With little time elapsed between the Bears' spending spree in free agency and the annual owners meeting last month, general manager Ryan Pace was fresh off making some major acquisitions.
As he talked about the work that went into the significant additions to the roster, Pace made it clear his focus was on what was ahead.
"We have to nail the draft," he said.
Sure, he was stating the obvious as the man who controls personnel decisions for an organization that has been mired too deep in free agency for a decade. The Bears were as aggressive as they ever have been in the March shopping season, paying a premium to sign wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton, among others.
Maybe Pace was pointing the arrow forward as a reminder that for the Bears finally to emerge from their extended rebuilding phase, they need an influx of young talent on rookie contracts, a year after focusing on acquiring quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the quarterback on whom they have pinned their hopes.
Building blocks are in place, and you can't forget the Bears also invested in their own this offseason by re-signing cornerback Kyle Fuller — the final first-round pick of the Phil Emery era — and likely will explore a commitment with nose tackle Eddie Goldman this summer. But the Bears have been stuck in the NFC North basement because of a talent deficiency, and they need more help.
They own the eighth pick in the first round Thursday night, the fourth straight year they have had a top-10 pick (Pace traded from No. 11 to No. 9 in 2016 to draft Leonard Floyd). That's an ignominious distinction the Bears haven't had since they picked in the top 10 from 1973 to '76.
When Pace talks about nailing the draft, he recognizes that means more than finding a Day 1 starter in Round 1. The Bears also own the 39th pick in Round 2 (the seventh pick of the round), and that's a prime spot to find a really good player.
The question is, will Pace hold on to the pick or perhaps use it to trade down? The Bears traded down in Round 2 the last two years. Two years ago, they wound up with offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, a solid move. Last year they got tight end Adam Shaheen, and the Division II player has much to prove.
A general manager and a national scout for other teams predicted a cluster of running backs will be picked at the top of Round 2. Whether that would create trade value for the Bears at No. 39 remains to be seen. If the Bears see a running back they love, they could grab one here. Backs potentially in play in the top half of Round 2 include Georgia's Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, USC's Ronald Jones, Auburn's Kerryon Johnson and possibly LSU's Derrius Guice.
But if the Bears are adamant about Jordan Howard being the featured back this season — as coach Matt Nagy has said — then let's look elsewhere. An edge defender is the team's greatest need entering the draft, and while there probably isn't one who would be a fit at No. 8, the Bears would be fortunate to consider Ohio State's Sam Hubbard in Round 2.
"He would be a steal at that point," the national scout said. "He's the perfect player to line up opposite Floyd. Kind of a lesser Ryan Kerrigan (of the Redskins). He's a really good player and would be the perfect fit for that defense and that city."
If the Bears don't select Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson in Round 1 — and that's far from a sure thing — might they look to add Josh Sitton's replacement in Round 2? UTEP's Will Hernandez, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow and possibly Georgia's Isaiah Wynn could be available. If the Bears came away with an inside linebacker at No. 8 and a left guard at No. 39, that would be a nice start.
The need for a wide receiver remains. Robinson and Gabriel are a fine start, but if you're building around Trubisky, adding a talented young receiver is never a bad idea, and Nagy more or less admitted the team needs to after Cameron Meredith departed in restricted free agency. There could be plenty of options as the national scout predicted only two receivers — Alabama's Calvin Ridley and Maryland's D.J. Moore — will go in Round 1.
"Your vision can change when you have need," the scout said. "Rose-colored glasses can all of a sudden turn dark pink when you have a pressing need."
At least two players might fall out of Round 1 because of off-field issues. Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes transferred from North Carolina two years ago after being accused of sexual assault. The charges later were dropped after he did community service. LSU pass rusher Arden Key had 12 sacks as a sophomore in 2016 but was a mess last season, when his weight ballooned to 270 pounds — at least 30 more than he played at the year before. Key dealt with a shoulder injury during the season and spent time in substance-abuse rehabilitation last spring, so there's an awful lot of baggage to consider.
The Bears have had plenty of success in Round 2 over the years. A pair of former second-round picks, running back Matt Forte and returner Devin Hester, officially retired as Bears on Monday at Halas Hall. Cornerback Charles Tillman, another second-round find, attended the ceremony.
Pace needs to nail his second-round pick with a player of similar impact to feel really good about this draft.