Ryan Pace outlines Bears’ draft strategy

Bears GM Ryan Pace discusses his plan of attack heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, which begins tomorrow, including his willingness to trade up or down, the value he puts into character and more.

The Chicago Bears will select seventh overall when the 2015 NFL Draft kicks off tomorrow.

Or will they?

GM Ryan Pace said today he’s been in contact with every team selecting before him, and most selecting behind him, about a potential first-round trade.

“We’ve talked to teams behind us and all the teams ahead of us,” Pace said today during his pre-draft press conference. “There’s a chance we could move up. There’s a chance we could move up or back, so all those options are out there. We’ve talked to teams in front of us. We’ve talked to teams behind us. Doing our due diligence is necessary because you just don’t know. We have those seven guys stacked and ranked. If our No. 1 guy was falling there’s a chance we would go up.”

“If the right opportunity is there for us to go back a little bit. We kind of have established clouds at different points in the draft to know that if we go back to this point, this is the group of players we’re talking about. If we go back to this point, this is the group of players we’re talking about. So all those scenarios and discussions have been going on at this point.”

Obviously the Bears are leaving all options on the table, yet Pace did admit that nothing much has come from those discussions.

“Really right now at this point there’s nothing concrete. There’s just feelers both ways,” he said.

The Bears have narrowed their entire draft board down to 170 players, yet the front office has targeteed seven players they feel are worthy of the seventh overall pick.

“If we stay at seven, there are seven players we’ve identified that we feel really, really good about,” said Pace. “I know there’s going to be a player that we can select that’s going to be there that we feel really good about, that we’re excited about.”

If those seven players are pushed back and multiple are available when it’s Chicago's turn to pick in the first round, Pace said that could influence his decision to trade back.

“It could. The value for the trade back has got to be there. Some guys throw out some crazy scenarios where you say that makes no sense. But if we have an opportunity to go back and we feel we can still get an impact player – and hey, everybody’s trying to acquire more picks. We have a lot of needs and only six picks, so if we have an opportunity to acquire more picks and still feel like we can feel good about the player we can select, we’ll definitely consider that.”

In order to aid in that process, the Bears use a draft-day trade-value chart.

“I’ve got a point chart,” said Pace. “It actually has four different point charts on there. Different teams use different charts so I kind of have a feel for what each team’s working off of.”

Yet if the Bears stay at seven, Pace believes they can land a foundation player.

“When you’re picking in the Top 10, you’re hoping, you’re confident that you’re going to get an impact player that’s going to get this franchise rolling,” he said. “When I think about it, you look back at any successful Super Bowl team, and there’s a draft that took place that kind of set the foundation for that team. I don’t want to talk about New Orleans too much but I think the 2006 draft propelled [the Saints] to the 2009 Super Bowl. So that’s your goal going into this, is that this draft here sets us up for a lot of success to come.”

Many analysts have projected the Bears to select a wide receiver – either Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White – in the first round to replace Brandon Marshall and complement Alshon Jeffery.

“Alshon is a great player but that’s a position where I feel like you can always add to. More weapons is better,” Pace said. “Impact players on offense or defense, they’re available at different points in the draft. This is a deep receiver class though. But, hey, to pair guys up with Alshon, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Outside linebacker is a big need on defense, which is a good thing, as Pace believes there’s a lot of talent at that position in this year’s class.

“It’s good. It’s really good. Some of these guys are a little undersized, so you’re projecting they can add a little bit of weight, but it’s a good draft of edge rushers,” he said. “Length is important. Now some guys are able to get away with it, like the [Dwight] Freeneys of the world or the Robert Mathises, because they’ve got such great get-off and edge quickness and ability to bend. But for the most part, length is important. I think we talked about that with Pernell McPhee. I think his length really helps him as a pass rusher.”

In terms of specific players, the Bears put a lot of stock into character concerns. As recently as this week a top prospect was arrested for drug possession and another is under investigation for murder, which is an issue for Pace and the organization.

“It’s very important,” he said. “When you look at character, there’s a couple things. There’s football character. How is he as a teammate? Is he passionate about the game? Does he really love this? Because that’s what’s hard to figure out – what’s in their hearts? Do they really love football?

“And then you also have the off-the-field stuff, because he’s representing your organization, the McCaskeys, the City of Chicago, so those weigh on your shoulders heavily. And that’s really analyzed thoroughly. That’s why I’m really proud of the character that’s been dug up by our scouts because I feel like we’ve got a lot of really good information on these guys.

“There are guys we’ve taken off our board because of character issues or medical issues. And then there are guys who are flagged. OK, we’re aware of this issue, there’s some concern here, so it’s going to drop him, but at some point in the draft you might consider making that selection.”

Overall, Pace said he’s not too worried about his first draft as an NFL general manager, as the hard work is already out of the way.

“The discussions have gone on so much over the last month. All those hard discussions have taken place,” he said. “We’ll have all of our area scouts in the draft room with us. They’ve known guys for three, four years some of them, so those scouts will be in there to help with trade scenarios with other NFL teams, and also team needs where we think players we’ll take. Cliff Stein is in there to help with trades, John Fox, Josh Lucas, they’ll all be in there. But as far as a lot of discussions, they’ve all been pretty much handled by now.”



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

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