The QB draft class stinks — it’s good the Bears don’t need one

Someone should mail a fruit basket to Ryan Pace in Atlanta.

While Pace left new general manager Ryan Poles a teardown-worthy roster, he also gave him a gift. Pace’s decision to trade up to draft Ohio State’s Justin Fields last year cost the Bears their first-round picks last year and on Thursday, but it yielded something to dream on at quarterback. Fields still needs developing, but he gives the Bears hope.

Waiting until this year to draft a passer would have been a disaster. There will likely be two or three quarterbacks drafted in the first round Thursday, but none — not Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Liberty’s Malik Willis or Ole Miss’ Matt Corral –are as good as any of the five that went in Round 1 last year.

This year’s class, which also features North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, has the worst high end in a decade, if not a generation. Which is strange, given that the2020 coronavirus college season– which didn’t cost players eligibility– rendered the draft deep at other positions.

“I can’t explain that at all,” Poles said. “I think you get in different cycles and different years, certain strengths and weaknesses.”

Last year, Pro Football Focus had five quarterbacks ranked in its pre-draft top 14–Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (1), BYU’s Zach Wilson (2), Fields (3), North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (10) and Alabama’s Mac Jones (14)–and three more in their top 84.

This year, Willis is the site’s top-rated quarterback, at No. 30 overall. Three others are in the top 106.

Had the Bears not traded for Fields, they would have picked seventh Thursday. Taking a quarterback there is a reach by every metric.

That might not stop desperate teams from trying, of course. The Panthers, picking sixth, need an upgrade over Sam Darnold, while the Falcons (8) and Seahawks (9) dealt their quarterbacks this offseason. The Saints (16) might want a development project. The Steelers (20) could eye local guy Pickett to challenge Mitch Trubisky. The Lions pick second and 32nd, and could use the latter pick on a passer.

The top of the draft will be dominated by linemen. Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson could go No. 1 to the Jaguars, though Georgia defensive end Travon Walker, whose NFL Scouting Combine was better than his college tape, may sneak into the top spot. Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is as talented as either player, but inconsistent, and could go in the top five.

Alabama’s Evan Neal and N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu top a deep offensive tackle class, and Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton lead all defensive backs.

Six receivers could be drafted in Round 1: Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, USC’s Drake London, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson.

The Bears will look at receivers when they pick twice in Round 2 and once in Round 3 on Friday. They won’t, however, look for a quarterback. For that, they should be thankful.

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