace pulls off another shocker. At this point, nothing is ever off the table with a GM who’s rolling the dice with a second-year quarterback under the tutelage of a first-time head coach.
For what it’s worth, Stankevitz sees Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick as players possibly worth trading up for if the opportunity presents itself. But for the purposes of this exercise, the Bears stand pat and Stankevitz uses the eighth pick to select Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Of course, Stankevitz adds that the eighth pick is probably too valuable to use on a receiver in this class.
Meanwhile, Mullin uses the eighth pick to send Quenton Nelson to Chicago … and doesn’t even need to trade up to do it. Also citing the eighth pick is too high to choose a receiver, Mullin picks Nelson because he sees protecting quarterback Mitch Trubisky as a “franchise-grade mandate.” No argument here. No matter who is running routes on the outside, Trubisky won’t be able to get him the ball without ample protection. Mullin also lists Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams as a possibility.
With Nelson being a guard, questions will immediately pop up asking if this is a reach. Guards don’t tend to go high in drafts because protection on the edge with tackles is of higher value and importance than interior blocking. Nelson was a unanimous All-American choice in 2017. If he’s a Day 1 starter and a future All-Pro from the start, his selection won’t be widely panned down the line — even if he doesn’t play a premier position.