3 things we learned from GM Ryan Pace

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Ryan Pace didn’t divulge any secrets during his annual pre-draft press conference Tuesday at Halas Hall, but he did provide some interesting tidbits. Here are three things we learned from the Bears general manager:

(1) While there’s outside speculation that the Bears will draft a running back, Pace insisted that the team has no glaring needs and will select the best available players.

“I kind of know what the narrative is out there, but we feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said. “This press conference feels a little different in that there’s no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That’s a great spot to be in.

“I know running back’s been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position. We feel good about Tarik [Cohen], we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.”

Some feel that the Bears will choose a running back because they traded Jordan Howard to the Eagles. But they bolstered the position in free agency by signing Davis and Patterson.

“I think there’s probably always a storyline with every draft,” Pace said. “I understand why it’s that way, but I don’t feel like we go into this draft saying, ‘Man, we have to take this position or we’re in trouble.’ We’re in good shape.”

The Bears have five picks in this week’s draft: No. 87 in the third round, No. 126 in the fourth, No. 162 in the fifth and Nos. 222 and 238 in the seventh.

Last year the Bears dealt their first- and sixth-round picks to the Raiders as part of the blockbuster Khalil Mack trade and sent their second-round choice to the Patriots to move up to select receiver Anthony Miller in the second round. The Bears acquired the No. 222 pick in the seventh round last year from the Eagles in exchange for cornerback Deiondre’ Hall.

(2) With no picks in the first two rounds this year or the first round next year, the chances of the Bears trading up into the first round Thursday night are miniscule.

“That’d be tough,” Pace said. “It’d be hard, just because we don’t have a lot of ammunition.”

During the first round Thursday night, Pace no doubt will be thinking a lot about the trade he made with the Raiders last Sept. 1 to land Mack, who was named first-team All-Pro and voted to his fourth straight Pro Bowl in his first season with the Bears.

“When our pick comes up, Khalil Mack highlights will come on instantly, so that’s the first thing that will happen,” Pace said with a smile. “But it’s still going to be a professional draft room. It’s fascinating to watch it unfold. There’ll be a lot of friends around the league. We’ll see how it all goes down. You’re paying attention to who’s getting drafted. What positions are getting selected and trying to project how that’s going to affect further rounds as we get further into the draft.”

While the Bears likely won’t trade up into the first round, they could possibly move up to select a player they’re targeting. In his four previous drafts as Bears general manager, Pace has moved up to land five players: outside linebacker Leonard Floyd in the first round and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski in the fourth round in 2016; quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first round and safety Eddie Jackson in the fourth round in 2017; and receiver Anthony Miller in the second round in 2018.

“You just don’t have as much ammunition maybe to go up,” Pace told reporters “At the same time, you guys know how we operate. It’s kind of a ‘no regrets’ mindset. If there’s a player there falling that we have great value on, we’re going to explore it.”

(3) After four straight last-place finishes, the Bears won the NFC North with a 12-4 record last season. But Pace doesn’t feel any less pressure heading into this year’s draft.

“The pressure feels the same to me,” he said. “I feel like with fewer picks and later picks, the onus is on us as scouts to hit on these picks and to keep this momentum that we’ve got. To keep this momentum going, we need to nail this draft.”

Pace is confident that the Bears will be able to achieve that objective, especially with a personnel staff that includes director of player personnel Josh Lucas, assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, director of college scouting Mark Sadowski and others.

“We feel very well-prepared for where we’re selecting,” Pace said. “The onus is on us to hit on these draft picks. We have limited picks; we need to hit on these guys and we’re excited to get started.”

Pace hopes to land an immediate starter at No. 87, but that won’t preclude him from drafting a more talented prospect who initially contributes as a backup at a deep position.

“That’s always the goal,” Pace said. “But hey, if we take a player where we happen to have a lot of depth right now—but it’s a good player—that’s OK. It’s short-sighted to say, ‘Well, this guy might be able to play a little bit quicker, so let’s take him.’ Let’s just take the best player. If that means it takes a little bit longer for him to play, let’s just make sure we take the best guy.”

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