Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace held court with the assembled media more than 30 hours before the NFL Draft takes place in Philadelphia.
- Pace expressed his excitement for the draft throughout the brief meeting with the press, adding that he wishes the draft was tonight. Alas, it isn’t. Pace described draft weekend as a “huge opportunity to get better” because improving through the draft has been the blueprint Pace himself refers to at every turn.
- With that said, Pace made it clear that the organization has narrowed its first-round choices with one of his more specific statements when he said: “We have three names that we like.” And yet, that might have been just the tip of the iceberg, as Pace seems to feel comfortable with the idea of finding talent later in the draft when he added the team had “clouds” in the middle and end of the first round, referring to a group of players targeted for later selection if the team moved out of the third spot, or dealt their way back into the first round.
- As for the possibility for a trade, Pace says the Bears are making and fielding calls – but that’s just normal this time of year. Pace did say that some things are amplified more than others, but that he also couldn’t afford to be driven crazy chasing his tail on the rumor mill. (Besides, that’s our gig.)
- So what’s the plan for the Bears whenever the team goes on the clock? Pace was clear with his convictions, again. Best. Player. Available. “I think you get into trouble when you don’t stick with our philosophy on best player available,” Pace said. “If we just stay with guys we have a consensus on and best player available, we’ll be in good shape.” Now whether Pace truly means “best player available” or “best player available at a position of need” remains to be seen.
- He also did make note that he has felt that this draft has been strong on the defensive side of the ball since September. To that end, Pace also shined some light on the value of the Senior Bowl to his team’s scouting efforts saying he gained “intimate knowledge” of the players involved and that the draft will show how their Senior Bowl experience paid off.
- Pace largely danced around the elephant in the room when drafting a quarterback was discussed. The Bears’ GM said he has a core of traits he believes in when looking for a quarterback, but didn’t expand on what those traits were as he ended his press conference. However, Pace did discuss the value of intangibles in a given prospect, but didn’t limit it to quarterback. “Intangibles are big at every position, not just quarterback. You can get enamored with physical qualities or traits, but there’s enough good players that we don’t have to change our standards.”
- Not to say Pace tipped his hand in any way, but saying “there’s enough good players that we don’t have to change our standards” reinforces the belief that this draft is stocked with talent across the board – even if quarterback isn’t one of the positions that’s loaded.
- One area Pace did offer some specifics was on how the team would approach the possibility of drafting a player with an injury history. Pace offered up an oddly specific and thorough anecdote on how the team codes a player’s card during the evaluation process. Pink cards are players they will take despite having being flagged with a medical issue, while red cards indicate a player with a medical issue that will keep them from being drafted. Pace added this also holds true for players with off-the-field and character issues, noting that every year the team takes players off the board for medical and character red flags, as well as scheme fits.
- To that end, Pace made sure to reference one of his core beliefs that one of the best traits a football player can have is availability. Pace went on to say that a player’s availability on a week to week basis (or lack of it) at the college level is something taken into consideration if they believe it’s something that will linger at the NFL.
- And just because the Bears have a top five pick doesn’t mean Pace and the Bears are feeling the pressure. The Bears GM did say that picking this high comes with added responsibility, but added that every draft is a critical one. “I don’t feel any more pressure this draft than I did in the previous two.” Pace has added contributing starters in each of his first two drafts, and will look to make it three-in-a-row starting tomorrow.