CHICAGO — There's always a buzz on NFL draft night, and it's kind of silly, really. No footballs are thrown. No tackles are made. No touchdowns are scored. It's just the commissioner reading 32 names over the course of five hours.
But there's something in how hope spawns from the unknown that makes draft night so scintillating for so many people. It's all about potential, projection and possibilities. What a magnificent oasis in the middle of the offseason.
Most years, that buzz thickens the air at Halas Hall. There's genuine excitement for the Bears to add a talented prospect and, they hope, the next star to the franchise's long, historic list.
It wasn't like that Thursday night, though.
While the NFL kicked off a mega-party among the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway in Nashville, Tenn. -- part draft, part concert, all glitz and glamour -- Bears headquarters was quiet and, by comparison, downright dull.
It wasn't a bad thing. It was just different.
The Bears traded their first-round pick, which ended up being No. 24, to the Raiders on Sept. 1 as part of the package for Khalil Mack. So for the first time since 2010, they stood idle as the top 32 players were selected.
General manager Ryan Pace promised that highlights of Mack would light up the Bears' new digital draft board when it was time for the 24th pick. Sure enough, while the Raiders selected Alabama running back Josh Jacobs in that spot, the Bears tweeted a 34-second montage of Mack's biggest plays as a Bear, along with this tagline: "No regrets."
While the rest of the league got their juice Thursday from how they expect their draft picks to perform, there's something to be said for the Bears knowing their pick helped them acquire an All-Pro edge rusher.
That glow, however, lasts only so long. Today, the Bears are expected to arrive late to this party, starting with the 87th pick (third round). They have five picks total, only three of which are before No. 221.
"The pressure feels the same to me," Pace said Tuesday. "I feel like with fewer picks and with later picks, the onus is on us as scouts to hit on these picks. ... I feel like we have this momentum. And to keep this momentum going, we need to nail this draft."
It will be years before it's clear whether the Bears made the most of this limited draft class. Especially with Day 3 selections (Rounds 4-7), success depends on developing players and exploiting how their skill sets fit within the team.
At least the Bears don't have glaring needs coming off a 12-4 season and their first NFC North championship since 2010. But some position groups are weaker than others, and upgrades could significantly improve the team.
On offense, running back and tight end stand out. Defensively, they would benefit from stabilizing and adding depth to the secondary.
"Everything they need right now ... does fall in line with good depth at those various spots," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said in late March. "They should end up in pretty good shape."
Not that Pace will pick based on need.
"There are no pressing, huge needs," he said Tuesday. "We can honestly select the best players. And that's a great spot to be in."
Pace said that in response to a question about needing a running back, going so far as to dismiss that outside "narrative."
Nevertheless, that narrative will live until the draft ends without them selecting one.
The Bears traded Jordan Howard and his 270 touches (250 carries) and nine touchdowns to the Eagles in late March. That was after they signed free agent Mike Davis, who had a career-high 146 touches (112 carries) for the Seahawks last season.
Can Davis replace all, or at least most, of Howard's production?
"He's built to handle a lot of carries," Pace said Tuesday. "He's built kind of short, compact, thick, rugged build. That's going to have to play out. We're excited to just let it play out. We've got a good variety of running backs back there to use."
That's another great thing about draft weekend. Actions supersede words.
On Friday, the Bears will finally join the fray. The buzz won't be as amped as it would have been in Round 1, but at least they'll make the next move toward where they're headed.