The Bears have already received tremendous production from their 2019 first-round draft pick, and a year from now they almost certainly will be saying the same thing about their 2020 first-round pick.
Khalil Mack paid dividends well before the bill came due on their Sept. 1 trade with the Raiders. He had an interception return for a touchdown, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the opener at Lambeau Field. It was a fast start to what turned out to be an All-Pro season, quickly affirming general manager Ryan Pace's blockbuster move.
The Bears feel similarly about this year's second-round pick, which they used to trade back into Round 2 last year to select wide receiver Anthony Miller. Despite playing most of the season with a shoulder injury, Miller led the Bears with seven touchdown receptions, and his bright future makes that trade look good as well.
Both deals leave the Bears with a limited inventory of picks for the April 25-27 draft in Nashville, Tenn.:
-- Round 3, 87th overall
-- Round 4, 126th overall
-- Round 5, 162nd overall
-- Round 7, 222nd overall (from Broncos through Eagles)
-- Round 7, 238th overall
Pace has been aggressive in the draft, trading up when the Bears have identified a player they don't want to risk missing. He also has traded down on occasion. It stands to reason the Bears are less inclined to trade up this year as they own only two second-round picks, including one from the Raiders, in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft. A trade up this year into Round 2 could cost them one of those picks.
Whether Pace trades up, stays put or moves back with the 87th pick, the Bears have a few areas in need of depth after a productive but less active free-agency period. They had one of the healthiest rosters in the league in 2018, and there's no guarantee that trend will continue. The roster's depth could be tested in ways it wasn't a year ago.
Here are five positions to consider:
1. Running back
Barring something unexpected, the Bears will draft a running back to team with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen. If they get a back they really like, he could quickly compete for significant playing time. The trade of Jordan Howard cleared the path for an addition, but some around the league believe the Bears are committed to making Davis their top back. That wouldn't be a surprise given the investment of $3 million per season for the next two years.
2. Tight end
The Bears were pleased with Trey Burton's performance last season and believe he can produce more than his 54 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns. Pace and coach Matt Nagy have expressed confidence this spring in former second-round pick Adam Shaheen, and Ben Braunecker could be in line for more time on offense after Dion Sims exited. But a draft pick makes sense if there's a player who fits the skill set Nagy is seeking. As confident as the team is in Shaheen, the Bears haven't seen him remain durable. If they don't come out of the draft with a tight end, look for them to sign one before training camp.
The Bears feel really good about Buster Skrine replacing Bryce Callahan as the nickel cornerback, and veteran Sherrick McManis provides depth for the slot. There isn't as much depth on the outside behind Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. Undrafted free agent Kevin Toliver impressed at times last year but struggled to tackle when he was forced into action against the Dolphins. It's a big offseason for Toliver, and adding competition and depth makes sense at a position that also can produce help for special teams.
Stocking up on offensive linemen is always a good idea, and while Kyle Long is back at right guard for 2019, the future beyond that is uncertain. Rashaad Coward impressed after switching from defensive line to offensive tackle, and he will be trained at guard as well. But until the pads go on during camp in July, the Bears won't really know what they have in Coward. History shows very good guards can be developed from mid-round picks. Pace has done well with linemen since missing on center Hroniss Grasu in the third round in 2015, and he certainly understands the value in regularly adding young talent to the trenches.
This is the one position that's completely unresolved, and if the Bears identify a kicker they truly believe can solve their woes, drafting him would make sense. But special teams coordinators polled after the kicker workout at the scouting combine were not impressed with what they saw, and the Bears have talked about the circuitous path some of the league's best have taken to finding a job. Even if the Bears don't draft a kicker, they could sign an undrafted free agent. It's logical that Chris Blewitt and Redford Jones, the two kickers under contract, will participate in the rookie minicamp two weeks after the draft.
If the Bears maintain a "best player available" mode, with draft grades dictating what they do when they're on the clock, then they could go any number of directions. But when teams talk about remaining true to their draft grades, that's more of an ideal than a reality.
Pace has some holes to fill, but the depth chart on both sides of the ball is solid. The Bears don't have pressing questions about who will start, and that makes it easier to enter a draft with only five picks and none in the first two rounds.