INDIANAPOLIS – In his first season with the Bears in 2019, Cordarrelle Patterson was named first-team All-Pro as a kick returner and voted to the Pro Bowl as a special-teams player.
The dynamic playmaker wasn't a regular contributor on offense, but Bears general manager Ryan Pace hinted Tuesday at the NFL Combine that Patterson's role as a receiver and running back could expand in 2020.
"That's a guy [coach] Matt [Nagy] and I have talked about, just making sure we're maximizing his talent," Pace said. "Obviously, he's an explosive, talented player. That can be at running back, receiver, returner. We're going to make sure we're getting the most out of that player because he's too talented not to."
Last season Patterson ranked second in the NFL with a 29.5-yard average on 28 kickoff returns, including a 102-yard touchdown against the Saints. He also excelled as a gunner covering punts.
Playing on 18.9 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps, Patterson had 11 receptions for 83 yards and rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries, with a long of 46 yards.
In 2018 with the Patriots, he caught 21 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 228 yards and one TD on 42 carries. Patterson started back-to-back games at running back in place of the injured Sony Michel, rushing for 38 yards on 10 carries in a 25-6 win over the Bills and 61 yards and one TD on 11 attempts in a 31-17 victory over the Packers.
Impactful picks: Pace told reporters that he anticipates the Bears will have eight picks in the April 23-25 draft. Their first two selections will be Nos. 43 and 50 in the second round. The No. 43 choice is one they received from the Raiders in the blockbuster 2018 trade for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
"It's a strong draft," Pace said. "Having two second-round picks is impactful for us."
The Bears also have their own picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds as well as a seventh-rounder from the Mack deal and a sixth-rounder from the Eagles they received in exchange for running back Jordan Howard. In addition, they likely will receive a compensatory pick, possibly as high as the fourth round, based on a net loss of free agents last year.
The Bears included their third-round pick in the Mack trade with the Raiders and dealt their fourth-round choice to the Patriots to move up to select running back David Montgomery in the third round of last year's draft.
No secret: Pace acknowledged that the Bears are hoping to bolster their tight end position this offseason. Last year their top three players at the position—Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker—all landed on injured reserve after combining for just 29 receptions, 217 yards and one touchdown.
"We're looking at it in free agency and the draft," Pace said. "It's deep in different areas. That's an area of focus for us. I don't think that's a secret. This offense, a lot of it goes through the tight end. So we're exploring every avenue."
Joint practices: The Bears are expected to conduct joint practices with the Broncos in Denver this summer—capped by a preseason game at Empower Field at Mile High—just like the two teams did in 2018. The Broncos are coached by former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Before the joint practices become official, the NFL has to schedule a Bears-Broncos game as part of its preseason slate.
"I think that's valuable for us when we do that; just getting that live action with another team is important," Pace said. "We'll see how that plays out. I don't think that's totally buttoned down yet, but we'd relish that if we could get that opportunity."
Since Pace became general manager in 2015, the Bears have hit the road to practice with the Colts, Patriots and Broncos.
"It's a controlled environment against another team," Pace said. "It breaks up the monotony of camp and it allows us to evaluate another roster, too. But I think the biggest thing is just you're able to have physical practices but a little more controlled than a preseason game would be."