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Pace, Fox pleased with 2017 draft crop

The Bears prioritized quality over quantity in the 2017 NFL Draft, selecting a total of just five players—their smallest class since they also chose five in 2010.

After picking North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first round (No. 2 overall) Thursday night and Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen in the second round (No. 45) Friday night, the Bears chose two players in the fourth round and one in the fifth Saturday. They did not have a pick in the last two rounds for the first time since the NFL went to a seven-round draft in 1994.

"We got to a certain point today where I could feel it was going to drop off a bit, so [we said] 'let's go ahead and get players we know we're going to feel good about instead of just getting quantity and guys we're not excited about,'" said general manager Ryan Pace.


First-round pick quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is the Bears' highest pick in the NFL Draft since 1951.

The players the Bears drafted Saturday were Alabama safety Eddie Jackson (No. 112) and North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen (No. 119) in the fourth round and Kutztown offensive lineman Jordan Morgan (No. 147) in the fifth round.

"Very pleased with how the draft went, very pleased with the guys we got," said coach John Fox. "I don't know that we met all our needs. I think that's impossible when you're rebuilding like we are. But very pleased with all the players we got."

The key to the entire Bears draft, of course, is Trubisky, the franchise's highest pick in the NFL Draft since 1951. Pace boldly traded third- and fourth-round picks this year and a fourth-rounder next year to the 49ers to move up one spot to take the promising young quarterback.

"He upgrades us at quarterback," Fox said. "He's got accuracy, he's got mobility. He's a real fierce competitor. We scoured the whole country looking at guys. With Mitchell, I loved his demeanor. I love what he brings as far as a leader and competitor and the physical tools."

The Bears plan to groom Trubisky behind starter Mike Glennon, a free-agent acquisition who arrives in Chicago after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Buccaneers.

The Bears added an intriguing prospect in the second round in Shaheen, a 6-6, 278-pound tight end who looked like a man among boys at Division II Ashland University. He caught 70 passes for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015 and 57 passes for 867 yards and 16 TDs in 2016.

A two-sport star in high school, Shaheen played basketball at Division II Pittsburgh-Johnstown as a college freshman before transferring to Ashland to walk onto the football team.

"There are different body types that can create separation and matchup problems," Fox said. "With Adam, what was very impressive is also very important in basketball, having dabbled in that at a younger age, is the body control for a big man.

"Guys that you watch in the NBA, they have to have good hands and they have to have good body control to play the game of basketball at a high level. This guy brought that, he did that. He's pretty impressive what he can do as far as adjusting and catching footballs."

See photos of all the new Bears rookies selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.

In Jackson, the Bears landed an experienced safety who recorded five return touchdowns the past two years at Alabama—three on interceptions and two on punt returns. Pace said they targeted the 6-foot, 201-pounder because of his ball skills and instincts.

"We really liked him as a safety and then you combine that with his skills as a punt returner—and we knew we wanted to address punt returner—so it was like we're going to kill two birds with one stone and get a good safety and a good punt returner," Pace said. "It's always good for me when I feel the excitement of our defensive coaches and the excitement of our special-teams coaches and the excitement of our head coach."

Jackson is recovering from a broken leg that ended his senior season last Oct. 22. He's expected to be limited in rookie minicamp and then make steady progress through OTAs.

Cohen is a small and explosive running back who left North Carolina A&T as the MEAC's all-time leading rusher with 5,619 yards. Last year the 5-6, 179-pounder set single-season school rushing records with 1,588 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"We call him a joker back so really a good third-down back out of the backfield," Pace said. "He can separate with his routes, really a dynamic player that dominated at that level. Really excited to add him. He's one of those guys who's really fun to watch. You start watching one game, two games, three games, pretty soon you're watching his whole season because he's just a really entertaining, electric, exciting player."

Morgan was a four-year starting left tackle at Kutztown. But Pace said the Bears "see him as more of a guard. He can do a little bit of both because he's got good arm length."

Morgan played for the team coached by the Bears in the Senior Bowl. "I think that Senior Bowl experience really cemented it for us, the kind of player that he is," Pace said. "We're excited about adding him to our offensive line."

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