Ryan Pace has taken advantage of the late rounds, and UDFAs to find starting snaps. Could he do it again in 2020?
A lot of fans can be critical of Ryan Pace and his inability and land the big punch. After misses on Kevin White, Mitch Trubisky, and Leonard Floyd, it clear that Pace has some issues. However, on the contrary, one area that Pace has been able to excel has been in the late rounds and with UDFAs.
There can be prime examples throughout the team such as Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen, who immediately showed that they can impact an NFL roster. Even Bilal Nichols was showing his worth as a day three find during his rookie season.
However, another area where Ryan Pace has excelled in recent years has been his development of players.
Some of these players are not going to hit right away. Pace has done a good job of noting which later picks are ready on day one like Jackson, and which may need years of nurturing to get on an NFL field.
In 2015, the Chicago Bears added Bryce Callahan and Cameron Meredith as UDFAs. They drafted Adrian Amos in the fifth round. Entering the 2017 season, the Bears were leaning on Meredith and Callahan as starters on the defense, and during that season Amos showed up in a room full of questions and took a starting job next to Eddie Jackson. Amos and Callahan earned starter snaps in year three, had their best seasons in year four, and got paid elsewhere in year five.
In 2016, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Deon Bush were day three picks while Roy Robertson-Harris was a UDFA. Kwiatkoski and Bush both started in the 2018 season, Kwiatkoski to start the year, and Bush to finish the season. Although these were a bit unanticipated, the Bears did have to rely on this type of depth. Robertson-Harris was also the breakout season for RRH where the team knew that they could rely on him to be a key member of their defense. Similarly to Amos, and Callahan Nick Kwiatkoski saw big money elsewhere after four years in Chicago.
In 2017, Rashaad Coward was a UDFA, and we know that over time he went from defensive line to offensive line. In 2019, he went from a player who has only played at right tackle to a starting right guard in the NFL. The fact is that whether it is anticipated or not, the Bears have consistently had to rely on these depth players that they have developed over time.
2018 could very easily have the same theme with third-year players coming along during the 2020 season.
Joel Iyiegbuniwe is the only backup to Danny Trevathan, who has missed games in three of the last four seasons. Iggy has struggled to get on the defensive field, but that seems almost likely at this point.
Lastly, we see Kevin Toliver. Sure, second-rounder Jaylon Johnson could be ahead of him, but like Nick Kwiatkoski holding it down for Roquan Smith, the Bears need to know they can trust Toliver if a weird offseason affects the starting capabilities of Johnson.
Ryan Pace has gone into seasons relying on proven late-round players to take big steps forward before. With Iggy, Nall, and Toliver he seems to have the same confidence he did in these players of past years.