Pace plans to build Bears through draft

New Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace believes sustained success in the NFL comes by building teams through the NFL Draft.

In his first draft as general manager of the Chicago Bears, Phil Emery used three of his first four picks on Shea McClellin, Brandon Hardin and Evan Rodriguez.

McClellin has been a bust, to the point the coaching staff shifted him from defensive end to linebacker, an unprecedented move for a first-round pick in his third NFL season. Rodriguez and Hardin lasted less than two years.

Emery’s failure to lay a solid foundation with his first draft picks played a large role in his departure last week.

For new GM Ryan Pace, former pro personnel director for the New Orleans Saints, strong drafts will be a priority.

“I understand for the Bears to have sustained success, we must build through the draft,” Pace said today during his introductory press conference. “The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again.”

Pace says there are four main criteria by which draft picks will be graded going forward.

“We are not just collecting athletes, we are acquiring football players that fit the Chicago Bears,” said Pace. “There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.”

It’s an interesting strategy from Pace, who has spent the vast majority of his career in the NFL on the pro personnel side.

“In New Orleans we were blended together, so the whole time I was doing college things,” Pace said. “Being in the building is an advantage. Coming up as a pro scout is an advantage. You understand the dynamics of the building. You witness the head coach/general manager relationship. You witness decisions happening every day. I value that I came up on the pro side. You know what it takes at certain positions to succeed in the league. I’m glad I came in on the pro side.”

Pace said his overriding philosophy is taking the best player available.

“In New Orleans the pro and college departments are blended together,” he said. “So whether you’re working on one side or the other, you’re really doing both and I actually think that’s important. So I was involved with the draft throughout my entire career.

“My style in regards to the draft, this is what I believe in: I believe that have sustained success you must build your team through the draft and you must strongly believe in player development. That’s very important. We’re going to explore every avenue to get the best players here. So that can change year-to-year. In a perfect world, you’re acquiring players in free agency that allow you to draft the best player available in the draft.”

Pace said one of his biggest challenges is weighing positional needs against pure talent.

“When I talk about taking best player available, you have to be careful in the draft,” he said. “In the draft, it can be human nature to want to push up a position that you need. And that doesn’t happen on draft day. That happens in the process leading into the draft, right? So we’re talking about defensive linemen, we really need a D-lineman. I know we don’t have great grades on this player, but we’re pushing him up because we need it. So we drafted a defensive tackle in 2003 that didn’t end up being a good player for us and I think that was partly because we pushed him up because of need. We should’ve just taken best player available.”

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.

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